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How can ocean conservation get more media coverage?

Posted: February 23rd, 2015 | Filed under: oceans, Upwell | No Comments »

I’m tired of seeing bland PR pitches from ocean conservation groups. I want to see more stories, more captivating visuals, and a better understanding of the media landscape and what journalists need in order to cover an important issue.

As one of my departing activities at Upwell, I interviewed Lindsay Abrams, a blogger with Salon, about how we can get more coverage for the ocean, and how conservation groups can better work with journalists.

Read the interview in full.

Hire me!

Posted: January 25th, 2015 | Filed under: climate, fun, lgbt, oceans, self-aggrandization, Upwell | No Comments »

Warning: I use emoticons like <3 in public communications. I’m an unapologetic public advocate for the things that matter to me (e.g., LGBT equality, women’s rights, Earth sustainability), and if that’s a problem for you, you should probably stop reading here.

But if you’ve kept reading, let’s talk. I’m interested in changing the world in unconventional ways. Skillz-wise, I’m good at online communications. I can also write a press release, build a coalition, host an event, and lots of other stuff. I know AP style, correct my friends’ grammar even if they hate it, and I know how to get a journalist interested in a story. I don’t know Java or Javascript (though Code School at nights is totally a thing), but I do know CSS and HTML and I’m good at talking to your developers in a way that doesn’t make them want to smash their forehead into their desk.

What I’m most interested in figuring out is how we can adapt to the ever changing ways of human nature to accelerate social change. I believe, with the right minds at the task, we can approach the speed of technological change, but only if we’re comfortable with uncertainty and are willing to invest in the humans that make the world instead of being obsessed with funding cycles and ROI and KPIs. The world works faster than that and so does my brain.

I’m a very direct person, but my past colleagues will attest, I live up to my ENFP bucket. I’m a team player and think in systems-oriented ways. I’m good at pairing short- and long-term thinking. I like bringing joy to the people around me, whether it’s blasting Beyonce on a deadline or ringing the cowbell for every interim list item done rather than waiting for the big finish.

Enough of my pitch. Just thought my website should say something about the fact that I’m anxious and want to find my unicorn job. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m about 75% confident it’s just hiding out there and I can’t find it. Help me?


Scio14 – I felt like I belonged more this year.

Posted: March 3rd, 2014 | Filed under: oceans, self-aggrandization, social media, Upwell | No Comments »

I came to Science Online in 2013 a newbie. My colleague, Rachel Weidinger, had attended in 2012 to introduce the community to our fledging nonprofit startup, Upwell, and I’d been hired a month later. When I attended last year, I was initially quite nervous and hesitant to speak up. I came from a nonprofit background, and felt that my streak for advocacy and my lack of a science background would set me apart as an unwelcome stranger amidst the crowd of accomplished scientists and journalists. I was pleasantly surprised to find that wasn’t the case, and felt welcomed into the ocean blogging community. I even stayed up late sipping Kraken in the #DSNSuite, feeling like a true ocean groupie.

But something still stood out to me – I couldn’t really participate in many of the conversations. Not because I was shunned, but because they just weren’t all that applicable to what I was doing. Let me take a moment here to explain what I do – I try to make the ocean famous on the internet. I promote science-based content and try to increase the number of social mentions about issues facing our ocean – everything from overfishing to ocean acidification to marine protected areas. I work closely with scientists, government officials, and environmental advocates. I process and communicate science much like so many people in the Science Online community.

But, last year, I found that so many of the conversations focused on the actual act of writing. And how people get there. How do academics break barriers against social media? How can bloggers use narrative techniques? How can they overcome imposter syndrome? Why should scientists even be online?

I felt like there was a lack of focus on what to do after a piece of content is published. Sure, we do need to focus on creating good content, but how do we get people to actually read or see it? The people who come to Science Online are generally not only super wicked smart, but are also highly skilled communicators. They are the people who not only love and understand science, but know that it needs to be translated, and often know how to translate it.  Maybe it’s the communications pro in me, but I craved a stronger focus on outreach. I was pleased with sessions that focused on creating captivating visuals or using social media for promotion, and I wanted to see more of that.

