Securing Water For Food: A Grand Challenge for Development is a coalition of partners, including USAID, Sweden, the Netherlands, and South Africa, that works to helps farmers around the world grow more food using less water. In 2015, they had a communications challenge. They were hosting a water desalination competition called the “Desal Prize” in conjunction with the Bureau of the Interior in the middle of the the Alamogordo desert in Southwest New Mexico. They wanted media attention for the event — not the newsiest of news stories.
Melwood rose to the challenge, coming up with the idea of pitching it as the “Burning Man for Water Geeks,” stoking reporter interest at a time when the California droughts were ravaging the West Coast. Melwood pitched the story to reporters all over the country covering the drought, as well as those interested in science, environment, innovation and international development. It had incredible sway.
The Desal coverage alone garnered 62 media hits and generated print, online, TV and radio circulation numbers of over 570 million with over 230,000 unique shares as measured by the sites alone. Coverage included Bloomberg TV, USA Today, MSNBC, the Boston Globe and more, putting the Securing Water for Food program on the radar of US government officials, business leaders and environmentally focused innovators.
Melwood later continued work with SWFF beyond media relations, managing their entire communications portfolio. A feature on one of their innovators resulted in a $3.4 million investment.