Weekly blog: Today is my last day at EIA…

It only set in late last night; I’ve been so busy wrapping up the loose ends that I have not given myself time to think these past 3 weeks. It has come around so fast. This blog post is somewhat sentimental. If it’s not you’re thing skip here.

EIA is a special place. From the outside people often mistake us for a much larger organisation, or perhaps a governmental body and quite frequently The Environment Agency. I have taken many calls from grieving residents who have rats at the bottom of their garden!

EIA doesn’t have a large marketing budget, that’s why when I talk to new people about EIA they probably haven’t heard of us. In some respects, it’s a shame. We do such amazing things that I really believe more people should know about our work and what we’ve exposed over the last 27 years. But then, having that element of mystery, I think, quite suits us. And when you do speak to someone who has heard of us, their enthusiasm is insatiable. Our success is due to our loyal supporters, many of whom have been with us since our early days. It was a conscious choice to focus our efforts, and thus the majority of our income, on our frontline work. And, for the most part, rightly so.

From the inside, EIA skips between a hive of busy activity to a quieter hum drum as campaigners disappear for weeks at a time attending meetings or going undercover. EIA has some of the most fantastic people working together on a vast variety of issues. They achieve incredible feats but it’s also good to know that they like a pint or a glass of Pinot as much as the next person. And there’s the people you don’t see in front of the camera; the finance girls endlessly tire away doing accounting things beyond my comprehension; the films you watch take a long time to put together, it takes a team of people to bring it to life and in-house staff often compose the emotive music to accompany them; then there’s the fundraising team working to ensure we raise enough money for EIA to thrive and the communications team to do a fantastic job, all of us with limited resources.

So how can we successfully spread the word of EIA under the circumstances?

Using Web 2.0, that’s how. If you’re reading this then we’re obviously doing something right. The great thing is there isn’t a huge cost involved but it does take time. And over the last 18 months or so, we’ve been doing just that. Taking the time, when we can, and slowly building up momentum. Our blog gives our supporters greater insight into what goes on at EIA and allows for people to post comments and ask questions. We’re trying to start conversations and proactively engaging all you folk. And similarly, on Facebook and Twitter we’ve been actively sharing news and information on topics relevant to our areas of work. It wasn’t that long ago that we were only on 300 fans (as they used to be called); it requires a shift in mentality. And that’s why, two years on EIA campaigners are tweeting live from CITES meeting in Geneva. Just yesterday we hit 4000 Facebook “likes”.

I am really excited to say that our new website is nearly finished. It’s been a long slog but it will be going live soon, incorporating more comprehensively our groundbreaking reports, powerful images and emotive films. More than that, our blog will be a part of the main site, so whatever area of our work you’re interested you’ll be able to read a range of information on Illegal Wildlife Trade for example, an informal blog, the latest press release or a detailed report. Well, we aim to please.

So I’m leaving EIA knowing that their communications is heading in right direction, coming on leaps and bounds on social media and on the cusp of a fantastic website. I don’t think that’s too bad.

Sophia Cheng

Fundraising & Communications Officer

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Today is our blog’s first birthday!!

Today our blog celebrates its first birthday!!

A year ago this very day I wrote the very first, very humble, blog post.

The birth of the blog owes much of its final impetus to Michael Ambjorn and ultimately Ogilvy & Mather’s Idea Shop. It seems like a long time ago now but the enthusiasm from this team of marketing professionals, from our 45 minutes session in East London, was insatiable. We had good content and we needed to share it.

Since then, it’s been a steep learning curve and I’m working out what works and what doesn’t. Yes, there’s been the odd 303 redirects, a few typos and some broken links but overall, 12 months on, it has grown into something that the whole organisation is really proud of.

Every EIA campaigner has now contributed to the blog, from each of our campaigns. So you, as the reader, can now get first-hand information on what it’s like at EIA, what it’s like out in the field, gather expert opinions as well as tap into more personal reflections on the topics EIA works on (as well as interesting tangents!)

