Think “Laterally” to Build a Smarter Conservation Photography Business: An Interview with Kika Tuff
Go beyond – way beyond – just image creation. Here's how to think strategically about the goods you provide to the scientists, nonprofits and other clients you shoot for, so they can have the best possible reach and impact.
Conservation photographers often work with clients to produce beautiful portfolios of images for marketing efforts, or professionally crafted films that explore the work of scientist, nonprofits, or businesses. It is a fairly straightforward gig. Sometimes, though, going the straightforward route means leaving a lot of important possibilities on the table.
You can provide ohhh so much more as a creative – both in what products you actually deliver and in how those products maximize the investment your clients have made in your creative talents.
In this episode, we’re digging into the notion of thinking “laterally” and building full packages for clients. Join Kika Tuff, founder of Impact Media Lab, who understands what it means to think laterally when working with clients, to take the time to truly understand what your client actually needs not just what they say they need, and then to design something that helps your client accomplish bigger things.
We're not simply talking about sales strategy or products that you offer. We’re talking about HOW to think bigger in using your creativity to provide things to your clients that help them do bigger things. It's a win-win situation all the way, and Kika, who is a master at thinking laterally, is going to dig into so much detail.
This episode is jam-packed with information, so I highly encourage you to pull out a notebook and take notes as you listen. If you are currently working in conservation photography as a side hustle, or you want to do more as a volunteer with organizations, or if you want to build up your photography business even more there's so much in this episode for you!
- What thinking laterally means
- Why looking at the bigger picture is so important for savvy strategy
- Tips for interviewing clients to figure out what they really want
- Ideas for building packages that your clients will love
- Inspiration for planning, pricing and more
Resources & Links Mentioned
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Think “Laterally” to Build a Smarter Conservation Photography Business: An Interview with Kika Tuff
SEE THE SHOW NOTES AT JaymiH.com/34
Jaymi Heimbuch: To kick off this episode, I wanna clarify something really quickly. Impact, the podcast, and Impact Media Lab, who you are hearing from in this episode, we don't have anything to do with one another, other than a great name, of course. But then again, maybe that isn't true, because Kika Tuff, who founded impact Media Lab, and I both care deeply about helping others make the biggest impact possible with their work. And that's actually exactly why I asked Kika to join me on this episode.
See, so often, conservation photographers focus on, A, landing assignments or, B, doing some fairly straightforward gigs for client work, and I wanna dig into that second option. When you think about working with a client, you probably think about finding out what they want and arranging a pay rate for that, and then delivering it, and then you go on to the next client. And a lot of times, for conservation photographers, that probably looks like the client wants a certain package of images, you go out, photograph the images, get paid, move on.
But I want to encourage a different way of thinking. I want to encourage thinking about what you truly can provide as a creative working inside of your own business, what you can provide that actually provides way more benefit to the client, delivering things that they didn't even realize that they need, all while increasing what you earn from each of those gigs. And that's what we're diving into today with Kika, who understands what it means to think laterally when working with clients, to take the time to truly understand what your client actually needs not just what they say they need, and then to design something that helps your client accomplish bigger things.
We're not simply talking about sales strategy or building up your business as a conservation photographer or the type of products that you offer. What we're digging into in this episode is how to think bigger in using your creativity to provide things to your clients that help them do bigger things. It's a win-win situation all the way, and Kika, who is a master at thinking laterally, is going to dig into so much detail.
This episode is jam-packed with information, so I highly encourage you to pull out a notebook and take notes, or at least listen through a couple of times because there are some gems of information here, that if you are currently working in conservation photography as a side hustle, or you wanna think about more of what you do as a volunteer with organizations, or if you wanna build out your business even more, oh, there's so much in here for you. All right, let's dig in.
Welcome to Impact: The Conservation Photography Podcast. I'm your host, Jaymi Heimbuch. And if you are a visual storyteller with a love for all things wild, then you're in the right place. From conservation to creativity, from business to marketing, and everything in between, this podcast is for you, the conservation visual storyteller who is ready to make an impact. Let's dive in.
JH: Welcome, Kika, to the podcast. I am really excited to have you here today. We are going to be diving into some of the things that really keep me inspired, which is blending the business of conservation visual storytelling with the art and craft of conservation visual storytelling. Thank you so much for joining us.
Kika Tuff: Thank you for having me.