Which is why I’m glad that there was a stronger focus this year on what to do after a piece of content is published. Not just what to do, but actually how to package information in the first place so it’s optimized for what happens after it’s out there on the web. Some topics that I loved this year:

  • Creating videos that not only explain science well, but also encourage viewership from a broader audience, and are easy to watch all the way through and entice viewers to share. #ScioPrep
  • Finding ways to inject science everywhere, not just the standard places. How do we interject pop culture, how do we use it as a hook for explaining science? #scioSciAll
  • Using social media and social media analysis and monitoring tools to understand how audiences are talking about a topic of interest. And not just that, also understanding how they feel about it and what their level of familiarity is. #ScioResearch
  • Developing press materials that are web friendly before publishing your papers. And doing it in a way that’s conscious of how journalism has changed in the internet age. #ScioPress
  • Incorporating images into your content in a way that adds meaning and also makes your content appear right on social media. #ScioVisual

I’m glad we’ve moved beyond just asking: “should we be communicating science online, and what are the challenges to being able to do so” to also saying “we are communicating science online, now how do we do it better, reach more people, and keep adapting to the changing ways people communicate and consume information online?” I found myself speaking up more, contributing information on the challenges we face on the daily at Upwell in terms of intervening in conversations, making science relevant, and helping science-based content reach broader audiences. And the responses I got were super positive. At Friday night’s Intergalactic Gala in the conference hotel, I had to keep putting my glass of wine down to reach into my back pocket for business cards for all the people who kept coming up and saying, “what you do is so cool.”

You like me - you really like me!


I’m hoping that, next year, the focus on outreach, promotion and optimized “packaging” is even stronger – maybe I’ll even be leading one of those sessions. 🙂

(As a side note, I moderated a great session on mentoring and mentorship, which, while it had nothing to do with science communication, was a much needed discussion that crosses boundaries. Not just for the scientific and journalist communities – for everyone. We talked about how to find a mentor, how to be a mentor, how to structure mentor relationships, and what challenges come along with mentoring. Check out my #ScioMentor Storify.)

(Edited on March 5, 9 am PST, to remove an offhand comment that devalued the craft of writing!)

Upwell Diaries, Chapter 1: Social Media Lessons for the Marine Community

Posted: October 31st, 2012 | Filed under: oceans, social media | No Comments »

I’m experimenting daily with crazy campaign ideas at Upwell, and with all that I’m learning, wanted to share some of it with you here. In this first installment, some tips on using social media to promote marine/ocean issues. The basic social media lessons go without saying. I am a fan of transparency, immediacy, reciprocity. But there are unique challenges in this field – advocating for something that is hard for most of us to see, feel and touch. Explaining the myriad complicated issues that are bound to exist in such a diverse ecosystem. And moving beyond our fascination with charismatic megafauna to inspire action around the less cute or sexy issues, like ocean acidification, marine protected areas, and forage fish.

This is not an exhaustive list, just a few things that have been… swimming in my head recently.

1. Communicate based on shared values, not shared knowledge.

The ocean is so big, so vast, there are so many things that you can know about, and after years of campaigning in this space I still learn stuff everyday, so how can I expect to get massive amounts of social media traction on something that requires baseline knowledge about an ocean conservation issue?

Tap into an emotion we all share, as opposed to tapping into a specific set of knowledge that only a portion of people have. When thinking about how to campaign with social media around ocean issues, you have to understand that there is a lack of knowledge. When you’re campaigning on women’s issues, you’re not fighting that same information deficit. There is a base of knowledge, even if there isn’t a base of activism. When it comes to ocean issues, the knowledge and activism circles are pretty much one and the same.

One of the most creative ways to get people to share, to get a message to spread farther is how can we compare the ocean to things we take for granted in our everyday lives. Tap into our basic human nature, and the things that drive our daily decisions as opposed to into some pre-existing ocean ethic, which is not as widespread.

Seafood Fraud image macro

What else gets mislabeled in the world that people do know about?

2. Use people’s love of the ocean to inspire them to act.

Everybody loves the ocean. Even if we’re not all ocean conservationists, people  innately love the ocean, even it they’re scared of it. Even if they won’t swim in it, they love it. People love putting whales on T-shirts and shells in bathrooms. The ocean is part of our everyday existence. It has a good aesthetic. It’s beautiful.

The idea of abundance is deeply set in our culture. People believe that the ocean is abundant, that coral reefs are lively and colorful all over the world, and that our oceans are full of fish. There is a doom and gloom aspect in working in this field which makes you want to say, ‘Actually, we’re killing all the fish and all the coral reefs are dying,’ but like we did with Shark Week, it’s really important to meet people where they are. If they’re already thinking from a frame of abundance, hammering them with a message that things are dying is not something they’re going to want to share.