EIA HQ

We’ve also encouraged those more behind the scenes to step up to their e-literary debut; Charlotte Davies, our intelligence analyst has taken a particular shine to our blog and written some fantastic posts. Our comms and fundraising team had have time in the e-limelight as well as our volunteers, who donate their time so enthusiastically thoroughly deserving airtime.

Pangolin. S Megan 2007 - WikiMedia CommonsAnd thus, we have religiously published our weekly blog for the last 52 weeks (perhaps a few exceptions for national holidays) on a whole host of topics; from tigers to rhinos, from our community projects in Tanzania to whaling in the Faroe Islands and gala dinners to pangolins! An unexpected bonus is that the blog content fuels our monthly emails which have, in turn, dramatically improved internal communication and encouraged more cross-campaign dialogue.

More than that, the expert opinion of campaigners is being picked up by other groups and organizations, such as REDD monitor and Global Tiger Initiative on blogs and Computer Aid, Client Earth and others on Twitter; so our outreach exponentially increases.

But it’s not just about churning content out; it’s about building a dialogue as well. We are keen to hear your feedback and have made every attempt to respond to comments written by you. We are only human however, and apologise if some have slipped through the net. Please keep your comments coming; what would you like to see improved? Do you have a favourite blog post? What would you like to hear more of?

What are the stats?

• 68 blog posts

• 154 comments

• 15,482 visits

Technical Paragraph – for the geek within

Sticky Content generously donated places on their course for many of our campaigners, a huge thank you to them. They highlighted the important differences between writing for print and the web; tough lessons including “don’t expect people to read all your content” and “write your copy, halve it and then halve it again”.

Michael Ambjorn at Eurocomm

Michael Ambjorn at Eurocomm

Following a communications conference in Italy, there have been some subtle differences to the blog; improved Search Engine Optimisation, shameless promotion, more links and pingbacks, using alt.text and keywords, all of which has helped build a strategy to use the blog more effectively and to help make sure we are findable on Google. We’re not there yet but have made some great improvements. A huge thank you to Steve Seager and Michael Gaasterland on Twitter

The next 12 months

With all going well, we will have the new EIA website up and running soon (I don’t want to jinx the date!) and this will see the blog fully integrated into the website. It’s an exciting time for EIA comms as we finally make that leap into Web 2.0. The blog and our other social media platforms will become an integral part of the website and we will continue to produce fantastic content as our campaigners get more into the swing of blogging.

Conclusion

Watch this space.

Afterword

A few days ago I bumped into Ruth Jamieson from Ogilvy at the latest Ideas Shop at Marketing Week Live and I see Michael Ambjorn at IABC events; it’s great to keep in touch with the people that took the time to dispense small pearls of wisdom to us. Those pearls, 12 months on, have had such a huge impact on how we communicate here at EIA, so thank you to all those who have made it possible.

Sophia Cheng

Sophia Cheng

Fundraising & Communications Officer

IABC’s Eurocomm 2011 – from an NGO perspective

Eurocomm, hosted by the International Association of Business Communicators, the Middle East and Europe division, is a communications conference held every two years with speakers from the very top of their field.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, business communicators, small NGO?! Where’s the link? Surely you’re not spending all my donations on trips to Turin. Well no. Thanks to the board of IABC, I managed to secure a scholarship to help me get there and Ryanair did the rest of the job (actually, quite painlessly).

So I arrived with my metaphorical socks pulled up high, pen and paper (and smartphone) poised and ready to learn, or perhaps absorb is a better word, all that I could from the world of communications and see how it could be best applied to EIA.

Ashraf Amin, Journalist shares with us the role of communications during the Egyptian revolution.

Ashraf Amin, Journalist shares with us the role of communications during the Egyptian revolution.

Two days were spent in a stunning location overlooking the city learning about the latest in comms, with interesting and dynamic people, all fuelled by the best espresso.

