UTS Library

Woolworths National Drought Action Day



PR Company: 


Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2007 C11-3



Executive Summary: 

In December 2006, Woolworths, Australia’s largest retailer, identified an immediate need to support Australian farming families affected by drought. Woolworths recognised that issues affecting the agricultural industry impact on all Australians, but that not all Australians were aware of the issue, or what could be done to alleviate some of the pressures experienced by regional communities.

Woolworths committed to donating an entire day’s profit to provide financial support to farming families. In addition, Woolworths wanted to raise awareness of issues facing Australian farmers, involve and encourage the wider community to take action and promote the long-term viability of the agricultural industry. Woolworths did not want to be seen as offering a one-stop-solution for drought affected communities, but as a facilitator for discussion and further involvement in meeting the needs of farming families.

Woolworths engaged Edelman to manage and implement Woolworths ‘National DroughtAction Day’ on January 23, 2007. The campaign was to drive consumers to Woolworths and Safeway stores across the nation on the day, with all profits going to the Country Women’s Association (CWA). The response by the public exceeded Woolworth’s expectations, with more than $4.7 million (57% over expected target), provided to CWA for distribution to farming families and sustainable farming research.

The business community demonstrated their support with Centrelink, DMG Radio, National Farmers Federation and National Australia Day Council, issuing supporting statements for the initiative.

The campaign also worked successfully as online viral call to action, generating more than 400 emails from the general public, and more than 150 blog posts relating to the campaign.

Situation Analysis: 

Australia was experiencing a well documented drought that severely affected rural and regional communities, especially agricultural farmers. While the drought was continually in the media, and spoken about in political forums, the cultural divide between city and country had resulted in a situation where metropolitan communities were not able to relate to problems being faced by farming communities. Due to this, farming families that needed financial and emotional support had not received enough understanding and assistance from community and businesses.


Following the brief from Woolworths, Edelman undertook preparatory desk research on

identified problems.

• The Bureau of Meteorology reported in December, 2006 that the drought intensified

in the previous year. Historical records showed the August-November 2006 period

was the driest on record in SA and third-driest across Australia

• Various reports suggested a strong link between high environmental stress and

social isolation (such as during drought) as risk factors for suicide and mental health


• Funds for CWA to provide drought relief to farming families were extremely limited,

with many requests being rejected

Woolworths and Edelman met with State Presidents of CWA, providing a first hand account of issues facing Australian farmers.

Edelman hosted a workshop to collate research and develop the platform for the campaign.

This included situational analysis, key messages, primary stakeholder map and creative concepts.

The topic was a controversial area for Woolworths and negative reactions from some quarters was expected. Therefore, detailed potential issues responses were developed.

Target Policies: 

The target audience for the campaign were divided into two levels, primary and secondary.

Primary publics were Woolworths customers and rural and regional Australians, who were expected to shop at Woolworths and Safeway on ‘National Drought Action Day’.

Secondary publics were the business community and Woolworths’ stakeholders, including Woolworths employees. The objective of reaching out to these stakeholders was to demonstrate Woolworths’ commitment to suppliers and rural and regional communities, and providing staff and other corporations the opportunity to become involved in the initiative.

Farming associations, many of who are fresh produce suppliers for Woolworths, were also a stakeholder group as they had active involvement and understanding of issues surrounding drought in rural and regional communities, and may have viewed ‘National Drought Action Day’ as a self-serving initiative.

Communication Strategy: 

A public relations program was developed to generate awareness and drive community and business support for the initiative. The program comprised of a national campaign, supported by local campaigns at each of the 760 Woolworths stores across the nation.

The campaign was launched in December, 2006. As a national campaign it was important that newspapers be made aware of the initiative to allow consumers to adjust their shopping habits accordingly, and encourage discussion and corporate participation in the initiative.

The local campaigns were designed to generate interest in local store activities on the day as well as encourage the entire store network to get involved in the campaign

Edelman utilised word of mouth tactics by initiating a viral email which was widely circulated.

However, it is important to note that many other unrelated viral style emails emerged which linked to the media release and the Woolworths website.

Edelman also enlisted Australian celebrities with ties to regional communities, including former Australian Idol contestant, Shannon Noll and country music star, Lee Kernaghan, to spread the ‘National Drought Action Day’ message. Media partners included the NOVA and VEGA networks and the Sunrise program on Channel 7.

Edelman also retained the support of Deputy Prime Minister, The Hon. Mark Vaile, and Federal Minister for Agriculture, The Hon. Peter McGauran, who both issued media releases supporting the day.


The following tactics helped achieve campaign objectives. The execution was divided into four key areas:

7.1. Campaign Messaging and Material Development

• Facilitated ‘key message’ workshop and developed creative concepts

• Developed messaging and website content

• Developed issues management documents including Q&As

7.2. Stakeholder Engagement

• Identified priority stakeholders and distributed letters introducing the campaign to

drive awareness and public support

• Distributed letter to all members of CWA

• Requested support from Government Ministers including Prime Minister, Deputy

Prime Minister and Federal Agricultural Minister

• Developed internal employee briefing notes and ‘customer query scripts’

• Developed issues management materials

• Distributed follow-up letters to stakeholders announcing results

• Distributed thank you letters to participating organisations

Examples of stakeholder engagement materials are provided in Appendix A(I).

