When facing a new Public Relations or marketing project, or any project for that matter, I always do my research. And that research doesn’t just happen online.
In the fall I will be heading to Africa for my first time, something I have been thinking about for years. I will use the same principles I would use to research a professional project for a client. The trip will comprise some professional development with nonprofits, my own personal development, and the development of my photography skills for business and pleasure.
Here are five things I did to research my trip to Africa, and some might be useful to you:
1. Turn to social media as a mighty tool: When I want to get information on a topic from the very pulse of society, I turn to social media. In this case, all I had to do was use the search term #MasaiMara and #Safari on Instragam, Facebook, Flickr and Tumblr, to yield piles of information and inspiration. I was able to experience the journeys of friends and strangers alike through their postings online. When it comes to gearing up for a project, engaging on social media is a great place to start.
2. Create the opportunity to talk to experts in the field: For my research into Africa, experts meant top wildlife photographers. Rein in the experts! I attended the photography exhibit of National Geographic photographer icon, Michael “Nick” Nichols, spoke with him about my upcoming Safari and asked him for suggestions on great guides to go with. What a generous man! You probably saw his photographs accompanying National Geographic articles about the Serengeti Lions and the Orphan Elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, the world’s most successful orphan-rescue center. After our meeting, I received his book, Earth to Sky: Among Africa’s Elephants, A Species in Crisis with a personal inside inscription that reads: When you go to Africa, go slow for Africa, and the elephants.
3. Talk with friends and family who have gone on the same or a similar journey: For me, I had tea with one of my “Friends of Africa”… my good friend Betsy Blankenbaker, the founder of House of Loveness, Zimbabwe. House of Loveness supports the needs of abandoned, orphaned and underserved children of Zimbabwe. What an inspiration she is! Take note: Betsy is offering a Service and Safari retreat with Qoya founder, Rochelle Schieck in November/December 2014.
4. Find free local art exhibits and lectures: ABC Home in NYC has a wonderful free photography exhibit that I ran to see — The African Elephant: Beverly Joubert Explorer in Residence. Beverly and Dereck are a husband and wife filmmaking team from Botswana, with a mission ” to conserve and understand the large predators and key African wildlife species that determine the course of all conservation in Africa”. They launched the Big Cats Initiative with National Geographic.
5. Read books and research organizations: Read about Empowers Africa, they support a host of programs on the ground in Africa. Their work provides a doorway through which everyone can connect to, or get involved with Africa. Read the book A Thousand Hills of Heaven: Building a Restaurant In Rwanda, in which a Columbia University professor moves his family to Rwanda– what a great story.
My advice for any project, professional or personal—immerse yourself in the topic, meet new people, read their books, learn new things, have fun. In short, get into the whole wide world.