In short, I have taken away so much from the conference and could go on at length about the importance of communications but in this information overload world we now inhabit, instead I will summarise some of the key lessons in less than 140 characters. In other words, a tweet!

  • Stephane Dujarric, Director of News & Media at the UN: “Issue comes before the logo”, always tell a compelling human story
  • Silvia Cambie working with the European Training Foundation: “Networks are replacing individuals as base of communications”
  • Aureli Valtat – Eurocontrol and Tweeting through the ash cloud: “Twitter is not just a push channel – interactivity is key”
  • Mark Comerford on Social Media & Journalism: “Everything is changing…and survival relies on being responsive to change”
  • Are you ready for the digital revolution?
  • Steve Seager on SEO: “Shameless blog promotion is ok!”
  • Suzanne Salvo of Salvo Photo on the accidental photographer: “show results, not the product”
Approaching things from a new angle - Mole Antonelliana - the landmark of Turin.

Approaching things from a new angle – Mole Antonelliana – the landmark of Turin.

So for EIA, we are in the middle of updating our website (in fact this conference could not have come at a better time) and there is much we can implement right away. From optimizing content, integrating more of our media (analogue & digital) and selecting powerful imagery that crosses the language barrier. Embracing the perception shift may take a little longer. But watch this space.

I will finish with the words of Mark Comerfor:

“if you want to reach me, you will have to reach my network”

Join EIA’s network on Twitter, on Facebook, LinkedIn and Vimeo.

I would like to add a personal thanks to board members of the IABC, especially Michael Ambjorn.

Sophia Cheng - Turin, Italy

Sophia Cheng

EIA

“NGO comms newbie”

Weekly Blog: Reflecting on the Tiger Gala, a personal account

Tiger Gala. Credit WildAid

Will Travers & Joanna Lumley

Last Thursday saw the culmination of months of work, events invariably incur high levels of stress in the lead up; Will everyone turn up? How will the auction go? And the big question, will we raise enough money to have made all the effort worthwhile?

It was indeed a labour of love and I am immensely proud to say, yes it was worth every moment spent in preparation, the mild hysteria during the day and the pain of putting my feet in heels for an extended period of time, we raised over £100,000 and we’re still totting up the figures!!! Once costs are accounted for the total will be split between the 3 NGO’s.

What made the evening such a success? I believe it was the collaborative dedication of all the people involved. I recall sitting in a small meeting room months ago with what was at the time just a group of like-minded people (and all strangers to me), Simon Clinton had a vision and his enthusiasm was infectious, he threw time, energy and brilliant people on board to move the project forward. The complementary nature of the three NGO’s involved led to a natural partnership and everyone got stuck in! Sourcing auction prizes, guests, venue, entertainment, wine and champers not to mention celebrities, all at minimal expense possible, is no easy task with the 3rd of March ever looming!

Then of course, there’s the food, I must confess, attending the tasting at the Mandarin Oriental stands out as a particular highlight. It was a tricky business deciding which of the exquisite five courses should be served to our 200 guests but I take pride in my thoroughness and ensured the final menu was a culinary delight.

Tiger Gala. Credit WildAid

All the goody bags!

Another task delegated to EIA was the humble goody bag. Guests paying a hefty £300 expect a certain caliber within the tiger themed bag; clients of The Clinton Partnership generously contributed but where was the rest to come from? Two words. Cold calling. I have a deep-rooted fear of cold calling, is it just me? Perhaps it’s because I fear rejection, well no one likes to be dumped over the phone. Thankfully, after much personal procrastination the wonderful Café Direct and Lush jumped on the idea and generously donated 200 fabulous goodies, old EIA friends Iain Green and Laura Barwick did the same and my ego remained intact.