JH: In the introduction, I mentioned a bit about your business and what we're diving into, but can you just start out by telling us more of what is it that you do at Impact Media Lab?
KT: Sure. Impact Media Lab is a creative agency for storytelling about science and conservation, and our products are all over the place, depending on the needs of the scientist or the organization. We do a lot of branding, which includes logo design, we do website development, we do photography, we do documentary filmmaking, we do museum exhibits. We really just take the story and design a campaign around what the story… The best way to tell that story.
JH: How did you get started in something like this? Did you start out on more of the creative side, or did you start out more on the “Here's how we solve a conservation problem with communication side”?
KT: I started from the science side. I was doing a PhD in Ecology, and constantly running into challenges with communicating about my own work and finding time to do storytelling. It all changed for me when I went to the NANPA College Scholars Program and really got introduced to photography as a storytelling tool. It was a media that I've been interested in and passionate about for a long time, but I didn't really take myself seriously as a storyteller, and NANPA really empowered me to shift my thinking to really take myself seriously and take my story seriously. And so the business was really born out of wanting to do powerful storytelling about science. And then I've had to stay flexible in my business to figure out what the needs of the community are and what we can offer. I'm excited to talk about that flexibility today because I thought I was starting a company that was gonna be all film and photography, and instead, we really do a lot more branding and website design. And that's been a real shift in my thinking, and I'm excited to dive into that shift.
JH: Yeah. That's actually one of the things that truly excites me about your business, and I think that… I know that I rave about you, and it's because I think that it is so incredible how you have been able to really see that you can provide so much more of a well-rounded service. When did you really decide to expand, or when did it become apparent that you wanted to expand into things like branding for scientists and creating interactive websites?
KT: Well, I would say, actually, our very first client, which was a documentary film project. We went out to California, we made this film that I love, and when it came time to hosting the video, we started to have the conversation about where it was gonna go, and it was a scientist who didn't have a website and really doesn't have a brand, wasn't on social media. They didn't really have a plan and we didn't really have a plan, and so we put it on YouTube and pushed it out to the best of our abilities. We entered it in film festivals. We had the standard reach that I was used to, but it didn't have the impact that I was hoping for. And the film cost a lot of money to make and it was a big passion project for me, and I felt like we didn't do it a service because we hadn't thought through the brand and the strategy ahead of time.
KT: And so I started from that project on. Before we ever talk about a video, we always line that stuff up first. And that really put me down the path of learning about what strategy is, and learning what a brand is, and learning how to think through audience, and learning how to think through impact in a real way.
JH: Can you dive in a little bit into what really is a brand? What is it and what goes into the thought process about creating that when you bring on a new client?
KT: Yeah. We do branding at a lot of different scales. We can do brands for the individual scientist, which is really about their lab and their vision. But even a storytelling project, you can develop a brand just for a storytelling project. And it's really thinking about the personality of the project and its goals, I would say, are the two biggest things. The goals being, “Who is your target audience? What do they eat for breakfast? What do they wear? How do they engage with media? Let's think about how they go through the average day.” And then personality being, like, “Who is this project? Are they serious? Are they concerned? Are they upbeat? Are they optimistic? Are they dark? Are they moody? And then how do we develop a bunch of materials around that?” So, the logo. How can we reflect that they're moody and apprehensive, or how do we reflect that they're upbeat, and young, and fresh? Then we design a logo, and font choices, and the color pallet, a document to guide the brand but really trying to formalize, “Who are we and who are we speaking to, and what do we want them to do?”
10:01 KT: I think as I've gone through this work a lot more, even in websites, I wanna know, “What do you want… ” Everybody who comes to the website, what's the one thing you want them to see or do that we're gonna build everything around that goal. So, when they watch a film or when they look at a photo, what do you want them to feel and what do you want them to do? And we're gonna design everything around that single action, in that single feeling. But it's hard to get… It's hard to narrow that stuff down, and until you've been trained to think about it, it's easy to forget that stuff and do the work and then, like I did, have this film and be like, “Oh, shoot. Who does this speak to and where does it go, and how do we reach those people? What do we want them to do?” If you do that thinking after the fact, we didn't have the impact that we had hoped for for that reason.
