Ethical considerations for conservation messaging research and practice.
Conservation professionals are familiar with value-driven research and practice. However, recent efforts to use strategic communication, specifically conservation messaging, to affect targeted behaviour change or influence values and attitudes towards conservation introduce new ethical dilemmas that conservation professionals may not have considered or are ill-equipped to deal with. Drawing from strategic communication theory and professional guidelines, including from public relations, social marketing, advocacy, and the social sciences more broadly, we provide a framework and discuss important ethical considerations for conservation messaging. The considerations discussed include those that apply across all stages of conservation messaging (be reflexive, engage responsibly, and consider power), as well as those that apply when defining the problem (ensure fairness in audience targeting), designing the solution (use equitable messages and calls to action and use truthful messaging and authentic messengers), and considering outcomes (consider intended and unintended consequences). We present these considerations not as a fail-safe checklist to prevent unethical conduct in conservation messaging, but rather as points of reflection to consider in the design of ethical conservation messages and campaigns. We present a series of prompting questions to guide this process. We believe taking the time to reflect in this way paves the way for more effective and ethical strategies for conservation messaging, leading to more open, trusting, and sustainable relationships with our audiences.