Tiger Gala. Credit WildAid

The Thai Music Circle

And then the day itself, filling up the goody bags was executed with military position and table plans finalised. As soon as it hit 5.30 an army of people were on board to transform the room into an Asian paradise, whilst simultaneously transforming ourselves from shabby NGO staff to glamorous and elegant folk. The Thai Music Circle began to play, photographers from Hello and Ok were poised and the champagne was poured as the firsts guest arrived.

Show time.

My Asian roots led to me playing a role front of house, inspired by the idea to represent as many tiger range countries as humanly possible, it was a very novel honour to lead Buddhist monks from the Buddhapadipa temple through the tables of expecting guests to the stage to bless the tiger.

Tiger Gala. Credit Mike Daines

Virginia McKenna, Donal MacIntyre & Joanna Lumley

The celebrities had turned out, Donal MacIntyre did a fantastic job of hosting throughout the evening, alas Mr. Bailey did not make it but Joanna Lumley’s impromptu but powerful speech reminded everyone why they were there. I am in awe of the wonderful Nicholas Parsons, how he personally commanded the room full of, by this time, rather saturated guests. Extravagant auction prizes went to the highest bidder amidst plenty of cajoling from Mr. Parsons. The Malaysian drummers took people’s attention away from the food and to the stage, the fabulous Made Pujawati, captivated us with her Balinese tiger dance. Gauri’s dancers performed an exquisite Kathak dance, culminating in all artists sharing the stage, with a Chinese lion dance finale. It worked seamlessly, a shame it’s not mirrored politically.

Tiger Gala. Credit WildAidBy midnight my ratio of strictly working vs. wine consumption tipped heavily towards the latter and I rested my sore feet satisfied that is was a job well done.

See The Londonist review of the night.

Something I am still in awe of is the generosity of individuals and companies despite the current age of austerity. Here are my hearty thanks to the following companies who contributed to our fantastic evening, Pangkor Laut Resort, Air Asia, Arsenal, Jacob’s Creek, Laurent-Perrier, Easter & Oriental Express, The Ritz-Carlton, Cowdray Park Polo Club, YTL Hotels, Land Rover, Twining, encounters asia, Raymond Blanc Cookery School, Thyme at Southdrop, Samara, Vintage Roots, Texture, Tiger Beer, Real Digital International, Café Direct, Tiger J’s Chocolate, theWildGarlic, Kit Digital, Chewton Glen.

Tiger Gala. Credit WildAid

Liz Bonnin & other tiger friends.

To individuals I would like to thank, Betty Yao, Zehan Verden, Ralph Dixon, Jimmy Choo, Ching-He Huang, Bill Oddie, Simon Lycett, Ronni Ancona, Alistair McGowan, Gary Hodges, Iain Green, Laura Barwick, Frances Jarvis, Joanna Lumley, Donal MacIntyre, Nicholas Parsons, Christy Symington, Laura Lian, Chris Wright, Steve Cawston, Liz Bonnin, Virginia McKenna, Rob Murray.

To our entertainers, Gauri Sharma Tripathi and her dancers, Made Pujawati, Thai Music Circle, Lim’s Martial Arts and a special thank you to the monks from the Buddhapadipa Temple, London.

Tiger gala. Credit EIA

Sophia Cheng

Membership & Fundraising Officer

Weekly Blog; And so this is Christmas and what have We done?

Things are starting to slow down here at HQ, we’re down to just 6 people in the office! Looking back, 2010 has been a very eventful year. I have split this blog in two, firstly, I will review the year and highlight EIA’s achievements. Secondly, and you can find the second part here, we share the fantastic things you have been doing too.

Thank you to everybody who has supported us over the last 12 months, here are just some of our successes this year.

