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Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: What makes our PR team award-worthy

12 August 2010

What makes your department so strong, and how have you ended up on the award shortlist?

We are a small in-house team with a very limited budget (c.£10K yearly campaigns budget); as a result we are creative, strictly prioritise and run focused press campaigns. The foundation of our success is planning and prioritisation: we have to be incredibly organised given that we are such a small team, with a huge volume of work and very broad spectrum of stories to promote – from science and horticulture to the arts. We are ambitious for ourselves and Kew in terms of the campaign targets that we set, and we’re all incredibly proud to work for such an esteemed organisation.

Are there any specific initiatives you think may have contributed to your nomination?

The three major campaigns that fell into the period that the 2010 PR Week Awards cover are:

  1. Kew’s 250th anniversary celebrations. A number of mini-campaigns were implemented during the celebrations, which included publicising a visit from the Queen and Kew’s scientists discovering more than 250 new plant species.
  2. Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, which focused on collecting, banking and conserving 10% of the world’s wild plant species.
  3. International Day of Biodiversity – saving the world’s smallest waterlily from the brink of extinction.

All achieved significant, quality coverage and were delivered by a small in-house team of 4 without any additional support from external agencies.

To make this happen, we try and anticipate everything a journalist may need when covering our stories. The last thing we need when we are in the midst of a large campaign, and at our busiest, is to have to source additional pictures or facts because our preparation has not been thorough.

Key elements of our press releases are:

  • Strong photography: an online photo gallery is developed for every major press campaign.
  • Quick facts and figures: fact sheets are developed for each press campaign.
  • Online videos: as a lot of stories now appear online first, it makes sense to provide video content that adds value to a story.
  • Inserting links into press releases: you can't fit everything into a press release, so including links to the Kew website is a way to point journalists in the direction of additional content.

We work very closely with our digital media team on developing supportive online content for all of our major press campaigns. This content is available for use by journalists, but it's also developed to ensure that people who have been driven to our website by a news piece have some fresh, more in-depth content that unpacks the story further.

What are you three top tips for other non-profits looking to improve their PR?

  • Build strong relationships with colleagues across the organisation. The staff at Kew are our eyes and ears alerting us to strong story opportunities.
  • Learn from each campaign you deliver. It's vital you make the time to reflect on what you thought went well and what could be improved on.
  • Plan, plan, plan. When you are a small team with limited resources, as many non-profit in-house teams are, planning and prioritisation are absolutely essential to delivering effective, quality PR for your organisation.

Anna Quenby

head of PR, Royal Botanic Gardens

Communications professional with extensive experience in media, public relations and corporate communications strategic development and delivery across environment, conservation, arts, cultural, charity, NGO, public and private sectors.