11:00 JH: I think that this is such a key point right here, this is so important, because so often, photographers, conservation photographers, think, “Okay, well I'm gonna go in and I'm gonna tell this story visually.” And it's told through their own vision and personal style, and then, of course, what the story seems to be and to really tell that. But then there's this entirely other important element, which is, if you wanna make a difference through this storytelling, what does that mean and how does that shift your entire approach? And I admire you so much that you realize that and think it through right from the very start so that you're not missing components later on, and you already are crafting the platform on which that story lives. How does that branding process influence your visual creation during a storytelling project?
11:54 KT: Oh, that's a great question. Well, for me, we do a lot of website, a lot of web design. And so when we think about audience and personality, that influences all of the essentials of the design, like I said, the colors we use, and the fonts we use, and the language that we use, the words we use, the emotions that we try and speak to. I'm doing an urban agriculture project that really wants to be communicating with young urban farmers, so we talk on the website, we write language, we use language that talks a lot about feelings people may have towards their own balcony garden in that way.
12:40 KT: But for photography and for the visual side, that's a great question, and I feel like we've only just started really expanding into that. I started with the visual side where I didn't think about any of that. Then we've stepped back and been doing this branding stuff, and we're having great experiences with clients doing the branding, but we're only now just… Those clients now have websites and they're now hiring for videos and photo work. And it will be interesting to see… We will inevitably fail some at the beginning and then grow as we go, but as we get better at this, taking a brand and translating it into the visual.
13:34 KT: So, we make mood boards of photos and you build a feeling as you pull other people's images. If it's optimistic, we do a lot of light shining through leaves, and people smiling, and warmth. Of course, if it's dark and dramatic, then we have a lot of high-contrast dark images, sometimes images that make you wanna cry, or have real grit to them. I know it through building mood boards. I haven't really gotten to where I'm stepping into this space with my camera in hand and thinking, “All right, how am I gonna frame this for optimism and warmth?” Or, “How am I gonna frame this for dark grit?” It's gonna be an exciting challenge.
14:29 JH: When photographers get a new client, let's say they get hired by a non-profit or they get hired by a commercial organization to create a set of images for highlighting their conservation goals or their conservation efforts, how do you recommend, through the experiences that you've had, that photographer really dig into the brand of their client in order to help shape visuals? You mentioned mood boards. Are there other tools that you like to use?
15:01 KT: Yeah, that's a great question. Well, if you're lucky, your client may already have a brand manual or a brand document that they hand to you, that says, “We are optimistic and warm, and here's our logo, and here's our color palette.” So you go in to the shoot knowing the kind of colors you're looking for, and compositions you're looking for, and moods you're looking for. But as conservation visual storytellers, likely your clients don't have the luxury of having hired a brand strategist. You may be launching a project, so you are the brand strategist. I do think this is where the idea of thinking laterally comes in, because this is the service… You're coming in as the photographer, but you're also coming in as the strategist on the communication project, so it's helpful to educate yourself on the essentials of strategy, things like color and composition, and how that can reflect a mood, and how that can stay true to either the brand you're designing for your client or the brand they already have.
16:21 KT: And some tools that I would do… I've never thought about it, but a mood board is perfect going through and just getting a sense of the types of images you may wanna create that would convey the right mood and the right personality for the project. ‘Cause we make shot lists, but we rarely illustrate or attach those to images that we've already seen before. Actually, I think that's a great tool to go into a project. And if you take… When you put them all together, you can step back and see, like, “Is this body of work… This collection of images, how does this work together to tell a story and convey the mood?” And then you have a really nice clear roadmap to go into the project and succeed.
17:09 JH: You mentioned that this is really where thinking laterally can come into play, can you dive into what it means to think laterally as a conservation photographer, especially when we're talking about assignment photography or gig photography for clients like non-profits, or commercial organizations, or community organizations, or even your own project?
17:32 KT: Yeah. Well, I think this is a really good time to be evaluating our flexibility and the skills that we have as a photographer and visual storytellers because I think, on the surface, it looks like I know how to take my camera and create images that convey a mood or tell a story, but in that experience, you have actually accumulated all these other skills. You've learned how to… You've learned about composition, you've learned about color theory, even indirectly, you've learned about building drama in your images, and you've developed a sense of what resonates with people and what doesn't. And those are actually really valuable skills to go out and start to offer more to your clients.
