Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Not one to sit back and let the sharks steal their spotlight, Explore.org, a multimedia organization of the Annenberg Foundation, launched Polar Bear Week this past November with a social media blitz to raise awareness for the cause of endangered polar bears in the Canadian arctic. Complete with hashtags, live web cams, and cross-promotions throughout larger media outlets, it was all about the snow’s finest and furriest, and how to generate an international sentiment of compassion.
“Our mantra is ‘never stop learning’ and with this is mind, we welcome people of all ages and from all over the world, to open their hearts, souls and minds to the world of the polar bear,” Annenberg Weingarten tells Mashable. “The world is changing and this special event represents an incredible opportunity to escape the noise and rhetoric of humanity with the solitude and wisdom of nature.”
The aim of Polar Bear Week was to use social media to “build awareness for the devastating effects climate change is having on the lives of polar bears using a live stream.” To do so, Explore partnered with Polar Bears International, Frontiers, North Adventures, and Parks Canada and made arrangements so that high-def cameras could document the journey of these animals in their day-to-day lives. The stream was also broadcast on cable networks including CNN, Animal Planet and National Geographic, along with BBC World Wide and BBC Natural History promoting highlights to a global audience.
The reality component, says Weingarten, was crucial.
“Observing a polar bear in the wild is like watching a grand mythology unfold before your eyes: the backdrop of the Canadian arctic, the vast stretches of barren tundra and sea ice, the frigid, crisp winds howling and this incredibly wise and majestic creature surviving in a frozen and unforgiving land,” he writes on Huffington Post. “As they have for thousands of years, these massive creatures are now gathered along the Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada waiting for the water to freeze over. After four to eight months of a walking hibernation with very little to eat, the sea ice formation is the red carpet leading back to their kingdom.”
Polar Bear Week is part of a new initiative begun by Weingarten, dubbed “Pearls of the Planet,” as a mission to conjure up love for nature through a more realistic, visual experience. Along with traditional sources, Explore was also able to get support from the major social players. Twitter donated promoted tweets, YouTube featured the live stream on its homepage, and Ustream offered a couple hours a day to showcase the cause.
The stream centered on “five cameras producing three feeds: one positioned on top of a roving tundra buggy, another at the tundra buggy lodge and one at Wapusk National Park, which is among the largest maternity dens in the worlds where females give birth.”
Overall, it was a big move for the growing nonprofit organization, taking on the charge of a popular television series and applying it across the board to its own campaign.
As writer Aine Creedon notes on NonProfitQuarterly.org, “Who doesn’t want to watch incredible polar bears frolicking around in the snow? Explore’s approach to branding Polar Bear Week has been a social media hit. Now we must see if this campaign will also inspire people to take action to address endangered habitats and the urgency of climate change.”