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RWP ZooTube Proposal

RWP ZooTube Proposal
By Melanie Martin

The existence of the Roger Williams Zoo YouTube channel indicates that the zoo
staff have an intent to establish a presence in this social media platform. However, the
channel lacks structure, which does not enable viewer retention, patron engagement, or
positive organizational branding. The frequency of video uploads is sporadic, and the
videos are not categorized into clear themes, purposes, or playlists. This is a problem
because it reflects a lack of consideration for their audience, or the social media users
experiential expectations. Some of the videos are of poor technical quality as well
(shaky footage, unclear audio, unscripted content etc.) which does not project a
professional ethos for this American Zoological Association accredited zoo. An
organized, structured framework will help the Zoo establish online presence in a
meaningful way that will foster a participatory culture, and get the zoo visitors more
engaged with the zoos mission of education and conversation through a social media


As part of the Interpretation team this summer, I will conduct studies of visitors
perception of exhibits and help determine whether or not the discourse that the zoo
constructs around its mission of education and conservation is matching up with what
the public takes away from their experience. To extend this discourse, I propose to
renovate and revive the Roger Williams Zoo YouTube Channel, rebranding it as RWP
ZooTube. A strong YouTube channel, modeled after the YouTube Channels of several
well-recognized, AZA accredited zoos (like the Smithsonian National Zoo, San Diego
Zoo, St. Louis Zoo etc.) would emphasize the power of the public participatory culture
within an environmental communications context. It would help to establish the general
publics rhetorical proximity to issues like endangered species, conservation and climate
change. Rhetorical proximity and place play an important role in a zoos rhetorical
situation, which begs the question, How can scientists educate the public about wildlife
and biodiversity, and move them to act in ways to protect it?
I would plan three specific deliverables for this project, as detailed below:
Launch of RWP ZooTube, including 7 structured playlists. I would create
as least 2-4 videos on each playlist before launching the site publicly.
#AskZooTube Campaign on RWPzoo Twitter to bridge the gap between
experts and non-experts via participatory online environment
Assessment- Create and administer a satisfaction survey via all RWPZ
Facebook/Twitter. The goal is to measure whether the ZooTube and the

RWP ZooTube Proposal

#AskTube campaign helps to support the mission of the zoo, and to
determine whether people like and engage with the platform.

Ive conceptualized these seven proposed playlists, or subsections of the
ZooTube channel, based on my analysis of the zoos inherent rhetorical situation and
the analysis of several AZA accredited zoos YouTube Channels. Each of the playlists
serves a specific purpose to help educate, engage and inspire their audience.
1. Enrichment and Training These videos will give us a sneak peek of the
behind the scenes lives of animals at the zoo. This will help the zoo
demonstrates animal welfare and positive quality of life via naturalistic
enclosures and appropriate mental/social-emotional stimulation. It will also
educate the YouTube subscribers about animal behavior and psychology. I
would interview a staff member/zookeeper who specialized in this type of work
and create a video between 3-5 minutes
2. Conservation Efforts and Species Recovery This playlist would be
centered on the zoos support of the American Zoological Associations
program called SAFE (Save Animals From Extinction). Videos will explain what
RWPZs zoologists and other conservation experts are doing to research and
conserve endangered species. It will also reinforce that the purpose of a zoo is
not primarily for human entertainment, but to educate people about the plight of
animals and their ecosystems due to human-based destruction. Each video will
close out by creating paths for agency, giving concrete examples of regular
people can do to help reduce their carbon footprint and speak out for
endangered ecosystems.
3. GoPRo Through the Eyes of the Animals If the zoo is agreeable,
keepers/zoologist will give GoPro cameras to animals for exploration, as
appropriate (otters, elephants, primates etc.). I can edit the video footage taken
by the animal to create a point-of-view / day-in-the-life non-verbal narrative,
perhaps intersperse with some discourse by the keeper about the animals
intelligence, behavior, curiosity etc. Some people are surprised by some
species likeness to human beings, and this might plant a seed for perception
change in those doubtful of animals self-awareness. See video below as an
example: (
4. Ask the Experts - This creates space for patrons to extend their zoo
experience to a participatory online culture. Guests-particularly children- have
questions about animals or the zoo in general that cannot be answered by an
expert when standing at the exhibit. Children or their parents can tweet their
questions to the RWPZ Twitter account. Once per week, I will select several
questions and create a video where a scientist/zoologist/expert and a species
ambassador answer them. This #AskZooTube Campaign also establishes
proximity and engagement for those who cannot visit the zoo due to physical or
financial constraints.

