Challenge and analysis
After the failure of the collectors carrying wastewater to Warsaw’s “Czajka” wastewater treatment plant, the Amiblu brand found in a huge image crisis in the Polish market. Amiblu provided GRP pipes for the construction of sewers under the Vistula River, so the brand was accused of contributing to the failure. Reports of the incident were at the forefront of all, the most important Polish newspapers and RTV news services. The accident was described by a government representative and the President of Wody Polskie as the ‘biggest water crisis in the world’. Almost €2 million was the value of negative publications on the subject.
Negative publications and comments had serious consequences for the brand. The City of Warsaw, responsible for 50% of the orders in the company’s GRP pipe portfolio in Poland, banned the use of Amiblu products in new investments. Competitors used this moment and sent out negative material about GRP pipes on a massive scale, attaching it to their bids. All Amiblu’s salespeople were forced to start every meeting with explanations related to Czajka. The objective and obvious facts about the reliability of GRP pipes had to be re-explained more than 40 years after their launch.
A crisis management team was set up to rescue the situation following the appointment of Amiblu Poland’s new management. The agency co-created a multi-channel crisis exit strategy. Unfortunately, this happened a year after the disaster, which significantly complicated the ongoing activities. At the time, the issue took on a purely political dimension due to the presidential election campaign.
The strategy was therefore primarily based on clearing GRP Pipes and Amiblu of accusations of contributing to the ‘Czajka’ failure and showcasing the company in a positive light through the presentation of ongoing projects around the world, as well as a solution to climate challenges. We have changed the communication weight from a fight: Amiblu vs. Wody Polskie, Amiblu vs. the City of Warsaw to a debate on the challenges for cities in terms of blue architecture, retention, water management. Target groups for communication activities include:
- Representatives of central and local authorities, including in particular the mayors of Warsaw and other large cities
- The water and sewage industry in its broadest sense
- The construction market
- The main objectives of the strategy were an increase in media coverage of the brand in the context of topics other than the ‘Czajka’ accident and the elimination of GRP pipes from the list of products banned by Warsaw’s MPWiK.
- Presentation of Amiblu’s projects in major European capitals to demonstrate the reliability of GRP pipes and the benefits in the context of the New Green Deal in the EU. These communications counterbalanced the negative publications about the brand in the context of the “Czajka” accident and showed the real position of the company and its products globally. Consequently, they also proved the absurdity of holding the manufacturer responsible for a badly executed investment
- A series of 4 debates was organised with the largest publisher in Poland, Gazeta Wyborcza, under the title “A drop drills cities. “The drop drills cities. How to lead blue infrastructure to adapt to climate change?”. During the debates, Amiblu representatives met with representatives of cities that are also investors in sewerage (Warsaw, Poznan and Krakow). The events were also attended by representatives of the city’s sewerage companies and opinion-forming experts, who also commented on the ‘Czajka’ disaster on a daily basis. The debates were followed by a series of positive reports, videos and articles in the Gazeta Wyborcza showing Amiblu as a creator of urban sewerage planning and retention systems
- There was debate organised with the editorial board of Gazeta Polska – one of the most important opinion-forming centres for the “Prawo i Sprawiedliwość” government. It was held in Warsaw with the participation of the President of PGW Wody Polskie. The debate helped to get Amiblu’s message to the centres of power
- Through media relations and planned content marketing activities on LinkedIn (series of expert posts), Amiblu was promoted as an educator and market leader on the challenges facing cities when it comes to water and blue infrastructure. Amiblu representatives spoke about the needs for infrastructural change in cities and talked about retention investments underway around the world
- The roadshow conducted at the turn of 2021/2022, i.e. face-to-face meetings to meet Amiblu’s business objectives (city authorities, investors) with specific stakeholders, was also a strategic step. All this was done in order to take GRP pipes off the banned products list of MPWiK Warsaw in a foreseeable and fastest possible time
- At the beginning of January the first scientific report on the potential causes of the “Czajka” failure appeared, prepared by the Cracow University of Technology at the request of the President of Warsaw. The report cleared the GRP material and pointed out faults in the design. Following the publication of the report, we carried out a media campaign in which a representative of the Amiblu Board commented on the outcomes
- The agency prepared content for publication on LinkedIn by Amiblu employees. The content covered the company’s global investments, studies and reports on climate change, particularly on access to water and water crises, as well as innovative retention solutions from around the world
- Communication tools used:
– media training,
– brand positioning in the media,
– expert positioning,
– direct meetings with potential clients,
– content makreting on LinkedIn,
– Employee Advocacy via LinkedIn
- The main strategic objective of removing Amiblu’s GRP pipes from MPWiK Warsaw’s list of banned products and clearing the GRP material itself of failure has been achieved
- Communication reach in the period August 2021-March 2022: 1 530 000
- Number of publications in the period August 2021-March 2022: 1011
- Reach of publications on LinkedIn: 350 000