Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD)

One of the largest water and sewer utilities in the United States, DWSD serves more than 230,000 residential and commercial accounts within a city population of nearly 700,000.



Building a brand for a city department.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department over the years has faced a number of communications challenges — from political discourse, media perceptions, public activism and resident complaints, to name a few. In February 2018, following a strategic brand analysis, we recognized that the department needed to build trust with the community through storytelling about compassionate programs such as affordability, infrastructure improvement and the delivery of clean, safe water.

our process

A human brand.

We recommended an integrated marketing campaign to humanize DWSD. The campaign – appropriately named for its tagline, “Working Hard for You” – was driven by the brand promise that DWSD employees work hard for their customers. It gave DWSD a human face, featuring real employees who shared how they work hard for the city’s residents and business owners via hundreds of video stories; multi-channel social media content; proactive public and media relations; community outreach and city meetings; collateral; and digital, radio, TV and billboard advertising.

Public & Media Relations

Being proactive

DWSD’s public and media relations success can be credited to developing outreach strategies that achieved measurable results toward department-wide goals. We worked with DWSD to craft effective messaging that mirrored the brand, and we anticipated the questions that reporters would ask – both of which were a key part of DWSD’s press releases. Proactive media outreach and responsiveness helped to improve trust and collaboration between DWSD and the media.

Video Production & Editing

The words of employees

How do you express to city residents and business owners that DWSD is working hard for them? Through the words of DWSD employees, who were an integral part of the “Working Hard for You” campaign. We produced hundreds of internal- and external-facing videos, including Comcast television commercials and social media employee spotlights, that told first-hand the stories of DWSD employees who continue to invest in the city through their work with infrastructure improvements, customer service and other important department initiatives.

Social Media & Content Marketing

The medium is the message

The way in which we share information greatly influences how the information is understood -- and nowhere is that more true than on social media. The comments, shares and reactions to social media without a doubt influence the message – and to be successful, social media content needs to be authentic, trustworthy and useful. That’s exactly what we did for DWSD by developing organic and paid campaigns that touched on topics important to residents: affordability programs, capital improvement projects and customer service, among others. No matter what the topic, each post underscored DWSD’s promise that it was working hard for the people who live and work in the city of Detroit.

Marketing & Advertising

Working hard for you

Marketing and advertising are two different, but often interchangeably used terms. Through our research, we were able to understand the needs of DWSD’s customers – and to identify how they saw the department when it came to important issues. Those marketing insights helped to shape how we planned and implemented an advertising campaign that featured DWSD employees in print, TV, radio, social/digital and outdoor (billboards and bus ads) advertising, as well as in public relations outreach that complemented those efforts. The result: a campaign that showcased how DWSD employees are hard-working, trustworthy and committed to delivering clean water to residents and business owners throughout the city.

More Projects of Interest

recent work