In early 2013 we were approached by TV production company Mentorn Media, who were seeking a water company to feature in a fly-on-the-wall documentary for BBC2.
Following production of a successful 10-minute pilot film, we agreed to the series filming on the basis that it would focus strongly on our front line employees.
It was a brave move by our company – the ‘warts n’ approach could potentially have exposed us to criticism, and the project required a big investment of time by colleagues across the business.
However, we felt the opportunity to show customers what their bills really pay for, to improve understand of our vast behind-the-scenes operation, and to highlight the passion and talent of our people, was too good to miss.
Taking 14 months overall to produce, filming took place at over 100 locations, with 13 producers and five camera crews. The crews travelled more than 100,000 miles, produced over 700 hours of footage and featured over 1,000 contributors.
The show, Watermen: A Dirty Business, was broadcast as six one-hour episodes on BBC2 at 9pm on Tuesday nights during April and May 2013.
We worked to maximise publicity for the show and capitalise on some of the key issues shown on the programme – from flushing the wrong items down the loo to the tragic consequences of swimming in reservoirs.
Our customer focused ethos shone through every episode, with our engineers and call centre teams showing their commitment, good humour and genuine desire to achieve a positive outcome for the local people we serve.
Online activity, especially via Twitter, highlighted the view that United Utilities must be ‘a great place to work’. The programme also grabbed the attention of the water industry, allowing other companies to use the programme as a vehicle for their own messaging.
Though pre-broadcast anticipated viewing figures were 1.1m, the show attracted an average of 2.4m viewers an episode. During its broadcast, the programme was the subject of over 5,000 social media posts and over 150 national and regional press articles – the tone of which were overwhelmingly positive.
If you would like to send us a comment about this report, please email our Head of Sustainability, Chris Matthews