18:28 KT: So, I think strategy is one of these things that most non-profits really need it, your projects need it. Every scientist in the lab needs it, and they don't know it, but you can help them understand what strategy is. So, you, as the photographer, go into the project and say, “Okay.” I know when I approach a photo story, I think about who is my audience and what is the purpose and what do I want them to do, so let's actually do that for your organization. Who is your audience, and what do they care about, and how are we gonna… Are we gonna develop images that resonate with them? Suddenly, you've taken the skills that you developed as a storyteller through photography and you've expanded them out, and now you're kind of serving as the strategist, and you're adding all of this extra value to your work and to what you're offering the client. I have found in my work, even when we start this process with a client, and we use it to either build a website or make a documentary film, when I talk to the client later, they have said the most valuable part of the whole process was going through that branding stage and asking themselves, “Why do I do this, and who am I doing this for, and what do I want these people to actually do?” That was, in the end, more valuable than the film that we made, that showed at a couple of festivals, and that was it.
20:06 KT: So, I think we have all of these extra skills as a storyteller, and we keep them in the realm of photography or filmmaking, but actually you can expand this into strategy that then you can take to anything. So, maybe now we help some of our clients get on social media. And again, you ask all of the same questions you would ask while designing your photo story, “Who's your audience, and what do you want them to do, and how do you want them to engage?” “Okay, you want an academic audience, I think you should start on Twitter. Here's the type of content that may be really valuable for you. Now you're a social media strategist.” “Okay, given your expertise and imagery, now you have your social media strategy, here's the types of images that you should have.” “Hey, I can create these for you. Let's put together a package where I do the writing and take the photos, and manage six months of your social media activity.”
21:11 KT: It all actually starts with your skills as a photographer and a storyteller, but you can start to… With even just a little bit of self-education, you can start to expand that out so that when you approach a client, what they think they're purchasing is a series of photos, but what they end up getting is this entire discovery process, and learning more about themselves, and what drives themselves and their audience. And I have found that extra unexpected value is what keeps them coming back to say, “I wanna do that again, I wanna think about this stuff more. I know I hired you for a website, but I just wanna be part of this process of self-discovery that you're facilitating for me. I want more of that.” And so that's what I have found, it brings clients back for all sorts of crazy stuff, T-shirts. The kind of… Business cards. They'll add anything on, I think, really to keep engaging in this discovery process. And those are the skills you've really been honing as a photographer, because you've been asking yourself these questions, and you've been crafting your eye for composition and mood and story. So, you already have those skills, it's just kind of bringing them to a new place.
22:41 JH: Yeah, that makes so much sense. And when a photographer is doing this with a client, do you, as Impact Media Lab, like to already have in mind… After those first few discovery calls, do you like to have in mind a package to present to the client, or do you let them discover what it is that they wanna add into what they thought was just a portfolio of images that they're gonna use in marketing materials? And now through this discovery, they realize that they want a social media package, and Instagram stories, like images that are formatted for Instagram Stories, and images that are formatted for Instagram posts, and images that are formatted for Facebook, those types of things. Do you have those in mind or do you let the client really guide what a package looks like?
23:32 KT: Well, I did an amazing business class when I was first getting started through The Middle Finger Project. I'm just gonna put in a plug for them, 'cause this is what I learned about the science of pricing. Because for every lead call with the client, every first call where they're telling you, “Okay, I'm reaching out to you for photos,” and you're saying, “Okay. Well, tell me a bit more. What are the photos can be used for? What else are you thinking?” As you're listening, and this is, of course, the emphasis on aggressive listening, for any single other place, you can insert your services. They are talking about, “I need photos because we're putting together a brochure,” like, okay, brochure design services, okay, branding, okay, copywriting, okay… As you're listening, think about all the other things you may wanna be selling them. “Oh, you're doing… You need photos for a flyer, what kinds of stuff do you wanna put in the flyer? Do you do events?” “Okay, events,” be thinking about what kinds of services you can offer them.
24:39 KT: So, any time I meet with a client, I'm always thinking of, “What else might they need that we can give them?” Not in a kind of icky way, like, “How do I upsell this?” But like, “Oh, actually, they're coming to you with the one need they're thinking about today, but you know they have 100 other needs, especially for imagery.” In that call, ask them about their social media, “What kind of platforms are you on?” “Oh, you're on Instagram, what kind of… ” Just authentically engage with them and listen to what other ailments they may be having. And so then whenever I put together a proposal… People often reach out and say, “I need a new lab website,” and I say, “Okay, great.” We talk about that, we talk about their interest in research and frustrations they have, and all of that. And then in the proposal, option one is the website they've asked for. And option two is the website, plus original photography.
