CAMPAIGNS: Public Awareness - Singing out for the nightingale

Client: British Trust for Ornithology

Client: British Trust for Ornithology

PR Team: In-house and Chris Mead-bird expert and former BTO staff


Campaign: The launch of the Nightingale Appeal and CD

Timescale: Ongoing from December 1997

Budget: pounds 10,000, excluding costs of producing the CD

At its national centre in Norfolk, the British Trust for Ornithology

(BTO) has over 60 staff, who conduct studies and counts of birdlife in

the UK. This work would not be possible without the charity’s 10,000

members, who keep a keen eye on bird activity around the country.

In the past 25 years, several species of bird have exhibited a massive

decline in numbers. The most evocative of these is the nightingale.

Renowned for its song, the bird is disappearing from several English

counties as a breeding species.

In order to discover detailed information on the bird and how this trend

might be reversed, the BTO needed to raise funds.


To increase awareness and raise pounds 60,000 to fund next year’s

complete survey of the nightingale population, distribution and habitat


On the back of this, the trust wanted to develop its ongoing survey work

in woodlands, look at problems facing other species and suggest ways in

which habitats could be improved.


Through its magazine, BTO News, and appeal letters, the trust approached

its members early, to outline the Nightingale Appeal and raise the

estimated pounds 300,000 the whole programme would cost. In addition, to

generate publicity and further financial contributions, the organisation

produced a Nightingales CD.

This compilation contained historic recordings of the bird dating back

to 1910, including the curious juxtaposition of a nightingale singing to

the accompaniment of Lancaster bombers passing over on the 1942 Mannheim


On 15 April the media launch of the appeal and CD was held in London’s

Berkeley Square, where the nightingale sang in the famous song. Dame

Vera Lynn gave her support and former Goodie and renowned ’twitcher’

(birdwatcher), Bill Oddie outlined the serious issues behind the appeal.

In addition the CD and VNR of nightingales were sent to members of the



The launch attracted much media attention, including all the national

dailies and three national TV companies. Predictably, the environmental

and outdoor pursuits press covered the story in full, but regional

coverage also extended well outside the nightingale’s natural habitat

into Scotland and Wales.

BTO fundraising manager, Graham Appleton conducted 13 live interviews

for local radio stations on the day and further interest was gained from

BBC Radio 4, Radio 2 and Classic FM.

To date, CD sales have generated more than pounds 20,000 and the whole

appeal has raised over pounds 105,000.


Much of the success of this campaign was down to the creativity of the

PR team. Initiatives, such as persuading mail order clothing company,

Nightingales, to donate access to its mailing list, helped build up CD


In addition, the trust made good use of its business contacts. For

example, the cost of the first run of CDs was paid for by computer

software company, Smallwood, whose founder is a BTO member.

According to Appleton, to raise further funds for the appeal in 1999,

the charity is now planning a Nightingale Week. The biggest challenge

this will pose is finding adequate commercial sponsorship.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in