CAMPAIGNS: Lang brings in public for nature study - Environmental PR

At the beginning of last year, woodland conservation charity The Woodland Trust joined the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology to start an ongoing scientific survey into global warming using recorded observations of the changes happening in nature.

The survey initially used 300 to 400 regular recorders of information and was at the upper end of the scientific scale. The Trust's PR team was tasked with raising awareness of the study, recruiting more recorders from the public and making the issue of phenology 'come alive'.

Objectives

To encourage a mass audience to make records of autumn changes in a geographical spread that would record what is happening in the UK's environment. To encourage more people to record their autumn observations on a specially created website at www.phenology.org.uk.

Strategy and Plan

Based on findings from the previous year, one statistic that leapt out concerned grass cutting. Because of climate changes, the traditional summer task of cutting the grass was becoming a year-round activity. As this was a subject that most people could understand and relate to, the team decided to base its campaign on this single message.

BBC weather forecaster Isobel Lang was approached as a well-known meteorologist with an understanding of the natural world.

A photocall was held on 3 October 2001 in St James's Park where Lang was photographed mowing the lawn and cutting the grass with scissors to promote a 'moaning about mowing?' message.

Before the photocall, the Trust carried out selective media training for personnel, such as wood managers, in the regions.

It also offered an exclusive to the Daily Mail to preview some initial findings as its readers were the ideal audience. This was followed by another story given to the Evening Standard in London.

The photocall was supplemented with case studies featuring continuously growing grass. Regional versions were tailored for regional spokespeople fielded for interviews.

Measurement and Evaluation

The morning of the launch, Radio 4's Today programme and Radio 5 Live trailed the project and Today created a reciprocal web link to the Trust's phenology pages.

The photocall was attended by national print and broadcast media, which all carried strong editorial endorsement of the project. Regional media outlets also covered the campaign. The Trust has measured an audience reach of more than 60 million and ongoing interest has prompted the Trust to install a studio-quality ISDN line to handle requests for broadcast interviews.

Results

Visitors to the website increased by 1,314 per cent on launch day and by 461 per cent during the first week of the campaign. Interest in the site has been ongoing and the Trust now boasts 11,000 recorders compared with 400 before the campaign began.

The Trust claims the project is now the biggest of its kind in the world.

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