It is nearly 2018, the vast majority of businesses are connected through the internet, we are accustomed to maintaining relationships with friends and family through our smart phones, and an election was heavily influenced by social interactions on Facebook. Social media and mobile technology are ubiquitous and have have never been more important in how we conduct business and communicate – this is especially true in the conservation world . Navigating the digital world may seem daunting at times, but if you know how to harness these tools effectively you can catalyze your organization’s impact.
Changing the world while sitting at your desk.
Being an effective communicator, especially through digital media, is of paramount importance for getting your message out to the world. In fact, one could argue it is the only way to get your message out. Consider that the global mobile subscriber base will reach 5.6 billion by the end of the decade, by which point over 70% of the world’s population will have a mobile subscription.
In order to effectively convey the importance of our work and raise the profile of conservation efforts worldwide, we need to engage with these digital citizens. We have an opportunity to influence the global community with a stroke of a keyboard and the click of a mouse. This extraordinary potential needs to be utilized effectively so that we continue to change minds and engender action for a better, greener, and more sustainable world.
So where does one begin to engage with this digital world? The simplest and easiest way to reach out is to read and share good information. The more you talk to people about environmental affairs, the more you will realize that many of the problems, let alone the solutions, are completely unknown. So start by reaching across the aisle (whatever your aisle might be) and sharing credible information. A clip from BBC’s Planet Earth or photography of ecosystems a world away never disappoint in sparking some interest. Demonstrate your knowledge and willingness to respectfully educate. Remember, screaming “STOP THE SLAUGHTER OF ANIMALS” may not get you far, it may even get you blocked. But an intelligent infographic on cattle farming and greenhouse gasses will raise some eyebrows and might open the door to conversation.To the extent possible, try to do your own research, write your own content make your own media, and share it.
When you are ready to take that next step, here are some tools you (or your organization) will need for effective communication.
A willingness to create original content. From photography, to video, to writing. There are hundreds of free tools, tutorials, and courses online to get you started.
- A platform. Personal social media accounts are a great start. Define your message, promote it, and cultivate your following.
- An optimized communications strategy. Unfortunately you will learn that you can create the most amazing content but if it doesn’t reach anyone, it doesn’t do anything. This will involve creating relevant content, having airtight SEO (search engine optimization), and at least some basic knowledge of digital marketing. See more at the end of this article.
- An operating budget helps but is not necessary. SEVENSEAS Media was built from literally nothing, with no money, and still after over 2.5 years I manage to do it by myself as a volunteer (Shameless plug for you to make your donation. Click here.).
What can an effective conservation communication strategy really accomplish?
This is not just a feel-good strategy. Countless photographers, writers, and storytellers have brought their messages back from the field and have managed to convince their neighbors, their community, and lawmakers to change their views.
Cristina Mittermeier, the founder of the International League of Conservation Photographers and co-founder of SeaLegacy with Paul Nicklen, has always exclaimed the importance of conservation photography and the need to deliver those images to the general public. And it works. Today Cristina tells us, “No matter where they swim, whale sharks are now protected as a migratory species. Thanks to all those photographers and scientists who helped tell their story to achieve their protection.” This, on the heels of a cross-border conservation pact signed by 126 countries promising to extend extra protection to sharks and several other migratory species, regardless of countries they stray into.
It is through an effective conservation communications strategy that we have established protected areas and saved some of the most critically endangered species.
Environmental organizations are lagging behind the communications curve.
Considering what captures people’s attention, it should come as no surprise that conservation science generally does not get the biggest headlines in the news.
Nevertheless, an effective communication strategy can help capture the attention of those we are trying to convince and persuade. While I understand competing priorities take our attention away from giving serious thought to how we communicate, I believe we need to shift priorities and place effective communication front and center.
SEVENSEAS Media can help you or your organization become a better conservation communicator.
Digital marketing is no longer a strategy for the future but reality of today. SEVENSEAS Media is now offering mentoring and consulting services for any budget to make sure you are optimized for today’s digital economy. Whether it is color correcting and editing your entire disk of underwater photos so people actually want to look at them; providing a website and SEO audit; or producing and disseminating creative content, SEVENSEAS Media can help. Email to discuss what your needs and budget are and we can take it from there.
Support science and spread the word
The most basic tools are literally at your fingertips this very second. Read, write, share, repeat.
SEVENSEAS Media is the leading free resource that promotes marine conservation through community engagement, online media, and eco-tourism, with readers in 174 countries. With the particularly brutal effects of climate change we are witnessing through floods and storms, we are asking you to please keep SCIENCE at the forefront of your conversations with family, friends, and colleagues. Encouraging them to subscribe to free products and programs like SEVENSEAS Media actually makes a difference by promoting scientific discussion and shining a spotlight on the good work of our partners in conservation.
Safe travels & happy swimming,
Executive Director, Editor-in-Chief