How National Geographic brought stories of the Okavango to the world
Since 2021, National Geographic and De Beers have been highlighting the importance of the waters that feed into the Okavango Delta and sustain a wide range of wildlife. The broad and diverse content strategy being employed was recognized at The Drum Awards for Social Purpose, where it picked up the Content award. Here is the award-winning case study.
Example of the campaign work
In August 2021, National Geographic and De Beers launched a groundbreaking strategic partnership to address one of the most critical conservation challenges in Africa: protecting the source waters of the Okavango Delta and the lives and livelihoods it supports.
The multiyear partnership commitment set out a clear goal to protect Africa’s endangered species, and safeguard water and food security for more than one million people whilst creating sustainable livelihood opportunities for 10,000 people. Since its inception, representatives from National Geographic and De Beers, through the ‘Okavango Eternal’ partnership, have worked together with local communities throughout the Okavango to co-create innovative solutions that lead to sustainable livelihoods that support economic and conservation opportunities.
While the Delta itself holds protected status, the Okavango Basin that feeds it does not, and the effects of climate change, deforestation, and upstream commercial agriculture have put this critical lifeline at risk. The National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project has been working to secure permanent, sustainable protection for the Okavango Basin alongside southern African communities, governments, and NGOs since 2015.
Its efforts have been accelerated with the involvement of De Beers who have provided support and funding in addition to the work they have done with the people of Botswana for over 50 years to advance education, healthcare, livelihoods, and wildlife conservation, as part of the company’s ‘Building Forever’ sustainability approach - their commitment to ensure every diamond they discover leaves a lasting positive impact for the people and place where it’s found.
Through content and communications around the partnership, National Geographic and De Beers hoped to raise awareness of the wonder and importance of the waters that feed into the Okavango Delta. The joint campaign, under the mantle of Okavango Eternal, has three core pillars: 1. Protect the natural world 2. Support local communities 3. Raise awareness of the Okavango Delta and its benefits through compelling storytelling
Socially good projects require strategic ongoing communication to garner awareness, support, and comprehension to scale their impact. National Geographic’s heritage as explorers and exceptional storytellers made them the natural media and content partner to create and amplify the ‘‘Okavango Eternal’’ partnership with the goal of explaining its importance across multiple areas, inspiring and educating audiences. A multi-year content ecosystem and media strategy was created, leveraging the power of National Geographic’s storytelling to capture all the key milestones of the project. At the core of the campaign is a dedicated content hub, featuring custom videos, photos, written and interactive formats to explore the Okavango Basin, wildlife, communities, and new findings related to the project.
The dedicated hub houses a growing series of content chapters that explore the key challenges and the partnership’s commitments to protecting one of Africa’s greatest natural treasures. Bespoke custom content has been pulled together through a combination of local on-the-ground support and utilization of National Geographic’s extensive network of photographers who were able to create a rich depiction of the Okavango Basin. These content chapters are all housed on a dedicated webpage.
Since September 2022, National Geographic has launched four content chapters: 1. How Technology Protects The Okavango: Presenting the cutting-edge research techniques deployed by local experts. 2. Year One Progress: Summing up the initiatives in Angola and Botswana that have created more livelihood opportunities, while retaining cultural heritage. 3. Life on Transect: A social media-driven piece giving audiences a ‘day in the life’ view of a scientific expedition across the Delta. 4. Sharing Nkashi - Race for Okavango: Content followed screenings of a National Geographic documentary (which championed the traditional skill of mokoro poling and was funded by the partnership) in communities around the Delta, and highlighted the messages of inspiration given by local people after watching a documentary about themselves and their heritage.
The following media strategy was deployed to amplify the content, ensuring audiences were aware of the Okavango Eternal partnership and were able to comprehend the scale and urgent nature of the challenge facing people across these communities in Southern Africa.
A dedicated social strategy was put in place to promote content to global audiences highlighting the partnership across digital and social channels, directing them to the content hub on the website. The content was predominantly promoted across National Geographic’s Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube channels to maximize reach and engagement. This organic activity was paired with paid promotion on Facebook and YouTube, targeting specific audience groups, including a broad audience aged: 18-54, eco-millennials within De Beers’ key markets, and National Geographic followers. By overlaying this data with consumer interests including conservation, wildlife, and sustainability, targeting became more refined across the respective audience sets. Additionally, digital advertising banners were displayed on National Geographic’s website homepage and pre-roll on their YouTube channel to engage with National Geographic’s core audience and drive visitors to the content hub. De Beers also supported with sponsored brand banners running across all campaign content, driving traffic to their website which houses information about their work in the region and their brand purpose goal of ‘Building Forever.’