What it takes to be a conservation communicator…
By Carys Evans, Communications and Campaigns Officer for Wildlife Trusts Wales
Having worked in communications and marketing within the conservation sector for the last few years I can safely say that no two days are ever the same! If you’re looking for a non-stop, creative whirlwind of a job then marketing and communications may just be for you!
During my career in conservation communications, I’ve stood in the middle of a pond for a TV interview, dressed up as a mermaid (and a puffin!), and spent the day on a seabird island. All in the life of a communications professional right? But it is not all fun and games, all the time (just most of the time!). I’ve also consoled a recently bereaved widow who wanted to talk about appeals she could donate funeral collections, I’ve spent the afternoon picking up dog poo on a nature reserve and spent hours in front of a screen writing content to make sure people like you want to read what we’ve got to say.
So considering all of that, you can probably see why it can be tricky pinpointing the exact skills you may need for a job like mine. So here goes nothing!
Firstly, and unsurprisingly you need to be a dab hand at communicating. I’m not just talking about, well…talking. I mean really communicating and understanding people and what makes them tick. The ability to listen carefully and understand an audience is key in communications. My job is to make sure that when we talk, people listen. To make sure that happens you need to understand your audience, understand what motivates them and what type of content will work for them. This is where the analytical skills come in! Not every social media post is going to work, and that’s ok! But finding out why it didn’t work is key to delivering content that engages your audience. You don’t need to be excellent with numbers, thankfully analytics software is great at presenting data in really easy to understand formats. But a little numeracy skills won’t go amiss!
Next up, you need to ooze creativity (not literally!). Social media is great, especially when you’re working for a small charity that may not have the biggest budget. But social media can be very noisy – so having some creative flair can really help get your messages heard over the crowd. When everyone’s talking about the same thing, how will you make sure that you’re the one who people listen to? In comes enthusiasm, this one is usually pretty easy for passionate conservationists. We are already committed and completely in love with this gorgeous blue planet of ours, so as a communications pro you have to make sure you really show that. Be interested and inquisitive, always looking for the next exciting story or content for social media. I have learned so much during my time working in conservation, from top tips for identifying poo to the mating habits of natterjack toads!
Next up the boring (but important!) stuff – it’s time to brush up on your spelling and grammar! Thankfully, with the delights of technology, spelling is no longer such a big issue but having an eye for detail for spotting those sneaky typos is a must. When you’re stuck to the confines of Twitter’s 280 character limit – creative wordsmithery (definitely a word!) is your friend. With the joy of working in a creative role comes the need for flexibility and the ability to adapt quickly to digital trends (yes, I’m talking about TikTok). Communications is varied, which is exciting and sometimes frantic due to short deadlines and last-minute priorities so a cool head in these situations will keep you on the straight and narrow.
Teamwork is your friend. Conservation organisations are full of incredible, passionate, and knowledgeable people who are just brimming with inspiring and insightful information. Working with these people is key to delivering the most exciting and informative comms which really speak to the audience. In my career so far I have had the privilege of working with nature geniuses who have taught me a lot and have played a huge part in making me who I am today (a self-confessed nature nerd!). You don’t need to have all the conservation knowledge to work in conservation comms, you just need to be passionate, enthusiastic and eager to learn and get stuck in (hence the pond interview).
The world of conservation communications really is one big, beautiful, but wild ride! So if you’re ready for the challenge, strap yourself in!
Here’s a quick summary of what a job in conservation communications may look like:
- Social media management and development
- Brand development
- Website management and editing
- Analytics and monitoring – finding out what works and what doesn’t!
- Content creation - videos, images, podcasts – you name it!
- Copywriting – from websites, social media, enewsletters, press and print
- Design – magazines, social media assets
- Press liaison – I’ve spent many a day on a nature reserve with a journalist
Here are the skills that would come in handy:
- Personable and approachable
- Enthusiastic and positive outlook
- Able to work under pressure
- Flexible and adaptable
- Work well as a team
- Strong writing skills