25:46 KT: And in that proposal, I make the case, like, “To build a website is great, but to build a website with original photography is what really takes it from… ” Now I'm giving you my spiel, but really what takes it from the mundane to the magnificent, it's really what… This is what sets you apart, is not needing to use stock images but to go out and have really quality photos of you and your research and your study organisms and your students. “I know you need a website, and just imagine what your website could be if we do website and photo.” That's option two. Option three is, “Imagine if we build this gorgeous website and then we actually launch you on social media. You don't have a social media account. You're not on Twitter, like… This is why Twitter is a great fit. Imagine if we help you write content and then publish those photos, get them out on Twitter for six months, like, here's this other package.”
26:46 KT: And then there's a whole science to the pricing of it. The package that you really want should be the middle one. So, there's ways to make the top one seem too expensive, the middle one seem like the best deal, and the website that they asked for originally feel a little bit basic. We kind of price it that way. And then everybody always takes the middle package. So, there is also, you as a business owner, as you're talking to your clients. “Oh, okay, you reached out and you want some photos of your work in action, but imagine if we not only took those photos, if we developed this website for you,” it's easy to assume maybe the website is not very good, “imagine if we took those photos and we did this other thing with them, too. Imagine if we organized a gallery show for you that was a fundraiser for your organization. Imagine if we started an Etsy shop for you and sold these on mugs, we take a small percentage, but imagine the revenue.” You just kind of… You just help them think about, “If you're paying for these photos, imagine all the other things that we could be doing with you.”
28:00 KT: And sometimes they may say, “I can only go with the photos,” but you can tell they're already feeling, “Man, I only can afford that right now. Let me go find more money, so we can do the next thing together.” That's a little bit of the business side, but again this is… As you are the photographer doing this work, and meeting with these clients, you'll start to hear similar things that they need, and that's really where you start to think laterally about what you can offer. So, for me, it was I was trying to sell them videos, and they said, “Oh, shoot, should I have a website to host that on?” And I'm like, “Oh, my gosh. Oh, shoot, should I be on social media to share them?” I'm like, “Oh, my gosh, okay, all right. Let's step back. We need to build you a website first. Then we need to get you on social media so that you can build an audience so you know that someone's listening, who they are, and what they're into. Okay, then we do this film later.” But it sort of came out of hearing this over and over and over, like, “Oh, where would I host it? I don't even have a website,” that that's where we start to deciding we need to be offering websites as a primary service.
29:15 KT: And I do think… I have been trained to always go in and say, if they say, “Can you do this,” you always say, “Yes, let me bring someone on board to help with that. Yes, you can have anything you want, as long as you can pay for it.” And I can always bring on a collaborator who can program or design a flyer, or whatever else they may be asking for. The answer is always, “Yes.” You skim a little off the top and you bring in an expert to do anything that you don't wanna learn how to do.
29:48 JH: That actually leads me exactly into the question that has been hovering in my brain as you've been talking, which is, as a photographer, so many people feel like, “Well, it's the image creation that is my passion. I don't have these skill sets for social media creation or website creation or marketing material design. What am I supposed to do as a photographer?” And so I love that you mentioned specifically that it's not that you absolutely have to provide those things as the photographer. You can stay in your wheelhouse with the photography side of the visual creation, and then bring someone else onboard as a subcontractor, or as a collaborator to do these other things that can be built into a package.
30:35 JH: But I also wanna dive into the idea that… And you mentioned it very, very briefly before, which is that this is a really good time to be expanding our skill sets as visual story creators. Photography might be where our passion is at, but what other skills can we bring to the table and increase flexibility during… What is a weird time not just for the entire world, because COVID-19 has thrown everyone for a loop, but also in visual story creation because the value of photography has gone down or at least flatlined for decades, and so it's really tough to make a living as a photographer, so other skill sets that you bring in. So, I'd love to dive into what are some of the most valuable creative skill sets that you have built up, in addition to photography or filmmaking, that has been a critical driver in being able to think laterally and act laterally in order to help your clients really come to the table strong with what they're doing for science and conservation.
