Thursday, November 3, 2011

North Shore pro surfer Jamie O’Brien needs a media team - and a condom

Raising awareness?
I wish you could make this stuff up but sadly you cannot, and thus begins today's lesson about wildlife, media messaging, and stupid animal tricks.

Folks, we have said it before and will say it again, there's something wrong with the media message out there.

First a bit about this image.

Pro surfer Jamie O’Brien is trying to get folks to understand Fibropapillomatosis which is causing an epidemic amongst sea turtles.

Fibropapillomatosis is most likely caused by a herpes-type virus.  

He chose this image of him engaged in a sex act with a turtle, no wait, he was just riding the turtle, no, it's a sex act, to convey the conservation message.

Really?

This is on par with, if not as moronic as, recent media hits that were meant to convey important conservation messages such as:

1. Playing a guitar underwater while crooning to white sharks in a protected Bio Sphere Reserve. The message was, "white sharks are not dangerous." Since that video there have been 6 fatal white shark attacks and 11 non fatal predatory events on surfers and divers worldwide.

2. Holding up pizza box lids with lip stick on them to convey complex messaging about shark nets in South Africa. Since that media image over 2000+ sharks have been killed in shark nets all over the world.

3. Placing billboards at recent shark attack sites with the message, "Payback is Hell". We're not even going to go there.

The list goes on.

It's not like we don't know media messaging and complex conservation management. We have been involved in it for the past decade and while images like this one with Jamie O’Brien elicit giggles, web traffic, and a bunch of kudos from your particular tribal group, they don't last, and ultimately they are not effective.

You want to save turtles? This is not the way to do it. 

But that does not stop folks from trying. Media messaging is as complex as the issue you are trying to get across and you have to play to a much wider audience than just the folks who reside in your smart phones contact list. It's a point that seems obvious but far too many within the conservation community miss it time and again.

Hits on a You Tube videos do not translate into conservation laws. Quasi-sex turtle images do not translate into grants and funds for long term studies. Awareness is not worth a dime unless it translates, and translate into something that will actually help.

Conservation messaging needs to be done without the "stupid pet tricks with wildlife."

We can do better than we are with smarter messaging that actually translates into conservation gold.

Highlight the issue. Create the solution. Translate into action.
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