Kelly Barker - Head of Marketing

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is this year celebrating 25 years of saving species and supporting communities in Madagascar. As part of this celebratory year Kelly Barker, Durrell's Head of Marketing visited Madagascar to see first hand how the conservation charity has been working with the local communities and how their dedication in the field over the last 25 years is helping to save some of Madagascar's iconic species, such as the ploughshare tortoise and the Madagascar pochard.  


To communicate on this project, Durrell has chosen an innovative way: the video diaries. Kelly's video diaries are available to watch (and read) at


WAZA:  What is your exact role at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust?

Kelly: As Head of Marketing my main remit is to market Durrell and communicate its mission of saving species from extinction; and in doing so encourage support to help us achieve this mission. This involves utilising all elements of the marketing mix, particularly those more suited to a charity budget, such as social media and our website


WAZA: Can you describe your career in a few words and let us know what brought you to the conservation world?

Kelly: Initially I studied Business and Finance which brought me before long to the marketing arena. After working for a marketing agency and a brewery here in Jersey where I was involved in the marketing of global brands such as Carling, Pepsi and Walkers, I was fortunate enough to be offered a position in marketing at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust where I have worked for over six years.


WAZA: Can you explain to us how the "Madagascar video Diaries" project was born?

Kelly: I had yearned to visit one of our field projects for many years. As we are currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of Durrell successfully working with species and communities in Madagascar, the time seemed right to push ahead with this. It was very important for me to share this amazing experience with my colleagues in Jersey at the Trust's headquarters, as well as our existing and potential supporters worldwide, so along came the idea of the video (and written) diaries.


WAZA: What are the main objectives of this project?

Kelly: Durrell's unique vision involves community-based conservation of endangered species in Madagascar, where we've worked since 1986. We save endangered endemic species in forests and wetlands through research, participatory ecological monitoring, captive breeding and reintroduction, and development of local capacity to sustainably manage natural resources.


Within the local Malagsy communities Durrell adopts an active listening approach whereby we visit communities and ask for their opinions and suggested solutions to environmental concerns; how best to approach the sustainable conservation of their natural resources. We then encourage the establishment of community associations invested with the legal right to manage these resources.


Finally, we encourage participatory ecological monitoring by the villagers themselves to ensure that the natural resource, be it lake or wetland or forest, is in fact being properly managed for future generations of endangered species and people.


WAZA: How is this project new and different on a communication/ marketing point of view?

Kelly: As a charity with a limited marketing budget, social media and digital marketing is an important area for us. The marketing team are continually trying to develop new and innovative ways to engage supporters, particularly in a way that shows the ‘people behind the conservation'.  This project provided us with an opportunity to take a more personal approach to our marketing communications; it allowed us to give a direct insight into ‘life in the field' and the range of challenges that our teams face. For example I was shocked to experience real problems with aspects which we take absolutely for granted, such as travel and language. Plus we encountered other issues such as never ending red tape and corruption etc. It was certainly an eye opener for me and we know from previous research that ‘real life' conservation stories provide interest, that's what will enable us to effectively engage with supporters and potential supporters.


WAZA: Would you say that the conservation world is up to date in terms of communication/marketing activities (compared to other sectors)?

Kelly: In my opinion some conservation focused organisations are brilliant at using a range of marketing communications tools to engage with their audiences. The inclusion of and varied use of a range of social media tools that we all now have access to enables all of us to be more inventive and immediate with communications but the challenge remains - how do we effectively translate interest into tangible support?

What is exciting is that we can continue to learn from each other and from other not for profit organisations; in fact one of my goals for 2012 is to visit a number of my peers in order to share knowledge and experiences.

At Durrell we do find that the complexity of the work can sometimes make it tricky for us to communicate with clarity and cohesiveness; I have to admit to yearning for a straightforward product marketing model to work with sometimes! 


WAZA: What is your next main project with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust?

Kelly: We're currently working on a multi media 24 month campaign with which we hope to target UK supporters. We're still in the planning stages and are currently looking at ways to ensure we overcome a number of challenges; for example we are aware that as an animal charity we are competing against first other animal or environmental based charities as well as charities which may have more of a direct and personal impact. However, we have a really strong and creative marketing team here so I'm confident we'll create a powerful, innovative and successful campaign.

With regard to conservation projects we have a continual global programme of dedicated conservation projects to save the most threatened species in the most threatened places. Drawing on our field experience, captive breeding skills and training innovation, the programme has two integrated themes. The first is Islands at Risk where some of the most threatened species and eco systems are found. The Second is Critical Species, groups of species which are at a disproportionately high risk of extinction and where we can have greatest impact. So no doubt there'll be some exciting opportunities to communicate our mission and the pioneering work we do.