This week I had to choose between “likes” and ethics.
You may think that there is a completely obvious choice here, but when building a brand based on self-promotion, a chance at getting more “likes” can blur the line.
Styled By Wild was conceptualized as a wildlife content brand. Being able to show off my adventures in beautiful content, with wildlife at the core.
But because I hadn’t yet defined what SBW’s content values were, the core of my brand became the backdrop, and I became the drawcard. It was not until this week did I get a ‘reality check’ of what exactly I wanted to create. If I really wanted a safari content brand with values, I had to address the elephant in the room. (Pun intended.)
The shoot was booked, the blog ready to educate, and the outfit sponsored and prepped. As far as my self-promotion was concerned, walking with an elephant was going to make for one amazing shot. And not just the shot, but the promotion of the sanctuary to give away tickets to two lucky followers to also have this experience.
My ‘likes’ were ready to roll in.
Then reality knocked on my personal ethical door. “South Africa to ban captive animal interactions.” Headline after headline, filling up my timeline, brand after brand, reposting and having their say. Brands I admire, people I look up to, all voicing a unified opinion:
“It’s about time.”
Where along the line, had I failed to stand up and recognize that what I was about to do was so off-brand? That encouraging a behavior I’ve personally never condoned for “likes” and a great fashion-shoot was only an ego exercise and not for the welfare of conservation. It was gut retching.
I’ve had a very fortunate life of being able to have many animal interactions, in the wild. From the safety of a vehicle, with a guide on foot, and even at a swimming pool. I’ve never faulted to realize that I was always in their space, sharing their environment as a visitor. And they’ve never faulted to tell me, that in fact, I am a visitor and not to overstay my welcome.
This is what I want Styled By Wild to be about.
After turning down the shoot, and offering a simple explanation that my brand is about being in the wild, I got thinking about my brand values as a fashionable source of safari inspiration.
THIS IS WHO WE ARE:
1. A brand that supports ethical and free wildlife operations and experiences. This includes all wildlife Sanctuaries that are true to the cause of rehabilitating and rescuing unwanted or harmed wildlife and using captive wildlife as a means of gaining education to sustain the species.
2. A brand that will showcase content about responsible and safe wild animal interactions; in the wild, from a vehicle, with a wildlife guide, in designated viewing zones and unfenced camping sites.
3. A brand that promotes wildlife tourism in Africa, which focusses specifically on fashion and lifestyle experiences. Including Lodges, game viewing, game parks, camping, overlanding, and general landscape admiration.
THIS IS WHO WE ARE NOT:
1. A brand that promotes any sanctuaries under our brand due to the lack of knowledge of the reality of these institutions. We acknowledge that there are a lot of good conservation efforts within these institutions which we support, but cannot place promotion on captive interaction activities.
2. A brand that will use a wild animal in captivity to exploit and attract the gain of social metrics.
3. A brand that shares opinions on wildlife ethics in social online conversation – we aim to make our brand speak through its content and will not engage in controversial topics as we are not experts in that field.
As a brand that can now fully outline where it stands on “What is fashionable in the wild.” I do not overlook that there are so many sides to what is right and what is wrong within the captive wildlife topic. I believe that there is some good in interacting with these animals for educational gain, however, when a line becomes as blurry as it is for conservation efforts within this realm, right now, all I can do is define my brand values based on my personal ethics and promote what I believe will attract my followers.
I would love to see and encourage brands in the wildlife community or any brand that uses wildlife content to openly define their values.
Let’s show our followers who they’re really following and what defines our content.