Ground Zero: A Recovering Biologist’s Takeaway from Her 1st ACI
By Aubrey Pawlikowski, Georgia Department of Natural Resources
My supervisor mentioned “ACI” during my Day 1: Welcome to Georgia DNR Public Affairs meeting. I then went back to my office and frantically searched “What is ACI?” As a former wildlife biologist and a newbie to the world of marketing, I am always looking for ways to boost my skills and broaden my reach. What she didn’t tell me is that ACI was more than just a group of communicators getting together and that this conference was an anchor for collaboration?! Here are just a few things I took away from my week in Springfield:
Buckle up. It’s not a snooze-fest.
Prepare to be inspired and engaged. I’ve never been surrounded by a more spirited group of passionate professionals. Come prepared to take home new ideas and leave ready to take on the world. I was able to borrow and build upon ideas that I have already implemented in Georgia, including drone tips and tricks, gourmet squirrel recipes and Instagram takeovers.
There’s a long road ahead of us as communicators.
Hunter and angler numbers are declining, and we as communicators are the frontline of defense. As the storytellers of conservation, we’re entrusted with explaining why “making it last” is important to the public (that mostly does not hunt or fish) and benefits from the work that the conservation community does. The information we provide is more important than ever. Research shows that young adults are trusting formal organization less and less. We are not only working to explain why what we do is important, but also why we should be trusted as stewards of nature and wildlife.
Foodies are the future.
Field to Fork programs across the country are using food as a gateway to hunting. These programs expose a new audience to hunting by teaching them how to hunt and prepare their meals with the help of local chefs and experienced hunters. By tapping into the foodie and locavore community in your area, you have the opportunity to introduce them to the ultimate in sustainably harvested, organic, locally raised food: wild game. Foodie groups are typically close-knit in social networks and digital tribes, which could lead to viral social media exposure for the R3 movement.
Generation Z and Alpha are a whole new animal.
The youth entering our ranks are unlike any generation before them. Gen Z and Alpha are seeking to form a life resume of travel, accomplishments and achievement that extend past family and career goals. The good news? We have the market to bring them in. We can provide them a chance to build their resumes with travel and adventure close to home.
Birds are awesome.
Why birds? From urban to wild area, they’re easily accessible. Of 86 million wildlife watchers in America, 81 percent were found to participate in wildlife watching around the home. Birding provides the average Joe with a way to connect with nature in their own backyard for little cost. The creation of digital birding trails and online databases like E-bird allows people to explore their communities in a fun, easy, learning environment.
Compassion. Consistency. Persistence. Presence. Respect. Relationships. These are the merchants of hope and foundations of success in both life and as natural resource communicators. If there is one conference that you attend as a communicator/marketer/information/education professional, look no further. I know I’m saving the date for Savannah (July 7-11) this year!
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