Do you have any goals for the New Year? Maybe you’re thinking about starting a wildlife blog, or refreshing your existing website? For many of my fellow bloggers, this week is an exciting time as we await the announcement of the shortlisted finalists of the UK Blog Awards 2019 (for whom I’ve very happy to be ‘Nature and Wildlife category judge) and the impending results of Terra Incognita’s Wildlife Blogger of the Year 2018.
Amidst all this focus on creating quality content, I am excited to announce a new collaboration with the wonderful James Common, author of Common by Nature blog and editor of New Nature magazine, bringing you a collection of our top 10 tips for emerging nature and wildlife bloggers. With many years of blogging and writing for nature/conservation publications between us, we hope we’re able to offer some helpful thoughts from our own learning and experience. Do you have any more to add? Please leave a comment below!
It takes a lot of dedication and commitment to keep a fact-based blog and, sometimes unwittingly, you may find yourself becoming a trusted source of information to others. If people look to you as an expert on your topic (which is surely the goal, right?!); you better know your stuff. You and your blog can lose a lot of credibility if you write things that turn out to be inaccurate or unreliable. My top tip for keeping credibility is to cover the gaps in your knowledge by interviewing others who do know the bits that you don’t. Guests posts from other professionals work well too — especially if there’s a topic you think you SHOULD cover, but don’t quite have the expertise!
2…Never overlook context and background
Sure; we can’t explain every detail of every issue affecting a species in each and every blog post – but if your aim is to help raise awareness, it’s important to explain the basics at least. For example, those of us well versed in conservation issues are likely to be familiar with terms such as ‘NGOs‘, ‘CITES‘ or ‘canned hunting‘, but if you’re wanting to reach out to a new audience, or to educate those who may not already be a part of this ‘conservation world’, simply explaining: NGOs – Non-governmental organisations; CITES – the yearly Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora; or canned hunting; the shooting of lions for trophies in an enclosed space, known as ‘the can’, can make a huge difference to how effective your writing is.
Also, never take for granted that your readers will have chronologically followed each of your posts! Just because you explained something in a previous post, it doesn’t mean the readers of this particular piece will have seen it, or even remember what it means.
3… Be daring and, dare I say it, controversial
Blogging is a great way of addressing contentious issues and there is nothing wrong with stirring the pot a little, providing you don’t overdo it. It’s a risky business but addressing the polarising issues in the environmental field — hunting, land-use and invasive species, for example — is a great way to bolster traffic and increase engagement. Of course, many of those commenting may disagree with you, but providing you conduct yourself well, there is no harm in addressing sensitive issues. Blogging, in the purest sense, is about generating conversation.
4… But remember, be accountable
Addressing the controversial aspects of conservation is all well and good but it is worth remembering that whatever you share on your blog will reside in cyberspace for years to come. Avoid misquoting or exaggerating for impact and make a point of being able to justify the words you publish. We all must be accountable for what we write, and truly, you never know when your previous posts might remerge to bite you, or at least instigate an interesting conversation in a job interview. If in doubt, don’t do it, but please do not be deterred – there is nothing wrong with holding an opinion.
5…You’re likely to rock the boat
Wildlife conservation can ignite strong emotions; especially as you inevitably end up having to wade into politics (e.g. by the mere mention of Britain’s badger population); culture (you can’t mention illegal wildlife trade without a reference to Chinese Traditional Medicine) and lifestyle practices (from reducing plastic waste to ethical food choices). These can be very sensitive topics and evoke strong reactions. It’s important to consider all of your responses to negative comments and feedback (if you decide to give any response at all) and to not take personal attacks to heart. Having a strong support network will help here!
6… Remember the blogging basics
Nature blogging may be a niche field and while it is true that our work will never garner the same attention as those in other fields, there is no reason for us to remain invisible. Remember the blogging basics: master the use of keywords and learn SEO best-practice. Learn to use social media like a pro, adapting your content for each platform, use effective hashtags, find relevant Facebook groups and search constantly for new and emerging sources of traffic. Blogging involves an awful lot of time and effort and there little point writing if no one sees it. Don’t be afraid of self-promotion.
7…Network and collaborate
All things wildlife conservation seem to work better when you collaborate with others — blogging is no exception! There are so many brilliant and active wildlife bloggers out there, that are truly making a difference. Together we can only be a stronger voice for conservation!
Whether you’re entering into awards, going to blogging meet-ups, or finding the right people in your field to interview for posts — collaborating with or linking to other bloggers increases your audience numbers, but is also invaluable for gathering inspiration and taking away the loneliness of sitting behind a keyboard! It’s also a good chance to find out how audiences see your blog and to see what other things are happening in the world of conservation.
Blogging is a long game and it is not uncommon for emerging bloggers to feel disheartened by low traffic. When I started out, barely anyone read my blog and fewer still chose to engage with it.
Slowly, however, things started to take off. Keep sharing engaging content and give people time to discover your blog — you never know when someone might pick up an article, or when a certain piece may go viral. Keep chipping away, post by post, word by word, eventually, things will start to happen.
9… Don’t dwell on views
Doubtless, all bloggers keep a close eye on their stats: we all like to know that our work is being read, and all love that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes when something we write grows in popularity.
That said, none of us is motivated solely by popularity, and ultimately, we all write because we care. We publish content because we have something to say and because we want to achieve something, whether that be education or public awareness. If you have something meaningful to say, say it. Ignore the stats and get writing. To hell with ego…
10…Have your cause at the heart of everything you do
When you’re positioning yourself as a voice for conservation or an advocate for wildlife welfare, it’s very important that you always come across as sincere.
It can be tempting to work with big brands or be enticed by charities and organisations with lots of clout — but do they really reflect your message?
I would suggest always looking into the finer details and backgrounds of any companies that you partner with or promote. For example, on my personal blog, I always stand against trophy hunting and have written about this topic on numerous occasions. For this reason, I’ve had to steer clear of certain well-known charities who quietly advocate trophy hunting away from public view. It can be a minefield out there, but research certainly helps!
Discover more from Common by Nature here.