Saving our planet is now a communications challenge


“So, David, what does success look like?” no one ever said to him.

We all know what he wants to see happen, what he might consider success: an end to deforestation, dying coral, and global warming; fewer forest fires, less plastic pollution in our oceans and support for bio-diversity to name just a few. We want to see that too.

It’s impossible to compare oneself to Sir David Attenborough, and horribly feeble to use his words to shoe-horn in a connection, but obviously this is about to happen.

PRs are often asked ‘What does success look like?’ and it’s an important question because clients are paying serious money for our services.

There’s a useful blog post on this subject on our website so please check that out if you would like some serious suggestions about measurement and KPIs.

I want to talk about the less tangible outcomes of communications; ones that don’t make it onto the monthly results report or spreadsheet of scores, but which really matter to us in comms.

We were super proud during lockdown to have provided PR support for Earthwatch’s new programme called Naturehood. Helping people keep their sanity and protect nature all at the same time – it’s a wonderful community scheme. Thousands of people have signed up, I’m delighted to say.

I put a little snippet in our village newsletter afterwards about a Citizen Science campaign from Earthwatch called FreshWater Watch.   A few days later I got this nice email and photo back from someone in the village:

“Fran did the water test thing that was in your village newsletter did you want her to write an article about it?”


This, in a nutshell, is why I love working in communications. It really can make a difference.

The perfect time for poetry


Yesterday Ofsted announced that GCSE pupils taking English literature exams next year won’t be required to study poetry.

There is apparently “significant concern” about teachers’ ability to cover all the required topics in the time they have available after the closure of schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

This story was reported on the evening news and came after the reports about that devastating explosion in Beirut.

Those poor people in that beleaguered nation.

Bel Trew, Middle East correspondent for the Independent, who lives in Beirut, reported these words which express the depth of their tragedy:

“We just can’t take any more, it isn’t possible,” said one woman, who had been treated for a minor head injury.

“We have no money, no food, no electricity, now our houses are destroyed, and family members are missing. It feels like the end of the world.”

What has this got to do with poetry? Everything.

Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese poet explains it better than I ever could:

Poetry is an opportunity to express emotions and explore creativity in a way which is especially important at times of difficulty or crisis.

Just spend half an hour in a class of primary school children writing poetry and you will discover that it is a natural outflow of ideas and expression unlike any other form of communication.

Throughout the Covid-19 crisis it has been an incredibly important emotional outlet for many people. We helped to promote a poetry writing competition during lockdown for our client Earthwatch which produced a huge response. Partly this is down to our great PR skills of course, but it also proves that poetry is important to a lot of people.

So now is absolutely not the time to say there isn’t time for poetry. It should be taught in schools to GCSE level, leading children to discover their own talents, express their emotions; and as way to help them make sense of the world.

For a perfect poetry compendium for our troubled times or a troubled mind I thoroughly recommend The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind and Soul  by William Sieghart.

To support the people of Beirut there are many options, here is just one I recommend, the Lebanese Red Cross:

If you would like to explore how we could provide some poetic PR for you please do give me call or email

What difference has the covid crisis made to working life in comms?



And what is the role of PR going forward? Later this month I’m joining a panel to discuss this very subject with James Colman, Director of Public Affairs from Oxford University and Mish Tullar, Head of Comms, Partnerships and Policy at Oxford City Council.

Brought to you by the Public Relations Oxford Group, sponsored by the Venn Group and organised by the good folk from OUP, you’re most welcome to listen in.

Sign up here:

What will I be saying from the agency side? Twelve PR will have been trading for 25 years in 2021. We’ve been through a few recessions in that time and worked behind the scenes for many clients during their crises over those years. Nothing of course has been remotely on the scale of this covid-19 pandemic, but the fundamentals in PR I am slightly surprised to report, have been the same.

And I say this from the perspective of someone whose first experience of recession coincided with the arrival of the first Apple computer at The Guardian i.e. very much in the pre-digital age. For me, that first recession was a very exciting time as I looked forward every day for my turn on the department computer.

When the world of communications has changed so dramatically – no one needs to be reminded that this time round everything has been digital – how can PR and crisis management, and preparing a strategy to survive and make a profit through a recession, be so similar?

The principals of good communications remain. Here are my five rules for comms in a crisis

1. Be honest.

2. Be prepared. If your brand strategy or corporate values were clear and true before the crisis began then they will sustain you through a crisis and can be easily communicated and conveyed.

3. Have a platform or channels of communication where your stakeholders (customers, employees, shareholders or journalists) can reach you, and communicate regularly and clearly through them.

4. Provide good content that people want to read. This might be great visuals for Instagram, a pithy opinion piece for a trade journal, or a fascinating interview for radio, but basically something worth engaging with.

5. Don’t allow your corporate speak to get in the way of talking sensibly. If there’s one big take out from covid-19 it is “community”. And yet still people insist on shoe-horning corporate messages or mission speak into copy and content, when ‘show don’t tell’ and ‘be human’ would resonate so much more.

If I had to pick the single most important point? It has to be good content because this is a universal truth for any channel – digital, print, broadcast.

Next year Google is introducing something called the ‘Page Experience Update’. This will start ranking pages based on how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page.

There are a host of technical measures this will apparently include, and the excellent website Search Engine Land can explain them better than me.

The upshot is that you have to create content – words, pictures or sounds – that people want to see or hear if you want them to engage with you. If you can engage with them then you can survive and thrive though a crisis.

And that is the role of PR – strategy, creativity, great writing and engaging content. It hasn’t changed, we just have to do it faster now and at the moment, from our homes.