The national PR launch of ‘The Highway Rat Activity Trails’


Between November 2017 and January 2018, Freshwater was commissioned by the Forestry Commission to develop a high impact national PR strategy to help launch its all-new “Highway Rat Activity Trails”.

We devised a creative media strategy that combined traditional PR tactics with blogger engagement to ensure the campaign was impactful, engaging and delivered against objectives.



pieces of positive national media coverage secured in under eight weeks


million combined media circulation generated


more national coverage secured than original target


Freshwater won a competitive brief via the Crown Commercial Services’ Campaign Solutions framework to devise and implement a PR campaign to launch the Forestry Commissions’ new “Highway Rat Activity Trails” and raise awareness of trails across the UK in the run up to Christmas 2017. The trails would take visitors to 22 selected Forestry Commission sites on a fun woodland journey to spot characters from The Highway Rat, take a ‘wanted poster’ selfie and learn about the great outdoors.


With short lead times, timing was key. We developed a strategy that took advantage of the growing hype around the star-studded TV adaptation of “The Highway Rat” which was due to air on BBC One on Christmas day 2017.

We leveraged well-known English folklore to create a sense of buzz and momentum – move over Dick Turpin, there’s a new highwayman in town. We selected Wendover Woods, a beautiful Forestry Commission location with historical links to famous highwaymen, as the location for our photography shoot. Soon to be home to an activity trail, Wendover Woods provided the perfect backdrop for a creative photo call involving local children and the Highway Rat himself. We captured seven creatively captioned images which were used to engage journalists and bloggers with the story.

A programme of planned, proactive media relations followed which seeded news of the forthcoming trails to the press. We worked closely with the Forestry Commission and its partners, Magic Light Pictures, to ensure communication around the soon-to-launch activity trails and forthcoming broadcast event complemented one another, and didn’t compete for media space. We targeted long-lead parenting publications, national magazines and supplements, the blogging community and news outlets with a mix of press releases, event listings, blogger previews and desk drops to raise awareness and build momentum.

The Forestry Commission Highway Rat


The target in the original brief was to generate five pieces of national coverage. Proactive media relations around the press release and event listing and blogger engagement resulted in 31 pieces of coverage, including 11 print articles, seven blog posts, two online articles and 11 social media posts.

Twenty-two pieces of coverage appeared in national media outlets or national blogs, exceeding the target by over 400%. The other nine pieces of coverage were secured with major regional newspapers including the Daily Post, Birmingham Mail and Nottingham Evening Post.

Eight bloggers visited the Activity Trails as a direct result of blogger engagement work, which proved fruitful in terms of generating positive conversations on social media. Blogger cover generated 401 visits to the campaign landing page on the Forestry Commission website.

One hundred percent of the PR coverage secured was positive in sentiment and tone. At least one of the key performance indicators, set at the outset of the campaign, was included in 81% of the coverage, and two or more KPIs were included in 77% of the coverage. The remaining coverage appeared on social media, and linked through to online articles featuring one or more KPI.



Crown Commercial Services - Forestry Commission

Related services

    • Public Relations


    • Public Sector


November 2017 - January 2018