Behind the scenes, the video-editing team was the nerve center of the
communications effort. With Puddles the Blue Goose, they are, from left,
Jennifer Strickland, Megan Nagel, Cortney White, Chuck Traxler, Laura
Whitehouse, Dorothy Amatucci, Tina Shaw, Joe Donahoe, Kayt Jonsson and
Keith Shannon. (Bob Danley/USFWS)
Its an exciting time to be a U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service communicator.
The Service is trying to keep pace
with shifts in how people get information.
Were bringing in new talent and training
our experienced communicators to
embrace new media so we can tell our
conservation story in real time in new
ways. Were modernizing Web sites and
leveraging communications capacity
across programs and regions.
Until recently, though, some have
perceived this paradigm shift as a
fadas if Change were knocking on
the door, asking to come in. At the
Refuge Systems Conserving the Future
conference, Change kicked open the
door and declared its intention to stay.
We witnessed the moment that modern
communications became integral to how
the Service achieves its mission.
Like any groundbreaking change, it
started with a great idea. The Conserving
the Future planners wanted to produce
two simultaneous conferencesone for
those in Madison and a duplicate online
for the thousands of staff, partners and
others working across the country. Both
versions would use new-media tools to
engage participants. Wed never done
anything like this before.
To turn this idea into action, Conserving
the Future communications coordinator
Michael Gale knew he needed help.
Communications and outreach staff
members from the Service regions,
the Washington office and the National
Wildlife Refuge Association were
named to serve on three teams:
virtualization, multimedia and video, and
communications and engagement. The two
of us were recruited to integrate the work
of these teams into a cohesive operation.
About 30 staff members spent months
organizing, planning and securing
equipment. Using lessons learned from
the 2010 Gulf oil spill and Northeast
live and getting
news out quickly
Then, for one
week in July, key
across the Service
put aside their
day jobs and
what could be.
Before we arrived in Madison, many
of us had never met. After brief
introductions, the teams set up a video
production war room, a public news desk
with a team of mojos (mobile journalists)
and correspondents, social media stations
and a live broadcast center at the
Monona Terrace Center. Our experiment
Testing to the Max
The day before the conferenceto
test the system and gauge how much
coverage we realistically could producewe intentionally maxed out our news
desk and video production operations. By
the opening session on Tuesday, July 12,
we were running on all cylinders.
The result was better than any of us
If you havent done so already, please
check out the archives at www.AmericasWildlife.org/newswire and www.AmericasWildlife.org/live. We
offered nine hours of live programming
dailythe largest Service broadcast ever.
More than 50 news reports, complete
with videos and photos, were delivered
online throughout the conference. They
covered workshops, youth delegates,
Friends, efforts to green the conference,
plenary speakers, lecturers and more.
We distributed our content to the entire
social media capacity of the Service
and the National Wildlife Refuge
Associationan audience of 75,000
people nationwide. Speeches delivered by
the Secretary, Director and refuge chief
were made available on YouTube.
Conference attendees took notice,
too. Two large screens flanking the
plenary stage displayed the Twitter
feedshowcasing what people were
saying about the proceedings in real
time. During Director Dan Ashes call
to action speech, many in the audience
tweeted their instant feedback; he
signed the Conserving the Future
implementation charter live on an iPad.
Four back-to-back social media stations
allowed attendees to tweet and write
Facebook posts about the goings-on
and the Refuge System vision. Many
participants received conference alerts
via text message. Questions from
the public for the Secretary came
from Twitter and text messages. The
coolness factor was in full view when
the Stepping Up to Leadership class
at NCTC texted the Director from 800
miles away to ask "what you see as the
role of field personnel in LCCs."
Our team learned what is possible when
skilled communications professionals
from all regions and programs come
together. Our team learned what
the full capacity of the Services
communications effort could look like,
if concentrated for a brief time. The
conference helped the Service and the
Refuge System pave a new way to tell
our story and to be more relevant to the
Change is hereand it is us.
Kyla Hastie and Jason Holm are
Service assistant regional directors for
external affairs in the Northeast Region
and the Midwest Region, respectively.