During my final semester at Griffith University, I completed an internship at The Wilderness Society and utilised the knowledge I gained through my dual undergraduate degree in journalism/business to campaign for a deforestation pledge in the upcoming Queensland election.
The role required me to coordinate our supporters, prepare press releases/volunteer emails, phone banking our supporters, managing The Wilderness Society Queensland’s social media page and providing leadership during campaign actions. Throughout this time I developed a greater appreciation for the amount of coordination required for instigating a grassroots campaign, the relationship building required to mobilise supporters behind a cause and the importance of mindful leadership in the not-for-profit sector.
The sections below provide an insight into the work I completed during my time at The Wilderness Society and how my dual degree provided me with the knowledge to provide support for The Wilderness Society’s upcoming campaign surrounding land clearing in Queensland.
During the early stages of the internship I created emails to send out to our supporters. The emails targeted those in the electorates we are campaigning in, long-time supporters of the organisation and recent supporters who expressed interest in aiding the land clearing campaign. The response rate from the emails is quite small, however, it wasn’t a surprise to the organisation, with research showing that emails are only effective on 5% of those who received it.
The simplicity of the emails and the recipients mean that I didn’t need to spend a considerable amount of time considering the language of the message since it aligned with previous communication activities. However, I was mindful to reply promptly to those who did reply outside of office hours and ringing those who required more information to provide more substantial information.
I want to help end the land clearing crisis in QLD
I am Sharn from the Wilderness Society, I’m sending this email because you’ve expressed interest in being a part of the Wilderness Society and the movement to stop the land clearing crisis in Queensland, where an MCG sized area is lost every three minutes.
The Queensland election is approaching and in the past four years’ council rates have tripled, our carbon emissions continue to rise and the injury, displacement and death of our native wildlife will continue without action. The coming months are a critical time to mobilise and to implement change within our state.
To achieve this, we need your help, and we’ll be creating our land clearing team on the 19th of June, where we’ll be providing information on how you can get involved within your local area and turn the tide of land clearing in Queensland.
The first thing I would do when entering the office on Monday would be reading through my emails of potential content and discussing with supervisors which actions, information or calls to actions should be published on the social media page. The posts would usually require most of the morning to complete, with others in the organisation handling content which appeared later in the week.
The writing of the content followed the inverted pyramid style of writing, with a specific ask added at the end of the message to get our supporters to engage in our actions or simply interested in hearing about future activities.
Since my time at The Wilderness Society was limited I created a TWS volunteer social media guide for other volunteers to use. It outlined the basic strategies to posting content online and tailoring it to our communication strategies and tone of the organisation.
One of the most used tactics in TWS’s communications strategy is the use of personal narratives to find commonalities with potential supporters and establish a mutual understanding. Through this, you can engage with supporters in a genuine manner and continue the conversation long after you’ve stopped discussing the environment. It’s through this that you establish relationships throughout the community and allow you to mobilise them for support in the future.
“Hello everyone my name is Sharn Kennedy and I just want to have a quick chat you about what being a part of The Wilderness Society entails and what it actually means to me as well. The difference I find with The Wilderness Society compared to other non-profits and volunteer organisations is that when I’m here I’m a lot more directly involved in the decision-making process. Because at the end of the day we’re all here because we are willing to sacrifice our time to support the environment.”
“Kaine and Gemma can write as many press releases or social media posts as they want but it’s us who are the driving force behind this organisation and the team here realises that. It’s why we are able to provide input to the actions we want to do, how we’re going to go about it and The Wilderness Society is willing to provide those resources so we can. I joined this organisation because it put the power back into my hands so that I can change my community for the better, and I honestly believe that’s why we’re all here tonight.”
The final part of my internship focused on directly leading a regional TWS team in the north of Brisbane. The team meets fortnightly to debrief on actions we had completed during the past fortnight and discern where we could mobilise to engage with those in our community. It involved being able to facilitate discussion amongst individuals who can be quite steadfast in their ideals, but, finding the common ground on larger issues to ensure our representation of the environmental movement is acceptable to the greater community.
The predominant actions we focused on are market stalls, a film screening of the film ‘Restoring Earth’ and direct actions in King George Square involving the deforestation campaign. Being a part of a dedicated and like-minded team was an incredibly rewarding experience. It showed me the true value of community organising and how those within a movement can be utilised to spur lasting change in our area.
I’ll continue to be a part of the Metro North Team throughout my time in the Brisbane area. In preparation for when I move away from the Brisbane area I am collaborating with other members of the team to transfer the knowledge I’ve acquired through guiding the team to ensure a strong sense of leadership and direction remains.
The opportunity to do an internship at The Wilderness Society was an incredibly rewarding experience, which allowed me to gain experience in another area of communications/environmental conservation in which I had no prior experience. I’ll be leaving TWS with a greater understanding of how campaigning, community organising and direct actions can influence our world, and applying it in my pursuit of starting a career in journalism.
On completion of my internship I did a critical reflection upon my experiences and how it aligned with the knowledge I gained through university. It has allowed me to shred preconceived biases and perceptions I held before starting the internship.
Comparing the knowledge and experiences I now possesses to my development throughout university has been eye opening. I’ll be graduating from Griffith University with a broader perspective of the world we live in and an understanding of the difficulties which await in my future development.
Log of TWS’s internship
|Date||Hours worked||Roles carried out|
|12th of June||10am – 5pm||
|19th of June||10am – 5pm||
26th of June
|10am – 5pm||
|3rd of July||10am – 8pm||
|10th of July||10am – 8pm||
|17th of July||10am – 8pm||
|24th of July||10am – 8pm||
|31st of July||10am – 8pm||
|7th of August||10am – 8pm||
|21st of August||10am – 8pm||
|28th of August||10am – 8pm||
|4th of September||10am – 8pm||
|9th of September||7am – 4:30pm||
|11th of September||10am – 5pm||
|20th of September||12pm – 8pm||