Do It Day: Dennis Publishing wants to harness the power of Do It Day to affect long term sustainability action

#treesfortrees virtual forest

Dennis Publishing wants to harness the power of 2015’s #treesfortrees Do It Day challenge, which saw 10,000 trees planted in 24 hours, to make further steps to combat deforestation in conjunction with the Heart of England Forest in a long-lasting campaign that goes beyond just a do-good day.

Deforestation was a topic that was close to the heart of Dennis Publishing’s founder Felix Dennis. He believed the UK was in danger of losing its forestry if it didn’t continue to plant native broadleaf trees. According to reports, the UK is one of the least wooded areas of Europe. It’s why he founded the Heart of England Forest charity in 2011, and donated the bulk of his £500m fortune to its cause in his will.

Last year, in honour of its founder, Dennis Publishing tasked the advertising industry to help it plant 10,000 trees in a day as part of The Drum’s Do It Day and create a marketing campaign that would generate enough noise for 10,000 individuals to submit pictures supporting the cause.

To encourage public engagement, Plan It Day teams came up with the concept of #treesfortrees. The idea was for every picture, photo or drawing of a tree submitted to the publisher, one tree was planted. All the images sent in were assembled into a ‘virtual forest’ on the dedicated website where entrants could see their contribution in real scale.

Starting at Plan It Day this Thursday (29 September), Dennis plans to utilise the existing #treesfortrees tag for a bigger cause. While the Heart of England’s work centres around planting trees to uphold the UK’s valuable forestry for hundreds of thousands of years to come, its biggest challenge is convincing the public to take more of an active interest in the issue of deforestation.

The publisher has challenged itself to go big or go home, hoping to plant an ambitious 15,000 trees in 24 hours at Do It Day on 10 November with the help of the local community, schools, Dennis staff, and the media industry. Yet while the challenge hinges on activity that will take place on Do It Day, the publisher hopes to take the physical planting of a forest in a day to help generate long-term awareness of the Heart of England Forest and its sustainability mission.

It means Plan It Day will focus on tackling the biggest challenges Dennis faced in 2015's iteration. While last year’s #treesfortrees campaign was successful, it failed to gather 10,000 submissions, reaching only half of its target. Jerina Hardy, PR & communications director at Dennis Publishing and a key member on the Do It Day project, puts this down to a time factor.

Last year Dennis launched the #treesfortrees campaign just a few weeks before the big event and hopes to start the ball rolling earlier this year to gain better traction and get the hashtag trending on the day.

What’s more, the UK half term proved an issue last year as it fell in the weeks running up to Do It Day, thwarting Dennis’ plans to take #treesfortrees around schools. This year will see a renewed push in teachers and parents, since Dennis received most of its submissions from children last year. In fact, it was five year old Kitty Hawkings who won the honour of naming the wood planted on Do It Day.

The Week Junior, aimed at children aged between 8 and 14, will prove a valuable medium to communicate to the younger demographic, Hardy told The Drum. The Week Junior is a paid-for spin off of The Week, the publisher’s flagship current affairs title. It launched on the 14 November 2015, just 12 days after Do It Day 2015.

The marketing journey was a sticky point that Dennis hopes to iron out at Plan It Day, Hardy said. What the #treesfortrees campaign asked of consumers was a three step process of going out to find a tree and photograph it or draw it, upload it and send it via email or social media. This, Hardy said, is “a lot to ask” the modern consumer who expects to be able to do something instantly.

Possible solutions sketched out at Plan It Day could involve allowing people to create the pictures digitally. Snapchat may be the best platform to offer consumers the opportunity to submit pictures in this way, and is something Dennis is looking at with a keen eye.

Furthermore, Dennis hopes to build up engagement that is nationwide instead of London-centric, a trap the marketing industry often falls into. It’s something that applies to both the Do It Day campaign and the Heart of England Forest, Hardy said, which needs help building out its national footprint.

“That is ideally what we would be hoping to get out of Plan It Day; how do we make it a bigger thing,” she added.

These efforts will ultimately feed into the Heart of England Forest’s longer term ambitions. The charity has a one hundred year business plan with the aim of planting 30,000 acres of trees in the UK. Eventually, it hopes to create the new ‘new forest’, a haven for the people and wildlife of Britain.

Think you've got what it takes to help Dennis Publishing plant 15,000 trees in a day? Then sign up for Plan It Day here and help The Drum prove that marketing can change the world.

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