Training the next generation of conservation storytellers

Want to know all the secrets to mastering social media? Ask a teenager.

Team PCI recently had the opportunity to swap stories and skills with the amazing Chicago Zoological Society King Conservation Scholars, a program that trains the next generation of wildlife conservationists. At the first-ever Teen Conservation Leadership Conference this week, our mission was to harness the group’s natural talent and channel it into becoming the best digital storytellers they can be.

As part of the three-day event at the Illinois Institute of Technology, PCI hosted a digital tune-up booth to spruce up the social media game of more than 400 conference attendees. We snapped both professional and fun headshots, reviewed and provided feedback on their resumes and social media profiles – and, of course, hooked them up with a giant emoji cookie for the road. 😛

We also had the opportunity to talk about our day-to-day duties working to tell the conservation stories of our zoo and aquarium clients. Four of our PR pros participated in a panel discussion for about 50 teens, discussing the importance of sharing stories that inspire action, as well as how media relations and digital media platforms amplify the great work of our clients.

The conference was only our latest involvement with the King Scholars. Back in April, we held a day-long workshop with the teens to help them understand the power of social media for both their personal and professional endeavors, ultimately giving them a roadmap for effective organization and promotion of this week’s conference. We created four courses, which touched on several key aspects of digital communications:

  • Being a brand ambassador
  • What’s appropriate for social media
  • How to combat cyberbullying
  • Potential communications careers

In our panel on “Legit Careers in Communications,” Chicago-area communications pros talked about their personal journeys and the social media lessons they’ve learned. We were joined by CBS Chicago reporter Marissa Bailey, KISS FM Chicago host and Vine star Jack Detrych, The Mash’s student editor Sarah Zhang and NBCUniversal Campus U Representative Catherine Kang.

The day ended with small groups where the teens learned how to develop a social media plan and brainstorm ideas for the Teen Conservation Leadership Conference. We were so impressed with the creative ideas they had and how they planned to navigate potential pitfalls.

It’s always great to share knowledge with an intelligent and thoughtful group of young people that’s wise beyond their years. We’re excited for this next generation of communicators – in fact, a few of the teens already see themselves as future PCI interns!

Wondering how your organization can use social media more effectively?


Michael Queroz is an Account Executive with a passion and specialty in media relations and all things digital. He also has a dream of someday being an adjunct college instructor.