People are connected. More than ever. And while we believe in the inter-connectedness of the ‘Universe’ – on an even more pertinent level is the connection that social media affords the everyday citizen of the planet. Case in point.
In a small and sleepy village tucked away on the northern coast of a small island, lies a fishing village. And part of that village’s lure, for locals and visitors alike, is the nesting endangered leatherback turtle. For years, the country has struggled to stop locals from attacking these beautiful beasts as they emerge from the sea. The Government spends millions indeed to educate locals about the nesting sites and the turtles. And very little changes.
Then one day, some soul exposes a video of the turtles being slaughtered, alive. Terrible yes. But the network lights up and people are not happy! A few years, later, some enterprising young people plan a series of weekend stops and parties on the beaches, still, I would note, unaware that this is the nesting season for the protected leatherback turtle. People and equipment on the sand, can crush the turtles’ eggs and debris left behind can interrupt their nesting. That too spreads across the network. Also, some poor savage souls post photos of themselves on the turtles’ backs as they are giving birth. Really? Planking went out of style as fast as owling did.
BUT THEN! The very same Government, in a bid to stop erosion of the nesting sites and nearby hotels and guest houses by a sudden turn in the large river from where the village, Grand Riviere draws its name, proceeds to move tons of sand around the beach. Disrupting the nesting site and damaging what they estimate to be a ‘couple hundred eggs’ that may have been ruined already by the water from the river.
The network goes beserk!
Newspaper articles are fed by the Facebook posts of locals – reaction is global from BBC to news sites in New Zealand and North America are enraged. The reports are that the Government just destroyed over 20,000 eggs of the endangered leatherback. People are enraged. Annoyed. And enlightened.
In one swift move, costing a couple hundred thousand local dollars in construction and earth-moving equipment, the very Government of the tiny island has done more to highlight the light of the turtle than it has done in years of campaigns. And it has done so unwittingly!
So here’s the crux of the matter – The best sell is often the emotional sell. After so many small fires, this move enraged the local and international population and consolidated goodwill for the turtle more than ever in the history of the country. Also, not all PR is PR. Actions do speak louder than words, or ads, or flyers. Some mistakes have positive outcomes it would seem. But this isn’t the way to create positive change.
Had the Environmental Management Authority or Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago put some creative thought into it, this could have been managed without negative fallout and turned into a great experience for all involved.
The point is, they should have hired Huckleberry.
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