Invitation to tender

Communications support for community-led freshwater campaigns

The Rivers Trust

We are seeking a PR and Comms agency to support an informal network of community-led freshwater campaign groups who share our goal of improving and protecting freshwater environments, and whose voice and work are critical to achieving it.


One of the biggest challenges to the UK environment is the poor state of freshwater driven by pressures including pollution from agriculture, modification of river channels, inadequate sewage treatment, the presence of invasive non-native species and demand for water for homes and businesses. Current and predicted changes in rainfall and extreme weather events driven by climate change are likely to increase the impact of many of these pressures. Despite the magnitude of the problem, it can be overlooked by a public unaware of the implications of poor water stewardship or used to the status quo.

More recently, awareness of the poor state of freshwater has increased. In England this has, in part, been because of the availability of data from water companies showing how widespread the discharge of untreated sewage into rivers is and a corresponding recognition of the benefits communities receive from clean, healthy freshwater habitats. Groups of campaigners, with direct connections to their local rivers and lakes, have been instrumental in keeping water quality issues in the media and on the political agenda. For instance, the Ilkley Clean River Campaign directly influenced the designation of the UK’s first freshwater bathing water. Campaigns led by organisations, including Surfers Against Sewage and The Rivers Trust, have also helped to keep the issues live and their key messages are often amplified by spokespeople from the community who are able to give a local perspective.

There is increasing interest from journalists to hear from invested citizens (such as those involved with the community groups). However, they are having to respond reactively, often working to the PR agendas of regulators and water companies, rather than being able to place their own stories. In addition, the demand for input is falling on a small number of spokespeople from the most established groups and it is felt that the network could be more effective if it shared the platform with a wider range of voices, who might be better placed to highlight particular issues or demonstrate the geographical spread of interest.

Priorities and deliverables

There are three main priorities for this work:

  1. Helping community-led freshwater campaigners to develop a more strategic and proactive approach to their campaigning and media communications. A key element of this will be a mapping exercise to better understand the needs, skills and platforms/channels the groups have, as well as identifying key moments to plan activity around.
  2. Delivering communications training to upskill the group.
  3. Press office function – providing capacity and support on campaigning activity, which will include fielding enquiries and directing journalists to the most relevant contacts across the network. We estimate this to be 4 hours a week in the first month.

Whilst we expect the mapping exercise to inform what’s needed for the second and third priorities, some press office support is required from the outset for activities being planned.

Current and planned activities

  • One of the more established groups – Ilkley Clean River Campaign – requires support on a campaign they are planning to run that will culminate in an event at the end of April.

Communications support must be focused on, and limited to, achieving improvement in the state of freshwaters by highlighting impacts, causes and remedies. The support must not be used for party political campaigning.

Budget and timeframe

This contract is for support for an initial 6-month period, which we expect to begin w/c 28 March.

Invitation to tender

Closing date for submissions

If you are interested in tendering for this project, please email your proposal to by 10am on 21 March 2022.

Your proposal should contain
  • Outline of your skills and expertise to deliver on this project, including your understanding of the issues, credibility within the sector, and examples of previous similar work.
  • Summary of your approach to this work including:
    • Budget broken down by item to include: number of days work, daily rate of pay for each team member, and VAT where applicable.
    • Confirmation of who would do each aspect of the work
    • Timescale
    • Outline of constraints, challenges and risks associated with the work and how you would mitigate them
  • Outline of your commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion, and staff demographics
  • Contact details for two relevant referees we can talk to now

The total maximum length of submission should not exceed four A4 pages.

Evaluation process
  • Proposals will be reviewed by Simon Wightman, Funding Manager at Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Becky Malby (Ilkley Clean River Campaign), and Ash Smith (Windrush Against Sewage Pollution). They will be assessed on the following criteria:
    1. Relevant skills and experience, as well as capacity to deliver
    2. Understanding of the issues and credibility within the sector
    3. Approach to the project
    4. Value for money
  • We will meet with preferred candidates to discuss the project further, which we expect to take place online during w/c 21 March.
  • We expect to make a decision on 25 March.

If you have any questions about this tender, please email:

Additional information

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