Does Sensationalism Help or Hurt Conservation?

greenpeace activistAnyone familiar with conservation knows that there are those who prefer to make headlines rather than make actual headway on the issues. Not that these tactics don’t have their place – there are times when the only way to get attention for your cause is to make a bold move.

The trick is to know when splashy headlines and other sensational PR strategies will work and when it is better to maintain a slightly lower profile. While impressive when they work, these types of strategies have a low success rate and in some cases may do more harm than good.

When Greenpeace activists dangle from bridges, disrupting traffic, costing consumers time and money in the process, are they really furthering their cause, or are they actually moving backwards?

Another example – consider the group PETA. Many people automatically associate PETA (which actually does accomplish good things) with extreme activist methods including dumping animal remains into cars, throwing paint onto wearers of fur, breaking and entering and destruction of private property. The question you have to ask is: What has all of this done for actually furthering the cause of ethical treatment of animals? Case en point: If you ask the average Joe on the street what they know about PETA more often than not you get an anecdote about the groups reputation rather than something positive they have achieved. What’s worse, most of those same individuals are not even sure what PETA even stands for. (To be fair, many of the things they are associated with are no longer tolerated by the group, however the negative reputation remains.)

So how do you know when your extreme tactics are working and when it might be better to maintain a lower profile? Here are a few tips I’ve learned from my days of crazy over-the-top activism.

  1. Consider your audience – young people may become inflamed about an issue, but have little money to give. Do you need funds or simply a voice? Knowing this can help you decide who you want to reach and those you would prefer NOT to alienate.
  2. Have a plan – just because an action seems crazy doesn’t mean there is not a carefully laid plan behind it. Most publicity stunts are actually the result of a carefully scripted plan.
  3. Have a plan B – always have a contingency plan in place and know when to re-evaluate and maybe back off.
  4. Always look at the big picture. Maybe your crazy stunt will get some press coverage but don’t fall for those who insist that any press is good press. If you gain a few extreme followers but lose out in the short run, as many extremists do eventually become more moderate with age, are you potentially losing your future supporters.

Bottom Line: Always think first. Maybe having a hundred body bags dumped on the front steps of a leading tobacco company makes for great press and awesome commercials- that does not mean that those type of tactics will necessarily work to stop big business from destroying the last known habitat for a rare turtle.

Conservation must take into account a larger ecosystem/landscape approach if we are to truly make a difference. We as a species must consider that there is more than just a few animals and plants at stake. Understanding the psychology, culture, history and economics of a particular conservation issue will help to create smarter management plans that just may work, and probably better than just shouting at whaling vessels with a megaphone. GERMANY  G8 PROTEST

Everyday Public Relations is Going Green!


WARNING: The following post contains some controversial opinions but is not meant to offend. These are simply my thoughts and ideas. Feel free to share your own, and all constructive criticism is welcome as always; but please no unsupported arguments or religious debates. Thanks.

A long time coming, Everyday Public Relations is making some changes. While still focused primarily on PR in our everyday lives, you may begin to notice that more and more posts have a conservation angle to them. You’ll see ideas and tips for those who practice “green” PR as well as helpful social media hints for those in the conservation world.

To better explain this change let me start by telling you that I have these two great passions in life. (I actually have more, but only two relate to my career directly.) I love PR & Communications and I love conservation work. I have been lucky so far in that I get to combine the two on a regular basis. Working for a conservation organization as a public affairs officer has really been the best job I’ve ever had.

I do not however come into the world of conservation as a blind idealist or a hopeless treehugger. My viewpoints on the subject may seem a little extreme, and are hard to define, but I will try, in an effort to help my readers understand the nature of some of my posts.

Here goes: The planet Earth is the greatest evolutionary miracle that man has ever known. “What about people?” you cry. We (humans) are but one species, a blink of an eye on a planet that has seen more change, more wonder than any other that we currently know about. Throughout the studies done to explore space, our final frontier, it has been determined that our home planet is the only one of its kind – and is that way because everything came together so perfectly, at just the right time. Practically the definition of a miracle.

Now whether you attribute this miracle to God, the Big Bang or some other theory is your opinion and not something I care to debate. I do not judge and do not care for those who do.

Humans will not be around forever. Sad, I suppose but true. Eventually the Earth will die, as everything that exists and has ever exists does. It is an unavoidable truth-the planet’s lifespan will one day conclude.

Now that we are all depressed thinking about the end of the world let me say this. The timing of that inevitable event depends largely on our treatment of this blue and green world we call home. This is what I want to change.

I love this planet, down to its smallest bugs. I’m fascinated by life. To that end I want to share the wonder I experience on a daily basis with as many people and future generations as I can. I want my kids, grandkids, great-grandkids and so forth to know the simple joy of a summer night listening to a chorus of frogs; the majestic imposing beauty of the Rocky Mountains; the frozen seemingly endless oceans of the south pole with so much life teeming underneath the ice; the intracacies of a mountain bog’s eco-system and the awe of a fire rushing across a prairie-renewing life from its ashy wake. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

There is not a ton of money in conservation work or what has been dubbed “green pr” by some. Often you work long hours for little pay, much of your efforts being difficult and thankless. If you don’t love it, or have some greater calling, you burn out fast. It is demanding and despite the growing green movement, often your audience is stubborn, set in their ways. money driven or simply indifferent, which is the worst of all.

So…that being said, and I know I’ve gone on a good while now, my blog is changing, I think for the better. I want to really reach out to those who are using their PR and communications skills for more than just to make a profit. If I can help those working for a better world via PR and social media then I have been successful. There will still be solid tips on using public relations, and social media in the new world of work, there will simply be the added component of using what I know to help others help the planet…for as long as it remains our home.

Hope you stick around and join the conservation. I look forward to your comments.