Rebecca Munro: Lessons from the RSPB's Let Nature Sing campaign

We knew we had to be bold to reach the wider public, writes the director of communications and fundraising at the wildlife charity

Rebecca Munro
Rebecca Munro

Nature cannot speak for itself. Puffins cannot email their local MPs any more than red squirrels can design campaigns to protect their habitats or the albatross can show fishing crews how to work without accidentally killing seabirds.

In order to convey a sense of urgency to the general public and get the news out there that nature is in trouble, we knew we needed to come up with an idea with wider cultural resonance.

We wanted to emphasise what the loss of millions of birds means by starting a discussion about what birdsong means to each of us and, by extension, how if we do nothing we risk losing birdsong from the UK.

Exploring that idea further, we were surprised to see no one had released a track of pure birdsong into the UK charts before. International Dawn Chorus Day on 5 May provided the perfect hook for making our story both timely and relevant, which would also help us in selling the story to pundits and media outlets.

The result: the first-ever pure birdsong top-20 chart hit.

Let Nature Sing reached number 18 in the official charts, racked up almost 200,000 YouTube views and was downloaded 25,000 times. The CD was reprinted three times to keep up with demand.

Media coverage smashed our expectations: we secured coverage in almost all the national titles, interviews on numerous local and national radio shows and slots on BBC Breakfast, Sky News and the One Show.

On 26 April, the hashtag #LetNatureSing was one of three most used by MPs, along with #brexit and #bbcqt, and more than 80 MPs attended our event in Westminster.

The campaign was a hit on social media, with more than 4.2 million total impressions. #LetNatureSing was used more than 9,000 times and was endorsed by a host of celebrities, from singer Ellie Goulding to Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, and influencers including the broadcaster Shaun Keaveny and the musicians Stornoway, Eliza, Sam Carter, Tony Hadley and Jimi Goodwin.

The easy option would have been for the RSPB to prepare a story for environmental journalists and design a campaign aimed at our thousands of existing dedicated supporters. But we knew on this occasion that we had to try something different, go bigger than ever before and reach more people.

Let Nature Sing taught us three valuable lessons in kickstarting a conversation with new audiences.

First, be bold and take a chance on a striking new idea that gets you outside your comfort zone and captures the imagination of your target audience.

Second, go back to basics. We all need to revisit the fundamentals of campaigning and a really important lesson is that if you combine a distinctive idea with a simple message and focus on getting the wording right you can connect with a much wider audience.

Third, creating a collaborative working atmosphere was key to the success of Let Nature Sing. We had so many ideas pouring in from different departments that the process has given us the confidence to build on that creative approach internally.

The first phase of Let Nature Sing has been a huge success. Now that more people are aware of the problem, we are in a strong position to move the conversation on and encourage them to demand action.

Rebecca Munro is director of communications and fundraising at the RSPB

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