How to Promote Activism Through PR and Marketing with Andrea Rodgers

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From generating new business leads to raising brand awareness, effective public relations and marketing strategies can provide a significant boon to a company’s profits. However, even in the cutthroat world of big business, raising profits isn’t the only argument in favor of developing and implementing PR and marketing tactics. As Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Marketing at Shedd Aquarium, Andrea Rodgers focuses her efforts on advancing Shedd’s mission of sparking compassion, curiosity and conservation for the aquatic animal world. Check out her tips to promote activism through PR and marketing. 

Establish Your Cause

If activism is more important to you than generating profits, you must first establish the good cause, policy or action you wish to promote. This isn’t a step to power through without careful consideration. Regardless of the cause you choose, it must be something you’re passionate about that drives society toward a better path in order to invoke true support. For Rodgers and Shedd Aquarium, much of their PR and marketing efforts are focused on promoting conservation. 

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“The heart of our living mission is the work we do across the globe to help save species and protect habitats,” Rodgers said. “Even when we’re dedicating our efforts to driving attendance and building awareness, we’re also out in the Bahamas trying to save coral reefs and other incredible work.”

Educate Your Audience

After you have carefully and intentionally identified the form of activism you want to advance, PR and marketing practices can help you teach your audience about its importance. From social media campaigns and press releases to earned media opportunities and speaking engagements, there’s no shortage of tactics to educate others and raise awareness for your cause. At Shedd Aquarium, the exhibits featuring endangered species provide a unique opportunity to educate attendees and show firsthand the need for conservation. 

“Being in such an urbanized world, we are often that portal to the ocean for people who live in Chicago or in the Midwest,” said Rodgers. “It’s our job to create those equitable opportunities for nature and the benefits that brings. When we bring somebody face-to-face with an endangered species, we can educate them in meaningful and relevant ways of what it means when you don’t use a straw or when you use a reusable water bottle.”

Expand Your Reach

Inspiring true change for your cause requires reaching the masses to support and reinforce your message, which is where a successful PR and marketing strategy comes into play. Proper research is the key to reaching more people as well as identifying media outlets and potential influencers to help further your mission. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which forced Shedd Aquarium to close its doors to guests, Rodgers turned her attention toward digital marketing strategies to reach a new and engaged audience. 

“Millennials and Gen Z are the future stewards of our planet, so reaching them is very important to us and one of the biggest ways in which we are is on the digital front,” she said. “Disruption bred innovation for us, and we were very fortunate that we used our virtual platforms and strategies to amplify and grow that audience to the point of doubling or tripling our engagement.”

Build and Maintain Trust

When you embark on a mission to promote activism rather than profits, it requires a steadfast commitment to the cause. Any signs or even perceived signs of veering off the established path can cause even the most passionate supporters to turn away. If building trust is the key to recruiting followers for your mission, maintaining that trust with consistency is the key to retaining them for the long haul. Shedd Aquarium cultivates trust with its audience through its unwavering commitment to care for the aquatic world. 

“It’s a privilege for us to have these animals in our care, so we never want to depict or display them in a way that is falsely positioning them,” Rodgers said. “We are very dedicated to showing the natural behavior and biology that truly makes these animals amazing. We want people to learn about our animals in their most natural state, so we’re very specific about that for sure.”

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