Gorkana Insight & Analysis Team
When the University of Leeds wanted to promote its ecological research to attract new students and business partners, Lucre PR launched a Gardening For Champions campaign complete with messy garden app and pollinator-friendly hat to secure acres of coverage...
Campaign: Gardening For Champions
Client: University of Leeds
PR Team: Lucre
Timing: March - May 2012
- To establish the University of Leeds' research as making a valuable contribution to knowledge of ecosystem services, specifically water, carbon and pollination.
- To bring this research to the attention of the wider public, particularly potential students and prospective academic and business partners.
- To promote the message that individual householders can support the wider UK ecosystem by making small changes in their gardens to better manage water, carbon and pollination.
- To demonstrate how complex scientific theory can be made easily understandable by the lay person, without losing any of the important technical messages.
Strategy and implementation
The campaign was conducted via both traditional and social media channels. The media relations campaign focused on bringing the messages of the garden – carbon and water management, pollination and keeping an area of your garden messy to facilitate wildlife - to the wider public via press releases and one-to-one interviews with relevant journalists.
At the same time, a 'Gardening for Champions' website, a Facebook 'Gardening For Champions' page and a bespoke, interactive Messy Garden Facebook App were launched. YouTube, Pinterest and Twitter were also brought into play to help drive traffic primarily to the Facebook page.
The Messy Garden App encouraged visitors to leave their sustainable gardening tips and spot prizes were awarded to the tips with the most "likes". This encouraged engagement with the garden's messages.
As the date of the show grew closer, a series of press releases were issued detailing the research, with the most popular being a PhD thesis that found bees preferred working class, messy urban gardens to the manicured lawns of more affluent areas. It was picked up by many nationals (including the Daily Mail and The Sunday Telegraph) and regionals, and interviews were conducted with the author, Dr Mark Goddard, by BBC Radio 5 Live and regional media.
Knowing that the University of Leeds would be competing for attention with the show gardens, where budgets for publicity dwarfed that of the university's, Lucre decided that creativity was key and so commissioned a local florist to make a huge, Ascot-style hat out of the garden itself. The photo-call went out and on the show's press day, it was a Leeds graduate wearing the university's pollinator-friendly hat, not the massed ranks of world famous celebrities, who grabbed all the media attention.
In only 11 weeks, the campaign generated more than 50 pieces of coverage across international, national, regional, consumer, broadcast, trade and online titles. Key achievements included an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live and gaining a splash on the front page of the Evening Standard, which carried the 'University of Leeds' and 'pollinator hat' in its headline.
The Yorkshire Evening Post also carried the story on its front page, and the photo of the hat was published by international publications including the Washington Post and Australia Better Homes and Gardens.
Important academic journals including The Ecologist covered the story, as did Horticulture Today and the New Scientist.
It is only a few weeks since the show but the university has already seen a huge increase in interest from local and national media, and generated great feedback from our sponsors of the garden including NERC (Natural Environment Research Council).
The university's academics have also already had three new approaches for further research collaboration from commercial and academic partners following the publicity generated by the garden. The Facebook Gardening For Champions page has gained 522 likes and 187 people talking about it, and the Messy Garden App now has over 200 users.