A diagram showing staff members, volunteers and interns all being connected
A diagram of members of staff, volunteers and interns all connected

9. Communications

Promoting the work, need, relevance and impact of the charity to raise our profile, enhance the visitor experience, and encourage support.

Proudest achievements
  1. New website launched

    The new website launched in May 2021 and reflects our ambitious vision and vital work. We are driving people to a website that clearly shows who we are, the importance of our work, why we need support, and the many ways that people can support us.

  2. PR agency recruited

    To achieve a significant step change in awareness and understanding of our mission and work, we undertook a tender process to find a PR partner. Forster Communications were recruited in September 2021 to help us renew our messaging, shape our future communications strategy, and deliver a PR campaign that will help us begin to position the charity as a significant organisation of national importance

  3. ‘From the Forest’ WhatsApp group

    A WhatsApp group set up during the COVID-19 pandemic to address the challenge of getting topical and timely content has proved to be a vital source of photos and information for use on our social media channels. Made up of staff members from both our forestry and biodiversity teams, the group has enabled us to bring the Forest to people at home throughout the year.

Year in Review

Mara joined us as our Green Recovery Challenge Fund (GRCF) funded Communications Intern for a one-year, paid internship, and along with both our communications volunteers and the Forest Focus Group, was a valuable support for our communications work.

We worked with Birmingham-based PR agency East Village for five months to raise our profile with local press, before going through a rigorous tender process to recruit a long-term PR partner to raise awareness of our work on both a local and national level. The panel, which included three of our trustees, unanimously chose national agency Forster Communications. Forster is a founding UK B Corporation and was the first communications agency to publish its Climate Positive Plan. 

Our new website launched in May 2021, the culmination of 11 months of work. We are now averaging 16,550 visits per month, compared to 8,959 pre-launch.

We have worked hard to build up a comprehensive library of photos and videos that capture the Forest in all seasons and represent all areas of our work benefitting the environment, wildlife, and people.

A female visitor with two small children looking at information boards at the start of a Forest walk

Seasonal interpretation boards were rolled out in all Forest car parks, thanks to the Green Recovery Challenge Fund (GRCF) grant, enabling visitors to make the most of their visit at all times of the year. In addition, map and interpretation boards were produced and installed for the first time at College Wood.

We recognised that we need to do more to ensure that our communications are inclusive and accessible, so a strategy was written as part of the Charity’s wider equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) work, and some guidelines and resources put together. Some aspects were actioned immediately, with others being worked on over the coming year.

Challenges faced

Although we benefitted from the help of a communications intern, resource continued to be a challenge. Mara took the opportunity of a paid, Permanent communications position in London in December, so was only with us for eight months.

As the Forest grows, so too does the breadth of the charity’s work and the communications and marketing opportunities. The recruitment of a Marketing and Communications Officer next year will help to address this.

The Year Ahead

Working with Forster, we will build on the important foundation work started last year to raise the charity’s profile, which will include the charity’s first awareness raising campaign. In addition to PR campaigns, we will also run four quarterly campaigns throughout the year to encourage support of our work and to better understand our audiences and the ways to maximise our engagement with them.

Recruitment of a full-time permanent Marketing and Communications Officer will alleviate some of the pressure on the marketing and communications functions, as well as enabling us to start to move from firefighting to being proactive and strategic.

We have invested in a digital asset management system called ResourceSpace to house all our images and videos. This year, we will roll out the system, so all staff can find and download images (and videos) that are correctly named and have the appropriate consents to be used. They will be able to search for images and videos of the Forest, our events, wildlife, and people, making it much easier and quicker to locate images, download them, and share with others.

We will develop the website further, focussing on increasing the information about the biodiversity and environmental aspects of our work, as well as exploring the ways that the website can help with volunteer recruitment and enhancing the offering to our Friends of the Forest.

More work is planned for 2022/23 to tailor our content and maximise the effectiveness of these channels, using the results of a social media audit to produce a strategy.

Having started to put in place a strategy to improve diversity and inclusion in our communications, during 2022/23 we will look at the changes we need to make going forward and provide guidance for the wider charity team, who are all involved in communications.