  • Copyright EIA/Mary RiceEIA played a crucial role in ensuring proposals by Tanzania and Zambia to sell 112 tonnes of stockpiled ivory through CITES failed.Despite limited resources we were able to carry out investigations in both countries, gathering irrefutable evidence that levels of poaching are much higher than reported. We published a report and video ‘Open Season’ and presented this evidence at CITES. EIA was the only voice to speak out against the real situation in Zambia and thanks to us both proposals were rejected. Read what Mary had to say.
  • New Chilling Facts Survey, coming soon.We provided evidence to ensure nine leading UK supermarkets reduced their use of climate changing HFCs following our second ‘Chilling Facts’ survey in February.
  • Once again EIA was at the forefront of protecting whales at the IWC. In June, proposals by Japan, Iceland and Norway to be allowed new commercial catch quotas threatened to seriously undermine the 24-year moratorium on whaling. Thankfully, our strenuous lobbying helped to stop them.

  • Copyright EIA/TelepakOur forest team had a major success as the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of banning imports of illegally logged timber and wood products. This follows the success of EIA’s efforts in the US to introduce a ban in 2008. It is a testament to EIA’s tenacity and commitment that after 10 years of campaigning, the world’s two largest markets for wood products, have now shut the door on imports of stolen timber. Read on.

  • Working with our Indonesian partners we highlighted the illegal exploits of timber barons Ricky Gunawan and Hengky Gosal in a damning report: ‘Rogue Traders: The Murky Business of Merbau Timber Smuggling in Indonesia’. The report received huge coverage, putting Gosal uncomfortably in the spotlight. Read Julian’s reaction.
  • Copyright istock.The Year of the Tiger made history as the highest level political meeting ever held for a single species in St Petersburg, at the International Tiger Forum. Debbie Banks and Alasdair Cameron were invited to the Forum, as experts in the field of illegal trade and enforcement in consumer countries. $330 million was pledged and Leonardo di Caprio donated $1 million, all the press were there. Read Debbie’s comments following the forum.

  • Our award-winning documentary Inside: The Tiger Trade continues to be broadcast internationally and is raising our profile telling the rest of the world how we work. Watch out for more documentaries next year. See the trailer here.

None of this would have been possible without your support – Thank you.

Our blog is in its 5th month and I am sure you will agree, it has gone from strength to strength. We have had nearly 5000 visits in that time and by far our most popular post has been this one. Thank you to all the campaigners to have contributed and all of you who have made comments.

I’ll leave you with the words of Louie Psihoyos, director of Oscar-winning documentary, The Cove

The Cove. Credit - thecovemovie.com“EIA is an amazing example of a small group of individuals using great science and passion to help save the environment … in the environmental movement, EIA is the equivalent of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

From everyone at EIA, Seasons Greetings and thank you once again.

Signing out for 2010,

Sophia Cheng

Weekly Blog; A post dedicated to you.

Thank you to you!

None of our work would be possible without support from people like you. EIA is a small organisation but a lean one, for every £1 that is donated, 79p goes directly towards our frontline, investigation and campaign work.

Many of you have been fundraising for EIA this year in all shapes and forms; some of our top fundraisers include,

Sue Harris raised money for EIA at her party in SeptemberSue Spicer who had an EIA stall at the Dive Show twice this year, raised £1500. Andy Rouse, who has donated over £1000, from the proceeds of his book. The Wignall family raised over £450 from a sponsored 50 mile walk in Somerset. Thank you to Nicola Shepherd, Sue Harris who gave over £900 in celebration from a wedding and a party respectively!

John Hegley performing at Roar! Imagine a Tiger - Credit Sue FollDan Cockril, Tony Husband and friends organised a fantastic event a few weeks ago, Roar, Imagine a Tiger, a collection of poets and artists performed including John Hegley, Polar Bear, Charlie Dark and Sean Taylor. Despite tube strikes and adverse weather they raised a smashing £600! It was a wonderful evening; glass of wine in hand and seated in the comfort of Screen on the Green, away from the cold and the snow, the audience were entertained with a wonderful variety of performances in aid of our tiger campaign, in this, the Year of the Tiger.