31:45 KT: Yeah. Well, I think the biggest thing for me has been developing a strategy mindset. Even in my own work, I could be leading just the photography side, but again, because I go into each client with that strategy mindset, which I've been working really hard to cultivate, reading books and blogs and listening to podcasts, so that when they come you can approach the client holistically, and you approach their needs holistically. Because, again, you can serve as this creative director, photographer role where you are just in charge of… When a client comes to you and suddenly you start helping them develop a strategy, I think you'll be surprised how much… How quickly they put you in charge of everything.
32:49 KT: If you are the one showing them a little bit about what strategy is like and who their brand is and what their brand could be, then they start really just trusting you to then lead them through this whole process. And that can involve all kinds of media and all kinds of things. You could do the art yourself. You can always hire out, you could oversee it, you could oversee none of it. But when you start to lead them, when you show them the leadership, I guess is the word that just keeps coming up, they just trust you to make everything they're doing better. Now they want your help and guidance on their fundraising. Now they want your help and guidance on making their events go better and keeping their events on brand. And you may or may not actually want all the responsibility of managing someone else's brand, but it's a really nice way to help them have impact, their kind of impact. And if you're careful about selecting your clients, now we're getting to the point where I can start to really be choosy. And so I'm looking for clients that want the kind of impact that I want in the world so that I'm comfortable taking on the responsibility of helping you manage everything, your website, your brand, your events, your fundraising, all that stuff. It feels like a lot, but if their mission is your mission, it feels really rewarding at the same time.
34:35 JH: Absolutely. What have been… Maybe examples of one or two clients where you brought in this strategy mindset. And they might have thought that they wanted one thing, but with your strategy mindset, you really said, “Hey, I understand that you want this one thing, but here's how this one thing can truly make a difference if we do it in this other way.” And what have you, with maybe one or two client examples, watch as a transformation for them because they accepted and went with more of a strategy mindset and allowed you that leadership position in order to help them get way better results through their brand or through their website or their story?
35:26 KT: Yeah… I don't always remember what they come to me for originally. A lot of times, it's just they have a project and it's not getting the love that it deserves. I'm thinking I have this one client, the Boulder Apple Tree Project. This is an amazing research initiative. It's based in Boulder, Colorado, and essentially the scientist moved to Boulder and started noticing all these heritage apple trees in her backyard. She's a scientist, so she started formally studying the genetics and found these are long-forgotten heirlooms of apples that exist almost nowhere else in the world, and they're just dying in all these people's backyards around Boulder. So, she started diving into the history. This used to be a big orchard town and… Her project kept growing. It started with apple genetics, and then it moved into the history and heritage of apples. She kind of came, saying, “Hey, there's this project that I'm doing, and I'm really excited about it. I think it has the potential to have a really big impact for science, for attracting people who aren't normally into science.” Because it has this big cultural cool culinary side, too. They're bringing in all these cider makers to make heritage ciders. It has this really cool appeal to people who normally aren't in the science, “You know what, what should we do? Should we do a film? I don't even know what to do, but I wanna get more attention for this project.”
37:07 KT: That was a perfect case of starting in and saying, “Okay, what do you think the brand is? Let's go through and create a comprehensive brand.” We actually took several months and we put together a whole brand manual, with voice and tone, and logos and colors, and alternative logos, and did this whole branding thing, which we then sent a photographer out to do imagery that would work with the brand and use that brand, plus imagery, as the foundation for a new website. Now, they do a lot of the events, so we've started helping them plan out their events and material, and just types of stuff that they may wanna do with the event to attract different types of people. And within that, there's designing menus and designing flyers and designing all this stuff, which we have a graphic designer on our team who does all of that. We have an illustrator on our team who runs whatever she needs. So, we were able to build a team for the project. They're all just contractors, and they each take a piece. But now we really… We're kind of in charge of this brand, and we've been able to watch them grow and grow and grow.
38:26 KT: I don't have numbers on their fundraising, but I've seen them in the newspaper. I've seen them… She just did a TED talk, so we actually did a coaching session on how to help her get ready for her TED talk. But that's kind of the best example I can think of where it just started with, “I don't know, I have this project, and it's cool and I wanna make a difference. And what do I do?” And we just said, “Let's be really thoughtful about this. Let's do a brand, let's make sure you have beautiful images, let's build a really nice website. Okay, now you have a TED talk coming up, let's make sure you nail it. Oh, you're doing a donor dinner? Let's make sure everything is super tight and clean to get you ready for that.” And now I just feel like we managed everything. And that's great. It feels great to be trusted. And then your clients become very close friends, and not only are they supporting our business, they're one of our biggest ambassadors. We grow when they grow.
