Why are you called Twelve?


This is a question we get asked a lot.

According to Wikipedia, the number twelve ‘carries religious, mythological and magical symbolism generally representing perfection, entirety, or cosmic order in traditions’.

Good name for a PR agency then.

Only when I started Twelve, Wikipedia didn’t exist.  And the naming of the agency came from a more instinctive, business premise.

I’d worked in large and medium-sized London agencies and learned that clients bought experience, know-how, great ideas, and people.  And that if the senior people who originally pitched to them and promised all this, while slowly melting away from their account, they looked elsewhere.

That was all some twenty years ago now, but I was reminded of this quite recently when one of Twelve’s account directors, returned from a two day, residential leadership course where she’d shared experiences with peers from other agencies.

It emerged that their average client retention rate was around two years. By contrast, most of our clients have been with us for well over ten years, and counting. And I have worked with one client organisation for close on thirty years.

Delving deeper, it also transpired that most felt that their directors worked primarily on new business, leaving the day-to-day account handling of existing business to juniors. At Twelve, a company director is totally hands-on on every account.

Our founding Twelve premise was ‘small is beautiful’ – a boutique agency of around twelve accounts handled by twelve people seemed to be the ideal. That way the directors could keep a hands-on presence right across the agency.

That said, I certainly recognise that younger and, by virtue of age, less experienced people are also essential to an agency.  This is especially true when it comes to new media and, often a more radical, fresh and unconstrained way of looking at things.  But a bit of grey hair (or white in my case) is still highly valued, especially on strategic work, crisis PR, and quality control. Clients need both on their team, not one or the other.

Twelve ideas

And as for new ideas, our retained clients get a new idea at every status meeting, ideally one a month, so twelve new ideas a year.

I recently worked out that one of our longest retained clients has received 168 new ideas from Twelve, in addition to those presented each year in its annual core programme – that’s one a month for 14 years for those still struggling with the maths! And, more importantly, most of those ideas flew.

So while we can’t claim Wikipedia’s religious or mythical symbolism, and certainly not cosmic order, though that would be nice, I’ve often thought there is actually something quite magical about Twelve.  And we certainly strive for perfection.

What’s more, after more than twenty years, I still like the name.

Twelve PR wins two golds at industry awards



As an agency, we were proud to have been awarded two Gold Awards at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) PRide Awards last Thursday evening (15 November).

The two Gold awards rewarded campaigns for The British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) and Canned Food UK.

Twelve PR took home the award for ‘Best Use of Media Relations’ for ‘Creating a Buzz for British Beekeepers’. The campaign received extensive national and regional coverage during National Honey Week for the findings of the BBKA’s annual honey survey, which consequently boosted sales of its charitable scheme, Adopt a Beehive.

The scheme was set up for the BBKA as a passion project by Twelve co-founder Nicky Smith, who is also a beekeeper and wanted to do something positive to help honey bees. All the profits from the scheme are ploughed into environmental and education projects to help save pollinators of all kinds, including honey bees.

Adopt a Beehive is promoted solely through traditional public relations, as it has a limited advertising budget.  Receiving national coverage for the annual honey survey and Adopt a Beehive in publications such as The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian, as well as BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme, was a real boost for the scheme and helped raise significant funds for the BBKA’s research.

Speaking about the winning campaign from Twelve PR, the judges said:

“The results were fantastic, achieved through a great and innovative range of tactics and will hopefully have far-reaching consequences for all of us. A worthy winner!”

The other award-winning campaign was for the Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association and was designed to highlight the benefits of metal packaging compared to the other packaging materials. This campaign was called ‘Can you tell? Canned Food vs. Fresh’ and won the ‘Best Use of Content’ category.

It included a video of consumers taste-testing two identical dishes, one made with canned ingredients and the other with non-canned. The video appeared alongside survey results in various national newspaper publications.

Commenting on the wins, agency director, Nicky Smith, said:

“We thrilled to win two Gold awards for such differing campaigns – showcasing the breadth of expertise and experience at Twelve and in Chipping Norton.”


Suffering from Environmental Empathy Exhaustion?




It’s great to see honey bees making headlines  for two reasons.  One, because they matter so much, our insects, and two because I wrote the headline.

Little things make such a difference.  How will the swallows have the strength to fly back next summer if there aren’t enough insects for them to eat? How would we feel if we never heard another bird sing?

Scientists have been warning us for a long time that we must take care of every aspect of our environment. ‘The Silent Spring’ was first published by Rachel Carson in 1962, ‘The Little Things That Run the World’ in 1987 by Edward O Wilson, and ‘Buzz in the Meadow’ in 2014 by Dave Goulson.  Last year we had Blue Planet.  Each time the message gets louder and finally people seem to be hearing it and responding.

But at the same time, I think there’s a phenomenon happening like compassion fatigue, let’s call it Environmental Empathy Exhaustion.

It’s where we’re so tired of bad news, dire warnings and problems so big we can’t do anything about them, that we zone it all out and just carry on as normal.

That’s why I wanted to make this year’s headline about the Honey Survey a positive one.  The actual honey crop in 2018 at 30lbs per hive isn’t great. It’s a rubbish amount compared to “the old days”.  But I came across a little chink of hope. A farmer in Northumberland planted a crop called phacelia, or purple tansy, in an old-fashioned crop rotation kind of way. The nearby beekeeper, one of our Adopt a Beehive representatives, told me the effect on his honey bees was ‘astounding’. And this was from someone who’s been keeping bees for more than sixty years. The phacelia also seemed to be good for the farmers next crop, oil seed rape.

This chink of hope is what we built the story around about this year’s honey crop. There is still plenty to worry about for honey bees, for all insects, for all of nature.  But I think people want good news and positive examples to engage them in environmental issues.

Each one of us, in the grand scheme of things, is a little thing. Just one of 7.7 billion people on the earth.  But this story shows we can make a difference by what we do, that individual little actions will make a difference, and that good, positive PR can play its part too.

To Adopt a Beehive with the BBKA please go to www.adoptabeehive.com