RWP ZooTube Proposal

5. Zoo News This is a place for zoo announcements like animal pregnancies,
births, deaths, events, fundraisers, new exhibits, local conservation legislation,
award-ceremonies and special programs.
6. Wildlife Education Programs- These videos will demonstrate what kids are
learning about through the zoos educational programs and how is the zoo
reaching out to local schools and community groups.
7. Zoo Stories: These videos will be keeper-approved mini-biographies of
featured animals at the zoo, including how they were acquired and what their
job is as an ambassador of their species. This is important teach children and
adults that wild animals are not pets, nor should they be kept in ways that are
not supportive to their physical or mental welfare. It will help people feel that
they keep the accountability of the zoo in check, and that the zoo is creating
transparency in its practices establishes trust with animal welfare groups. It also
serves to emphasize that zoos exist not only to passively entertain, but to
educate people and actively engage them in a broader conversation about what
they can do to help the animals and our world.
Within my proposed #AskZooTube Campaign, the public is encouraged to
interact with zoo experts who are often not present or available for interviews during
their trip to the zoo. It is a way to extend the discourse around species conservation and
education. Visitors can interact with zoo exhibits, events and programs by posting their
questions on the RWZ Twitter account with the hashtag #AskZooTube. To market this
social campaign, I would order/make stickers with the hashtag and YouTube channel
information, which can be distributed on maps of the zoo, and given to children as they
enter through the admission gates. I would also request several signs to be hung
around strategic places in the zoo, like the caf areas. Once a week, I would choose 510 questions with a similar theme to base a short 5 minute video. I would need the
cooperation of a zoo scientist, zoologist, keeper or other expert to be open to being
interviewed for the video answering the questions. The Q &A video would then be
posted to the Ask the Experts Playlist within the RWP ZooTube channel, and the
people who asked the questions would be tagged on Twitter. Examples of Tweets might
look like this:
@RWPZoo Hey where do you get your elephants from? #AskZootube
@RWPZoo Does a Giraffe ever get a sore throat? #AskZootube
@RWPZoo How do the animals survive a blizzard in New England, when they might
naturally live in a tropical climate? #AskZootube

Create and administer a satisfaction survey via all RWPZ Facebook/Twitter.
The goal is to measure whether the ZooTube and the #AskZooTube campaign helps to
support the mission of the zoo, and to determine whether people like and engage with

RWP ZooTube Proposal

the platform. I think I might include some questions in my visitor research this summer
about patron perception of the gap between zoo experts and non-experts, particularly
the YouTube presence (or lack thereof). I can use this data to support my proposal, and
after 1 month of the projects launch, I would administer another survey to detail
satisfaction trends and results.
Produce at least 1 video per week for the Q &A in order to remain relevant with
the audience
Produce 1 video per week in Conservation Efforts and Species Recovery in order
to remain relevant with SAFE accreditation.
At this point, the length of time this would take to launch depends on several
factors, including the approval of this project, the willingness of the zoo staff to
collaborate with me, and the resources I have at my disposal, including my own
schedule. I expect that I would be able to get this up and running during the Fall
I propose myself as project manager based on my in depth research of
environmental discourse, rhetorical analysis, social media practices and personal
experience making YouTube videos for The Humane Societys adoptable animals. I
would also need the cooperation of various staff Zookeepers/conservation
specialists/zoologists and animal enrichment staff/school programming staff etc. I would
likely ask for 15 minute chunks of their time in order to get enough footage for a
polished, 5 minute YouTube video. I can use my personal SonyHandyCam and Tripod
to make the videos and can edit them myself using free editing software, Lightworks. I
would also need access to the Zoos Twitter account, or someone from their social
media department who is willing to collaborate with me.
Cost constraints
Besides the payment of staff who are already working for the zoo, and/or interns
receiving course credit, the only cost I can foresee is the promotional stickers and
posters/signage with the information below:
Tweet your questions @RWPZoo #AskZooTube
Subscribe to RWPZooTube on Youtube to see them answered!
Overall, this project can help Roger Williams Zoo strengthen its ethos as an organization
oriented toward education and conservation. Social Media can be a great tool in enhance the

RWP ZooTube Proposal

engagement of the public around environmental issues and bring proximity and clarity to
problems that would otherwise go unnoticed.