39:36 JH: Right. Well, that's so helpful when your mission and your client's mission align, so it's rewarding work for you and it's so rewarding for them, that they just cannot wait to be a perfect testimonial and reference to help you get additional business. That's the most beautiful win-win on the business side of things, let alone a win-win on the conservation side of things.
39:58 KT: And I will say, we are now finally talking about the documentary film, which is always like this is where we thought we would start with all of our clients, and now I'm seeing we're finally getting there. We've spent several years now working on their brand and audience. And when we make a film, we know how to make it resonate, and we know who's gonna watch it, and we know where it's gonna go. So, I'm much more confident that we're gonna make something that has the impact that we're looking for.
40:33 JH: That is huge. The idea that you could start out by saying, “I wanna make a documentary film,” and you head out and you make it. And then you just cross your fingers that it does what you intended, versus building basically a launch runway for months or years, and really knowing, “Okay, well, this is who we need to talk to in order to get the impact we need, and this is our audience, and this is how we need to phrase it, and this is how it resonates because we've tested that on social media or we've tested that through the website.” And so we really understand how to create a film that tells the story in the best, most honest, most beautiful way, and that it's actually going to have an audience that wants to act because of how we've crafted this. I think that that is just so fantastic and so incredibly essential to true conservation visual storytelling that makes an impact. And I cannot even tell you how much it excites me to know that you are out there doing that. The Impact Media Lab is out there crafting all of this, and basically doing so much work that we see in the business world and bringing it into the conservation world.
41:47 KT: Thank you. And I will say, if you've read Malcolm Gladwell's “Outliers,” that was like a transformational book for me because the whole thing is… The whole premise is what looks like random chance. These videos that go viral, these campaigns that go viral, that on the outside look like random chance and luck, when you dive into the backend, you see that it's been years of work to set the stage for going viral. Nothing is luck. Maybe one in a million is luck, but all the rest of it is strategy. And, yeah, I took that to heart.
42:31 JH: Yeah. And I'm so glad that you started dive into books because my next question for you is, you had mentioned that a lot of your strategic thinking has come from self-study, from podcast and books and reading online blogs. And I'm wondering if you have maybe just a handful of other, if it's books or podcasts or whatever, other reference material that you think could be really valuable to a conservation photographer who wants to start thinking more strategically?
43:00 KT: Oh, that's a great question. I assume, in Wild Idea Lab, and on this podcast, you've been exploring ideas of strategy and business thinking here, which has been a great resource. The Middle Finger Project, which is a woman entrepreneurship empowerment business coaching thing, they do a lot of stuff about strategy. And she really taught me about how to go into a client meeting and be ready to listen, show up in an authentic way, knowing you can provide all kinds of services that they don't know that you can offer. So, listen for those opportunities. If you haven't read Malcolm Gladwell's “Outliers,” it will totally rock your world.
43:50 KT: And then, yeah, I'm trying to think. When I lived in Boulder, we always had a rotation of roommates that were brand strategists. My best friend is a brand strategist. I was watching her run focus groups, and when I bought a wedding dress, they sent out an email saying, “Hey, does anyone wanna be in a focus group about why you bought a used wedding dress?” “Yeah, I do.” So, I've been sort of curious and signing up at every opportunity to watch how focus groups and market research looks. When I was starting Impact Media Lab, I gathered all my lab mates and my advisors together, and tried to run a focus group on them, and I think just dabble and strategy is everywhere. I wish I could better pinpoint who has inspired me the most. But strategy really is everywhere, once you start looking for it.
44:50 JH: Awesome. Well, this episode has been just insanely packed with really good ideas and insights, thanks to you. And I appreciate you as someone who, I think, completely stands out inside of the conservation visual storytelling realm because of the approach that you take. It's beyond photography, it's beyond filmmaking. It is how do we take a story and have it really stand out in this world, in all these different ways, and to be very savvy about it. So, thank you so much for doing what you do with Impact Media Lab.
45:28 KT: Thank you, Jaymi.
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