As much as we can use enthusiasm and love for ocean life to activate people, rather than a message of death and gloom, I think that that is much more powerful. We saw it happen during Shark Week. There were so many people who were excited about sharks. Sharks are awe-inspiring, and if you can acknowledge that, while also taking an opportunity to talk about the threats that face sharks, and use messages of awesomeness and abundance, you’re creating community with people who feel that way. If they see you as part of their community, and as sharing some kind of aesthetic, or personal, or moral value, then they’re that much more likely to listen to what you have to say. You have to establish a lot of common ground with people.

If you’ve got a Facebook Page and all you’re posting are negative things, you’re not going to get a lot of likes. You’ve got to celebrate what’s wonderful about the ocean in order to get people to understand that there’s something worth saving.

3. Embrace the meme. Combine images and text.

Memes are driving the discussion. People are engaging intellectually via memes. It’s not a vapid thing.

4. Look to other causes for inspiration

Just because we believe our issue is special, and especially important, doesn’t mean we are interacting with a different Internet than the rest of the nonprofit world. Look at what the Humane Society is doing. Look at what Human Rights Watch is doing. Some of the cutting edge nonprofits are doing social media work. You can just copy what they’re doing for ocean issues.

Don’t be afraid to copy what works.

Life Changes

Posted: March 13th, 2012 | Filed under: oceans, self-aggrandization | 2 Comments »

Big news! After nearly four years agitating for change at Spitfire Strategies, I’m making a move. At the end of this month, I’ll be joining the team at Upwell to amplify stories online and fly the ocean flag.

As one of the first Upwell team members, I’ll help to define the future of the baby new project that is currently being incubated at the Ocean Conservancy. Upwell is a startup with an ambitious goal of curating the enormous quantity of ocean content that exists, tracking the online conversation about oceans, creating and amplifying online content in experimental data-driven campaigns, and sharing everything we learn with the ocean community.

Why the change?

Well, first, I should say – I love Spitfire. Since 2008 I’ve been helping to create engaging websites, managing unwieldy yet ambitious coalitions, writing stories to bring complicated issues to life, using social media to spark connections and create community, devising strategies to motivate the hardest-to-reach audiences to take action on important issues, pitching national and local media outlets to cover the hard work of nonprofits, crystallizing the brand identity for organizations and foundations to help them create internal community and external consistency, and more. It’s been a busy four years. I’ve learned a lot and met a lot of brilliant, passionate and creative changemakers.

But I’m approaching that time in my life when my own goals, passions and pursuits are narrowing. My life lens is less wide-angle, more pinhole. After years of working with organizations like Ocean Conservancy, Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Blue Ocean Institute, the Packard Foundation, and the World Wildlife Fund, I’ve cultivated a love for the oceans. I suppose that love has always been there. I grew up blocks from the ocean and spent my adolescent summers at beach camp, I’ve only excelled only at water sports, and I’ve found love in an aspiring marine biologist.

The ocean is the lifeblood of our planet. The driver of our climate. An unexplored frontier. A beautiful landscape with a million colors, species, depths. The oceans hold relics of prehistory and keys to the future. We can’t ever know everything about them, but we sure try.

ᔥ The Ocean is Wonderful

I’m also passionate about technology and the way it’s shaped the way we communicate. As an avid outdoorswoman, I see the affect the web has on us – it inspires us to be glued to our screens instead of exploring the outside world. People tweet at conferences rather than revelling in the knowledge and inspiration that surrounds them. I most likely have hundreds of friends on facebook that I haven’t actually spoken to in years. Reality is shifting. But in every change there lies possibility. The immediacy that social media presents allows us to share our opinions in real time. It gives the “lesser” of us a voice. It creates connection where it may not have otherwise existed. Access to inspirational material – stories, videos, photographs, art, opinions – has never been greater.

I’m eager to flex my creative muscle and take ownership of the work I do. As a communications consultant at Spitfire, I’ve been able to help organizations plan their communications efforts so that they are strategic and effective, but I rarely get to do the work. I’m helping others create change. I have enabled, instigated, inspired, instructed, advised, coached, trained.

I’m ready to do.

My role at Upwell is still squishy.  I’m going to craft campaigns, build connections in the community, develop and curate content and more. I still get to be a jack of all trades, but I’ll be operating in the salty sea water world.

I am excited about this change in my life and career and hope to chronicle it here. For the time being, you can follow us at @upwell_us.

ᔥ The Ocean is Wonderful


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