What Makes for Good Conservation Storytelling: A Conversation with Ben Hamilton

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Working as a freelance writer, I have the privilege of coming across many cutting-edge brands and organizations that are making the world a better place. 

However, when I met Ben Hamilton, the Founder and Creative Director of the Wild Agency, I thought to myself, “How cool—someone who helps organizations make an impact on the planet.” Rather than some run-of-the-mill marketing agency, Hamilton specializes in conservation storytelling, and if you’re like me after hearing that term, you may be wondering what it all means. 

Thankfully, Hamilton made some time to sit down with me and answer a few questions about his agency. If you’re an aspiring videographer or a marketer who wants to help save the world, his insight can help steer you in the right direction. 

Without further adieu, here’s what we discussed: 

1. You’re a “Conservation” StorytellerWhat Does that Mean?

Hamilton:

My definition of a Conservation Storyteller is someone who helps translate conservation messages, (like, we need to reduce ocean plastic waste), into stories so that audiences can relate to them.  We work with non-profits, foundations, and scientific institutions to great critical conservation messages out to the world.  In today’s digital landscape, most of that storytelling occurs online and as a company we focus on videos to drive the most engagement.  

2. And Video Marketing is Your Specialty, Right? How Does that Work?

Hamilton:

My primary medium for storytelling is through video production and I’ve spent the past decade working on films for BBC, National Geographic, and Smithsonian—here’s a taste of one of our latest projects.

Most of that time has been spent honing my craft as a visual storyteller, but the marketing side is something we have only recently gotten really involved in. For us, video marketing is about understanding audiences so we can craft content that is relatable, persuasive, and most importantly, targeted. We want to know where audiences are online and at what times, what content they watch, who they follow, and what they like.  

When we combine all of that, we can craft hyper-targeted stories for each audience type, and that is where we start to see a real impact on the world. 

3. How’d You Get Started as a Videographer and Conservationist?

Hamilton:

As a kid I was obsessed with movies like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, and ultimately, I went to film school at the University of Texas to pursue my dream of becoming a director. 

I didn’t even know there were people who made a career making documentary films. Growing up, I loved the outdoors, and my freshman year, I pitched a short video about a conservation effort in Alaska with the hopes of hiking and kayaking in the wildest place in North America. I fell in love with the wilderness and that project brought me back to Alaska all four summers of school and resulted in me moving up there after graduation. 

That experience, luck, and networking landed me a job at National Geographic, and I moved to Washington D.C. where I was immersed in the world of natural history and non-profit films. I wanted to stay independent—I like that lifestyleso I started my own company and the rest is history!

4. What are Some of the Most Important Conservation Issues Around the World?

Hamilton:

That is a pretty hard question to answer. 

I think about conservation as a value system where we prioritize humanity’s well being, as well as other life over the long-term. Much of the conservation ethics are grounded in humility and restraint, and looking at the world through that lens. Now, practically speaking, some of the big issues we are involved in are Ocean Plastic Pollution, Seafood Bycatch, Climate Change, Land Use Change (deforestation, conversion for agriculture, etc), Invasive Species, Endangered Species….the list could go on. 

I’ve personally seen glaciers disappear in my short career, I’ve filmed a frog in the rainforest that is now thought to be extinct, and I have seen plastic waste on some of the most remote beaches on earth. I don’t want my kids to grow up in a world where we have paved over everything and the beauty and diversity that makes life so special is just a memory

5. What Do Conservationists Need to Make an Impact with their Stories?

Hamilton:

Conservationists are often working at the edges of our planet. 

They are on the front lines and often act as the canaries in the coal mine. There are huge NGOs that are already doing massive campaigns, but many of our clients at Wild Agency are normal people who want to get the message out that something is going on and that they need more than their small network to join forces to help solve it. 

That is where storytelling comes in. We help translate and amplify their messages to audiences to drive impact and action.

6. Can You Explain Your Strategy for Conservation Storytelling?

Hamilton:

To put it simply, we follow a 5-step approach: 

  1. We set an impact goal  
  2. Based on that goal we research audiences to understand them 
  3. We craft target stories for those audiences 
  4. We then facilitate the delivery of those stories online 
  5. We track this process from beginning to end to assess our impact

7. Do You Think COVID-19 Will Change Conservation Efforts Moving Forward?

Hamilton:

If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it is that social media is the primary way human beings are consuming content. 

Many non-profits have not fully committed to social media marketing as part of their strategy, but moving forward, it is not an option. The only wayand the best wayto reach targeted audiences is on social media, and I think we will see more informed and better-crafted stories for those mediums moving forward.

8. What Advice Do You Have for Organizations or People Who Want to Share their Conservation Stories?

Hamilton:

My biggest piece of advice is to think long and hard about what you want to achieve with a piece of content and let that goal drive everything in a campaign. 

The more clear and defined your goal, the better you can push for results. Then, after you are done with the campaign, have the awareness to look at the results and really learn from them.

9. Anything Else You’d Like to Share?

Hamilton:

We’ve just launched our new Wild Agency website, and we welcome anyone to our network who wants to learn more about how to heal the planet. You can click here to connect with us.

Change the World with Fiverr

Throughout all the good work that Hamilton produces, he understands that freelance videographers and creators are at the heart of powerful campaigns. 

That’s why Fiverr is a great platform for freelancers of all kinds to connect with new clients and grow their success in projects they believe in. Whether you’re a freelancer looking to build your experience or you’re a brand searching for the right storyteller to help launch your products or share your mission, Fiverr is here to change the world. 

Click here to become a seller on Fiverr and start making a difference! 

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Chase Maser
Chase Maser is a full-time freelance writer and content marketer. Aside from meeting deadlines, he writes poetry and fiction, and hosts poetry events throughout Los Angeles, CA.

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