Nature is ME … nature is us

NATisME_blog_3Over the summer months this year, several Maine business enterprises and conservation organizations joined hands to promote public appreciation of nature in the Pine Tree State, and spread the word about the important role nature has in all aspects of our lives.

The multi-prong, four-month campaign that was run by The Nature Conservancy was unusual: It was not waged to elect anyone, or to persuade anyone to embrace a referendum issue, or even to sell anything.

“We did this simply because it was a really good thing to do for all the people of Maine,” says Chris Duval, whose Portland advertising agency, McCabe Duval + Associates, created most of the campaign’s promotional materials.

The campaign was spearheaded by the Nature Conservancy’s Brunswick-based Maine Chapter and TNC Marketing Director Sean Fitzpatrick. Campaign organizers put their heads together and came up with several ways to ignite fresh interest in Maine’s natural world, in large part by inviting people to participate in intriguing contests.

Three themes were used for the campaign: recreation (“Nature Makes ME Wild”), food (“Nature Feeds ME”) and the economy (“Nature Works for ME”).

“There’s a potential for conservation issues to be boring,” Fitzpatrick says, “so we thought hard, and worked hard, to make conservation interesting — maybe even fascinating.”

To do this, organizers designed participant-friendly contests, and lined up commitments from several Maine businesses to donate prizes. The challenges were designed with fun in mind: Take pictures of yourself experiencing nature, send in recipes with Maine ingredients, and take an online quiz.

“But this was about more than prizes. We helped to remind people of how deeply nature is intertwined with life in Maine,” Fitzpatrick explained. “We didn’t want to merely inform people — we wanted to involve people. We wanted people to be active participants, not passive, uncommitted observers.”

So the campaign’s “Nature Makes ME Wild” component was a photography contest with prizes and a traveling exhibit of winning photos; the “Nature Feeds ME” component invited people to submit family recipes with Maine ingredients and accompanying stories, which were published; and the “Nature Works for ME” component invited people to “take an online quiz and test their knowledge of how nature affects our communities.”