Conservation stakeholders in Kenya held a landmark event when 22 conservancies met for a workshop convened at the Africa Wildlife Foundation on March 7, 2019. The inaugural Conservation Communication Forum investigated the communication strategies that conservancies ought to adopt in order better connect with audiences and push a refreshed narrative.
Current communication activities typically focus on selling narratives about fundraising to the donor community while ignoring that local communities play a big role in conservation. This perhaps could be the reason why Kenyan communities are so disinterested in conservation and wildlife.
Sochin’s Managing Director, Noah Miller, was invited to speak about leveraging social media to engage with audiences and positively shape perceptions about conservation work being conducted in Kenya. A key component of his presentation was a case study of the Ivory Burn and Giants Club Summit held on April 30, 2016 during which 105 tons of ivory and 1.35 tons of rhino horn were burned at the Nairobi National Park. To this day, this marks the largest amount of ivory burned in Africa’s history thereby putting the ivory beyond economic use.
The ivory burn was undoubtedly a success based on metrics such as global awareness, impressions, engagement, utilization of influencers, message unity, etc. It also clearly demonstrated Kenya’s leadership in ending the poaching of rhinos and elephants.
Nevertheless, Mr. Miller opined that perhaps the most important audiences were neglected by the exercise: Asian importers of illegal ivory in counties such as China, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. The main reasons for this omission are that other social media platforms are prevalent in Asia, particularly in China, and the use of languages other than English.
Another interesting observation during the presentation addressed the usage of influencers. While Kenya based social media users were busy producing content leading up to the ivory burn, they lacked the large follower numbers that international celebrities yield on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Jared Leto, Banksy, and Claudia Bahamon tweeted just five times but this resulted in 7.5 million impressions. The same dynamic was seen on Instagram which was the best performing platform on the actual day of the ivory burn. Doutzen Kroes, Lupita Nyong’o and Iman reached nearly 6 million followers with just four posts.
While these kinds of influencers are instrumental in raising awareness globally, an often overlooked aspect of social media analysis is mapping the social structures of a given platform. Identifying a node within a network that serves as a trusted source of information on a given topic can also be critical. This help with the dissemination of a narrative to like-minded followers who might have other important relations in the social media space.
Mr. Miller concluded by asking the 22 conservancies attending the workshop to leverage their impressive social media presence across various platforms.