Each year, hundreds of authors contribute hundreds of thousands of words to The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) web, social, email and print platforms—in effect, shaping the ever-evolving voice of a 70-year-old organization. But while a diversity of perspectives is core to TNC’s identity, common values should shine consistently across our content.
So, what does TNC sound like? Here are some guidelines to mind when writing for TNC digital properties. Consult the digital style guide for advice on specific expressions and word choice.
We are global.
Though TNC is based in the United States, our content should reflect the global scope of the organization’s work. Avoid relying on American jargon and idioms, stick with the facts, and consider how audiences outside your region might receive your message. In some places, for instance, a statement such as “The Nature Conservancy is the largest and most respected conservation organization in the world” could be perceived as arrogant and off-putting. An objective statement about the breadth of TNC’s work may work better (e.g. “On the eve of its seventieth anniversary, The Nature Conservancy now works in more than 70 countries around the world.”).
Common use cases:
- Be specific about references to currency and geography, and mindful of time zones, seasons, holidays and current events.
- Use “the United States” when referring to the country. For many people, “America” is understood as the region spanning from Canada to Patagonia.
- In certain regionally specific communications, “TNC” may substitute for “The Nature Conservancy” on first reference.
We are science driven.
Science is the foundation of every TNC conservation project and policy for which we advocate. It fuels our optimism, pragmatism and passion for tackling the challenges facing nature and people—that is, we know a sustainable future is possible because science says so. TNC’s scientists and policy experts uphold and advance the standards of their respective fields, affording the organization strong standing in the conservation space. Likewise, content on TNC’s digital platforms must be clear and accurate.
Common use cases:
- Show your work! Be sure to link to reliable, up-to-date sources when citing research and/or facts.
- Be precise with scientific descriptions—and when in doubt, consult relevant experts.
- Connect stories to TNC science whenever possible. Acknowledge unknowns and take care not to misrepresent findings.
We are realistic, but also optimistic and solutions oriented.
Guided by the latest science, we acknowledge the urgency of the climate and biodiversity crises, and the growing number of communities suffering on the front lines. We also find hope in the science, as it tells us that there is still time to stave off the worst climate impacts and avoid the irreversible decline of nature. TNC supports a broad range of scientifically backed solutions to address the main drivers of climate change and biodiversity loss, especially those based in nature.
We bring clarity to the challenges facing nature and people.
Without shying away from thoughtful questions and nuance, we must strive to communicate in a clear and concise manner. Show the reader why they should care and how they and their community can play a part in the solutions. Anticipate the questions and information gaps readers may have, and provide additional context as needed. Don’t avoid situating TNC’s work in societal context—even when that means acknowledging ambiguity or criticism. The issues that threaten our planet are complex, and the answers aren’t always black and white.
- Make sure complex stories start with an accessible lede—the inverted pyramid structure can help.
- Explain scientific terms and acronyms on first reference.
- Avoid jargon and the overuse of complex words or sentence structures.
- Fun topics can still offer the depth and intellectual rigor that audiences expect of a science-based organization.
We are collaborative.
TNC strives to advance a world where people and nature thrive by partnering with stakeholders across the globe to make way for climate and biodiversity solutions. We work with governments, businesses and communities to develop breakthrough tools and ideas, amplify local knowledge, influence decision-making, and forge new paths to funding. To borrow a phrase from TNC’s CEO, Jennifer Morris, “radical collaboration” defines the organization’s approach to progress: while remaining committed to our values, we remain non-partisan and open to building partnerships across society. On our digital properties, we encourage respectful discourse and difficult conversations, responding to criticism in a manner consistent with organizational values.
We are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion.
TNC’s mission is to advance a world in which nature and people thrive everywhere—and that means making space for a diversity of voices wherever decisions are made. We acknowledge that environmental power players—including TNC—have at times failed to recognize the self-determination and leadership of marginalized communities. Our content must reflect a commitment to listening, learning and sharing our outsize influence with those bearing the brunt of environmental threats globally.
Common use cases:
- Represent people and communities featured in TNC content as they desire, and be mindful of power imbalances. Avoid patronizing or “othering” language.
- Credit Indigenous and historically excluded communities appropriately for conservation strategies often associated with TNC (e.g. prescribed fire, regenerative agriculture).
- Respond to criticism in a manner consistent with our values when necessary.
We are confident, but humble.
Over the course of decades, our organization has celebrated huge wins, earned trust and expanded its reach. We’ve also made mistakes—and voiced commitments to learning from them. TNC brings experience and expertise to the conservation space, but we know we can’t advance a world in which nature and people thrive without authentic partnership with a diversity of partners.
We find beauty, inspiration and even humor in nature.
The challenges facing nature are serious, and TNC is serious about tackling them—but that doesn’t mean we have to be self-serious. A hint of levity that’s subject-matter and audience appropriate can be found across TNC content. Likewise, we recognize nature as a source of inspiration, comfort and spiritual connection. While writers are encouraged to take some rhetorical liberties to engage our audiences, be sure that your message remains on brand, culturally sensitive and serves TNC’s mission.