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from the desk of dan ashe

Telling Powerful Stories

By Dan Ashe
min read

We will tell powerful stories about the work of AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums.

This is one of four promises in our strategic plan—We Are AZA. And we at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums take these promises to heart.

We’ve been delivering on this promise through the national communications strategy and are seeing results through public polling in the United States. Quite simply, it’s working. And now, you will see further evidence of our commitment when you visit AZA’s refreshed home page and the new Connect home page. In today’s crowded media and digital spaces, it can be difficult to rise above the din and discern fact from fiction. So, we are taking action to tell a broader, more consistent story—nationally and globally—about the critical, and growing, importance of our community as wildlife conservation organizations, social and cultural facilities, and economic drivers.    

It starts with a vision: The Connect brand will position AZA, Executive Leadership, and the broader AZA Community as global thought leaders. 

To build on this vision, we are taking the Connect magazine brand and creating a strategic communications platform, consolidating AZA communications in a consistent and unified voice.

  • We are removing password protections on Connect magazine content and raising the profile of our story telling on both AZA and Connect home pages.
  • We will cover essential topics—from the resonance and growth of AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction® to distinguishing wildlife trafficking and wildlife trade that is high-risk for species survival or human health versus legal, sustainable trade that benefits people and conservation; from cutting-edge education programs to offering inclusive, accessible, and authentic animal experiences; and from the remarkable efforts to save the Florida Reef Tract to our willingness to reimagine the nearly 40-year old Species Survival Plan® program. If it is an important topic, we will cover it. 
  • We will tell the story of accreditation in deeper, more meaningful ways that resonate with a wide audience and brings greater transparency to this hallmark of our community.
  • We will cover news from the AZA community and the Association, offering new opportunities to share in each other’s successes and reflect on current-day challenges.
  • We will run opinion pieces from AZA executive leadership and leaders from within and outside the community because we believe in the idea that inclusion and access to diverse opinions and perspectives will sometimes make us uncomfortable, but ultimately will make us better.

The launch of the new AZA and Connect home pages will allow us to communicate to both our members and a broader audience in a more timely, comprehensive, and compelling way. But, the launch of these new pages is only the first step on this journey. 

To do this well over an extended time period is a challenge—both to the communications staff at the Association, but also to you, our membership. The story we are telling is your story, and I encourage you to reach out with ideas on opinion pieces and features. Your feedback is also encouraged and will help us sharpen our messaging and broaden our reach. 

We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed creating it.  

Dan Ashe is the president and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. 

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