7.3. Media Outreach and Management

• Distributed news release following ABC Country Hour exclusive to introduce campaign on December 22, 2007

• Distributed localised releases to regional media throughout January 2007

• Coordinated production and distribution of celebrity CSA and distributed to NOVA


• Distributed launch media release on January 23, 2007

• Coordinated a National Press Conference in Brisbane to launch ‘National Drought

Action Day’

• Coordinated and prioritised media interviews on ‘National Drought Action Day’

• Distributed results announcement media release on January 24, 2007

• Briefed spokespeople and acted as Woolworths spokesperson as required

• Monitored, reported and responded to media coverage daily

Examples of media materials are provided in Appendix A(II)

7.4. New Media

• Developed and distributed viral information e-mail

• Monitored new media to canvass likely issues from media and stakeholders

Examples of viral emails are provided in Appendix A(III)


‘National Drought Action Day’ raised a total of $4,714,033 for CWA, exceeding the expected $3 million, clearly indicating the issue resonated with Australians.

While we expected the campaign to resonate with rural areas and more mature shoppers, we found that metropolitan customers were equally enthused, and that younger consumers were the largest contributor to the initiative. It was also very pleasing to see that not only were consumers shopping on the day, but many also contributed to the Salvation Army collection tins at all Woolworths registers, raising almost $80,000.

The event also significantly raised the profile of CWA, and prompted other organisations to donate funds directly to CWA.

8.1. Media Outreach

More than 470 print clips in rural and regional media across the country in the weeks

leading up to ‘National Drought Action Day’ allowed customers to adjust their shopping

habits, and generated discussion in local communities. Print was supported by radio

coverage and CSA’s that actively promoted the initiative and encouraged listeners to shop at Woolworths stores on the day.

• Generated more than 470 pieces of print coverage with significant coverage across

regional media (95% of coverage had a positive tone)

• Generated 11.31 hours of radio news and talkback airtime (average 20 minutes/day)

• Generated 1.67 hours of television airtime (average 1.56 minutes/item)

• Shannon Noll CSA played exclusively across NOVA and VEGA networks

• National press conference attended by Seven Network, Nine Network, Channel Ten,

ABC, AAP, Nova/Vega, 4BC Southern Cross and suburban media

• Secured support from DMG radio which hosted full day live outside broadcasts in

Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide on the NOVA radio network and ran

supporting segments on VEGA stations in Sydney and Melbourne

• Secured Sunrise segment on the launch day with Woolworths CEO Michael Luscombe

at a Woolworths store and Lee Kernighan at the drought affected Wivenhoe Dam,

outside Brisbane to reinforce the key messages

• Federal Agricultural Minister, The Hon. Peter McGauran, and organisations including

Centrelink, DMG Radio, National Farmers Federation, Baulkhams City Council, National

Australia Day Council, Interrelate Family Centres and others distributed supporting

media releases


Total Hits


8 stations



64 stories

1.67 hours


403 stories

11.5 hours


470 clips

69,489.22 square cm

8.2. Stakeholder Engagement

• Gained campaign endorsement from Deputy Prime Minister, The Hon. Mark Vaile.

• Gained campaign endorsement from Federal Minister for Agriculture, The Hon. Peter


• Received support from State Premiers and Federal Member for Herbert

• Secured support from Shannon Noll, Lee Kernaghan, Carlton Football Club, West Coast Eagles and Australian Hockeyroos

• Maintained and developed relationship with National Farmers Federation

• The campaign prompted the Government to bring forward federal drought assistance by five months

• Received public support from other organisations which helped facilitate awareness

among staff (including Centrelink, Westpac, National Australia Bank and Savills


Examples of stakeholder support materials are provided in Appendix A(VI)

8.3. New Media / Other

• Edelman identified 12 separate viral emails linked to the campaign.

• ANZ Bank displayed promotional text for ‘National Drought Action Day’ on all ANZ ATMs


• Anecdotal evidence suggests viral e-mail was widely circulated (Contacts listed on the website linked in the viral email received more than 400 emails from the general public with the majority voicing support for the initiative).

• Generated more than 150 blog posts relating to the campaign

• DMG Radio Network distributed an HTML email promoting the cause to their database across the NOVA and VEGA brands

Examples of viral emails are provided in Appendix A(III)


Woolworths ‘National Drought Action Day’ was successful when measured against

campaign objectives.

Objective 1 – Raise awareness

• National quantitative research of 500 grocery shoppers by Woolworths following the

campaign concluded the day performed strongly in generating awareness and positive

reactions from customers (65.2%), especially in regional areas.

• A minimum of 937 media mentions were recorded, of which 95% were positive and

delivered the campaigns key messages.

Objective 2 – Initiate positive action

• Research concluded over a third of shoppers did something different or changed the

way they normally shop (e.g. changed shopping days or purchased more items) to

support ‘National Drought Action Day’.

• Media outlets, including Southern Cross, committed to running news items discussing drought related issues throughout the campaign.

Objective 3 – Encourage long-term support

• More than 15 organisations applied for grants for research into sustainable farming.

Woolworths received support from National Farmers Federation in developing a

committee to work in conjunction with CWA to allocate funds.

Objective 4 - Respected corporate citizen

• Research concluded that 65% of grocery buyers stated the initiative left a positive

impression of Woolworths and the majority were aware of Woolworths’ involvement in a worthy charity initiative (57%).

• The vast majority of emails received by campaign contacts voiced support for the

initiative. Woolworths responded to the majority of negative contact from stakeholders.

• Despite significant challenges in overcoming media cynicism of the retailer, Edelman

secured approximately 95% of positive tone coverage in the media.

Objective 5 – Achieve set target

• Woolworths ‘National Drought Action Day’ received overwhelming support with profitsfor the day totalling $4,714,033, exceeding the expected $3 million by 57%. (Profit

calculation independently verified by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and disclosed to CWA

on a confidential basis)

• Despite a drop in the total market, data also showed Woolworths experienced an

increase in market share. Woolworths experienced their highest weekly share on

record, which was attributed to ‘Woolworths National Drought Action Day’.