Sunday, August 4, 2013

Has the RSPB got things right or........?

I don't know about you but the various comments being made on Blogs and Facebook at present about the RSPB absolutely intrigue me!! Not everyone appears entirely happy with the various changes arising in which the Society is involved.  Martin Harper ( RSPB Director of Conservation ) has even acknowledged a couple of times that there appears to be plenty of  "noise" out there.  I would suggest the score, at least, is something the Society itself has been responsible for and the comments relate to the dissonance involved in some of the less than fluid passages!  So, what is all the fuss about?

Well, first it was the logo change, then the TV advert and now the proposed change to the title of BIRDS magazine, besides the Society's intention to embrace a much wider remit associated with all wildlife. Enough to ruffle the feathers of many well-preened aficionados it would seem.

Clearly many of these changes have been both contemplated and hinted at for some time and I confess to having had a few reservations about them myself, set out on this Blog previously.  It would be easy to conclude that all this change was exclusively a marketing ploy, and I'm sure there are hoped for returns in that context, but, in conservation terms, it surely makes sense?  Nonetheless I do feel the RSPB could do better at selling itself and its envisaged changes to its own membership. Whilst I don't feel the logo change is something to particularly get hot under the collar about, I don't feel it was necessary either. However, perhaps the Society has seen fit to retain its "Royal" association, but with a little less of an emphasis. The letters stand for the same thing, but with a reduced "blatancy" shall we say.

The advert!  Allegedly costing £2million, as a promotional initiative it's therefore extremely costly and a hell of a gamble even for an organization with a generated income as high as the RSPB. Whilst the Society has been losing members in recent times, it's hardly surprising given the current economic situation. Contrasted against all this are the viewing figures of programmes like BBC SpringWatch and BBC AutumnWatch, which suggest there is a lot of people out there who are interested in wildlife. Coupled with all this is the fact that conservation is receiving less and less recognition from Central Government and you have a self-evident opportunity whose potential  it would be irresponsible to ignore. Attempting to attract such newly emergent wildlife enthusiasts into supporting what is openly acknowledged as the UK's most effective conservation body therefore makes sense, very good sense. Not only would this generate increased support for conservation initiatives, but it would indicate to our "Greenest Government Never"  that there was emerging concerns within its electorate that it would do well to take account of.

So, all in all, I can see the time has arrived to move from simply dealing with birds and their habitats to embracing all that comprises our natural heritage. I then read a Blog that Mike Clarke ( Chief Executive, RSPB ) had put out a couple of weeks ago  Saving nature is a marathon, not a sprint.  Use this last Link and scroll down through the entries on Martin Harper's Blog where Mike Clarke was presenting a guest entry. The recent State of Nature report put together by the RSPB and over twenty other conservations in the UK presents a very chilling picture on the current circumstances of our native wildlife. Picking up on these and other available details convinced me that, whatever our collective gut reactions to change might be, something needs to be done and something drastic at that. Logos and adverts aside, what is needed is more, many more, supporters and activists, which is precisely what RSPB seems intent on achieving. Well done!!

But then the Autumn edition of BIRDS magazine arrives and spoils things!! Enter Page 85 and a rather feeble mention of the next vital steps coupled with an announcement that the title of BIRDS magazine will change to Nature's Home.  Surely with this conservation epiphany having occurred, with this decision to pursue an enlightened and bold change being taken, the accompanying PR pitch could have been stronger and included a real rallying call to the current membership in particular. I don't really like the new title, but I do understand and will support the need for change and all that might be involved.  It's the "ingredients"  the RSPB is renowned for, but on this occasion the packaging is poor in my opinion.  Announcing it all in a convincing
and enthusiastic way smacks of celebration and confidence......  and most importantly, firm intent!  This modesty, this civilised attempt at appeal and persuasion, is a sad understatement of what is the most  major change since the Society came into being and what one hopefully proves to be the saving grace of our wildlife heritage.  Undoubtedly the next edition of  Nature's Home will regale us with what is intended and I've every confidence the content will be impressive.  But now is the time to convince and carry forward, not allow three months for the dissonance and noise to grow further due to a drip feeding of information about intentions upon which either nothing should have been said or a full revelation of details provided.

Yes, I'm sure all of us will still be there to take that "vital step", but think about the existing membership a little more. Change can seem a threat to some, and engender unnecessary opposition.  Much could be avoided by more openness on the Society's behalf,  a facet I don't believe it has quite right so far. A hard shout I suppose, but the thing is, we actually believe you're capable of the best....at everything.      
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