Monday, March 22, 2010

The World Water Day no one knows

It's the first Monday of Spring. It's also World Water Day,(that link is sort of a "fake site - the real Web site is here) an event via the United Nations that will go largely unnoticed in the United States.

Only a few water geeks, some environmental organizations and a couple of water agencies are mustering any kind of "event" to draw attention to one of the planet's most serious issues - clean water.

For a public relations professional, this is both troubling and perplexing.

First, let's talk about this day. There is much to contemplate today, and possibly a few steps for you to take. For starters, you can donate to a great charity to help provide clean water in Haiti. Or, buy something and support Southern California's Heal the Bay (Yuck - only because it's so, so, well, cheap?). Or, sign up for a water forum in Orange County. Or, read the April issue of National Geographic and find out about CA's problems. Or,read about one possible, but expensive, solution to the Golden State's problems. (Perhaps CA's "water day" will be the Nov. 2)?

The real purpose of World Water Day is to make sure the entire planet is well aware of how fragile life is in many parts of Earth. Clean water is hard to come by. Even having a supply of water is hard to come by. The "haves" are to help the "have nots."

Sadly, in Los Angeles, World Water Day 2010 is a non-event (you may have missed a forum last week at the natural history museum). In fact, World Water Day in the U.S. is just a smattering of events across the country. One of CA's most visible water guru is not even in our state.

How did this happen? How did a major United Nations effort simply fade to black in a country that affect the greatest positive change? The "haves" are not engaged.

Any public relations pro will tell you that keeping a major initiative "top of mind" requires a strategic campaign, constant marketing efforts, broad support from the federal government and state governments, cool events and partners (preferably corporate ones). And, in today's world, a strong social media effort.

None of this exists with the U.N. World Water Day. At least, not in the U.S.

It's not enough to throw up a pretty Web site and hope people see it. It's not enough to get a "few" children in the U.S. engaged by wearing a T-shirt for a day. Giving out ideas about how to conduct a World Water Day event in "your city" without any follow-up push is like asking someone to trim a tree without shears. The U.N. is not lacking for money to do some publicity.

So, how about we - the public relations profession - gather (virtually, of course) and develop a campaign that makes World Water Day 2011 the biggest ever in the United States?

Come back here to see how this develops.

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