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



Who’s influencing who? Why diverse teams deliver the best PR campaigns


Influencers are utterly divergent between the generations and there are few brands that can afford to ignore either end of the age spectrum.

Most brands rely on being purchased or consumed by older age groups to survive and make a profit, after they’ve been discovered and made cool by the young.

Here’s how I found this out so powerfully.

We all had to come up with the picture of an influencer who had actually influenced us – i.e. we’d bought something directly as a result of something they’d said – for a brainstorming session.

It took me ages to think of someone whose opinion I could be certain had categorically caused me to buy something.  Apart from Jeremy Clarkson. He has put me off a lot of cars.

Full disclosure here in case you hadn’t guessed already, I’m in the 50 – 55 age category.

Sure, I’m on social media; Instagram a lot, Facebook not so much and Twitter now and then to see what’s trending. But mostly I look at stuff on those channels and laugh and say “honestly!” or “FFS” or “what does she think she looks like” or more often “damn them they’re on holiday again!”.

Hand on heart I couldn’t think of a single thing I’d bought, or a thought I’d had, that had been changed or influenced through social media.

In the end I plumped for Mariella Frostrup because I knew for sure I’d read a book she discussed, and although she resolutely promotes nothing on Instagram, she is at least across the channel.

Not one person under the age of thirty had heard of her. No idea whatsoever.  Played a recording of her delicious, distinctive voice. Nothing.  That art show on TV? A glimmer of recognition but even then I think they were faking so we could move on.

My colleagues choices included Carrie Hope Fletcher, Monica Stott and Pandora Sykes.   Never heard of them. Literally no idea who they were talking about.  But I soon learned they had millions of followers and one of them had a podcast in the UK  top 10 every week.

In my defence there just isn’t time what with my children, my parents, my work as a school governor, my yoga at Soho Farmhouse, the groups I sing with, my friends, my garden and oh my day job in PR to consume any more media or information. My guilty treat is reading the weekend papers cover to cover. My car-time, down-time and bed time is full up.

My younger colleagues are pretty busy too. There just isn’t time for us to have a Venn diagram Influencer overlap experience anywhere. In the past that overlap would have come from a TV, newspaper or radio show we shared together, but there’s so much choice nowadays these circles and choices rarely overlap.

So that’s why it’s essential that PR teams make age part of diversity along with gender and ethnicity, to ensure we develop inclusive, effective communication campaigns.


How do you measure creativity? PR measurement systems that work

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At a conference in Barcelona this year Alex Aiken, head of the UK Government Communication Service, said: “I believe that measurement is the most important communication discipline.”

There are some simple, easy measures you can put in place to evaluate your PR activity and I will outline them below.

But first a philosophical question you might ask.  ‘Does measurement kill creativity in PR?’ Having just read ‘The Tyranny of Metrics’ by Jerry Z. Muller, I’m tempted to say yes.

The following paragraph from the book sums up the problem with measurement which applies to public organisations such as schools and hospitals and, in a much smaller way, PR agencies too:

“Primary schools, for example, have their tasks of teaching reading, writing, and numeracy, and these perhaps could be monitored through standardised tests. But what about goals that are less measurable but no less important, such as instilling good behaviour, inspiring a curiosity about the world and fostering creative thought?”

We work for many organisations in the education sector and are lucky to work for one school which, through teaching the International Baccalaureate Programme, specifically sets out to foster a curious mind and creativity, among other qualities, in addition to the basic 3 R’s among its students. So I know that with the right approach, creativity and measurement can sit comfortably together – in other words, measurement need not kill creativity.

Creativity and measurement can go together

At Twelve we are absolutely wedded to the importance of creativity in PR – after all, the ‘Twelve ideas’ concept, where a new, good idea is presented every month to our clients, is a core part of our service offer.

I don’t see any conflict between creativity and measurement, in fact I think creativity without measurement is pure vanity.  Our business as a PR agency is to help other businesses and organisations thrive, and there are always tangible ways to measure this.

A brilliant creative idea needs to do something, for example increase footfall, achieve sales, build a new business pipeline and so on.

Tips on how to set up a useful PR measurement report.

The most important thing is to make sure that your reporting is ‘light touch’ but effective:

  1. Requires no more than 10 per cent of your own or your agency’s time or budget to produce.
  2. Can be understood and appreciated at a glance.
  3. Can be repeated each month or at regular intervals, such as after each campaign.

Measuring PR activities and outcomes

Measure activities, but make sure you have more information on outcomes.


Keep a record of what your PR agency is doing for you. Ultimately you don’t want a long list of activities, because what really matters to you are the outcomes. However, depending on what your agency has been tasked to do, a summary each month is a useful record.

For example, if it’s media relations, have a summary or list of stories or news items that have been distributed.  You need to know how many have gone out to assess your success rate; to either enjoy it or improve on it.

If the agency organised a series of events, list them.  Outcomes will, in this case, be attendance related: prospects, face-to-face meetings secured etc.

If your agency is creating content, then ensure you have a list of that content, when created and when hosted. But the key thing you need to measure is outcomes.

What PR outcomes should you measure?


Carefully consider the PESO model from Gina Dietrich, which is an excellent framework, shown below, but don’t use it rigidly.

Always aim to find the most simple way to measure what really counts for your business.

PESO Model for measuring PR activity

Reproduced from Gina Dietrich

Paid or earned

The concept of paid and earned is good, so use this as a basic definition to classify any coverage from media relations.  As the number of earned media channels such as national newspapers is diminishing, then achieving a result in them is especially valuable and worth noting.

Table heading showing Earned Media

Table heading to show paid coverage result


You may have pages and pages of content or copy published somewhere but it is of no value, or worse, damaging, if it is saying the wrong thing.  Have some form of assessment of your messages and use the same formula each month.

Google analytics

You could drown in data from Google.  Cut to the chase. We use a framework devised by our friends at Zanzi called a RACE report.

Sample PR digital metrics in a RACE Report

The report is based on answering key questions about the value of your PR activity.

  • Who do you REACH?
  • How do the ACT when they get there?
  • How well do you ENGAGE with them?
  • How many do you CONVERT?

You can see the heading for each element below. The hardest section to complete is the conversion chart, because in an ideal world this will contain your internal sales data. This is the most important measurement of all. If you have set up goals on your website then this should be a key metric in your conversion table.

Sometimes we use CONTACT data from e -shots if sales data is hard to track down.

Website reach different headings

Heading of website actions

Engage metrics table

Convert tables

Measuring influencer activity

Of course you can create any report you want.  Instagram for example isn’t shown in the above table but if that’s what you’re using rather than LinkedIn, switch it round or add it in.

These are just a few effective ways in which you can set up internal PR measurement systems.

There are a host of external systems you can buy such as Kantar Precise for media content or Trackr for measuring Influencer activity.

You will almost certainly need to use an external service to capture and collate your media monitoring if you have a significant PR programme in place.   A quick Google search will bring up a list of these.

Measuring your corporate reputation or values among stakeholder

If reputation management is a key, specific aspect of your agency’s role, then pre and post measurement of what your reputation actually is will be important. Measuring brand values, corporate reputation, perceptions among stakeholders etc., usually requires a third-party service.

If you would like to know which ones we use or would like to achieve PR results that are really worth measuring, give me a call or drop me an email.

Nicky Smith 01608 495014