Save the Wild Tiger Forum - Copyright Mike DooleyLast week, we jointly held the UK tiger forum, in conjunction with Born Free and Wild Aid, hosted by Asia House, it was a fantastic evening and you can see highlights here. Donal McIntyre hosted the evening, Bill Oddie was a guest speaker, Virginia McKenna, Liz Bonnin attended and even Brian May was there (for a short time), 300 of you turned up to find out how the tiger fares following the International Tiger Forum in St. Petersburg. All the money raised will be split between the three organisations.

Thank you to all our funders, from larger trusts and companies, down to each individual member. Naturetrek donated over £7000 to EIA this yearThank you to all those who gave their time, our volunteers; Tomo, Debbie, Cara, Ilaria, Alessandro and Alex and others who shared their expertise, Michael Ambjorn, Julia Hailes and Ogilvy Ideas Shop, amongst others. We really appreciate all your support.

Looking ahead, Jason Cheng (yes, ahem, you might note a similarity in the surname, he is my brother!) will be running the 2011 marathon for EIA.

Jason Cheng will be running the marathon in 2011

He are a few words from him;

“I’m supporting The E.I.A for this year’s London marathon as I am an avid supporter of the work and research they undertake and I am all for increasing the awareness of endangered species around the world. As a typical university first year student studying in Bangor, north Wales; marathon training will provide a good structure to disperse between zoology lectures and the pub, which will be sorely missed over the coming months. This Christmas, it would be great iif you would find a few extra quid to donate to this worthy cause; http://www.justgiving.com/jasoncheng

So all that leaves to me to say is Merry Christmas and

thank you for all your support over the last 12 months.

From the EIA team.

Sophia Cheng

EIA’s Weekly Blog Feature: Do you have what it takes to be an EIA fundraiser?

Many of our members have been tackling their own exciting fundraising challenges to help EIA, such as Isobel (12) and Mark (9) who embarked on a 50-mile hike along the River Perrett trail in Somerset, with their family and dog in tow.

“On our last day we walked from Haslebury Mill to Winyards Gap,” said proud mum Nicola. “This was our hardest day of walking as we were all tired, the way was poorly marked at times, and we went quite a long way out of our way! We did make it to the pub in time to order lunch and plenty to drink and to celebrate finishing the walk.

“This was a great experience – character building, I’m sure, and we managed to raise £450 for EIA and the tigers.”

Illaria and Chris have been pulling pints at the UK’s biggest festivals this summer including Glastonbury, Latitude and Reading! Together they have raised over £450 volunteering for EIA!

The streets of Kingswood, near Bristol, will be dramatically transformed this weekend via an artistic jungle theme, complete with a parade featuring a five-foot tiger designed by the local school, with all proceeds from the weekend donated to EIA! We look forward to sharing pictures of the event soon!

Do you have what it takes to be an EIA fundraiser?

The sky’s the limit when it comes to dreaming up fundraising ideas to help EIA. Whether they’re conceiving themed events, arranging screenings of our documentary work or getting themselves sponsored for a challenge, our members are passionate and creative. If you can think up a fun way to raise much-needed funds for EIA, then do please get in touch as we’d love to help you.

We have copies of our award-winning documentary available for private screenings, and if you’re interested in holding a fundraising event we’re happy to supply a copy of the film and other materials for your evening. Email sophiacheng@eia-international.org or call us at 0207 3547960.

2 Responses

  1. I would be interested in hiring our local hall and screening your film, providing tea/coffee and biscuits as a fundraiser but have never screened anything so I don’t really know how to do it and I would not look at doing this until after Christmas as the hall is pretty well booked up until then and it is really between then and Easter that people are looking for an evening out.

    Regards,

    Rosemary

     

    • Hi Rosemary,

      Thank you for your comments and your interest in hosting a screening, it would be a great idea! A big screen certainly does this documentary justice. I am more than happy to help you as much as I can, giving you details on the technical equipment you would need etc. Let me know what you had in mind, you can email me at sophiacheng@eia-international.org or call me on 0207 354 7980.

      I look forward to hearing from you,

      Sophia