How the Stand Up Initiative Has Helped the San Juan Mountains Association Protect Colorado’s Weminuche Wilderness
The Stand Up Initiative
Launched in 2016, the Stand Up Initiative is an annual pro-bono, marketing-services package for nonprofits that focuses on the environment, conservation, and the outdoors. The initiative was created by Darby Communications, a PR and digital marketing company for outdoor, wellness, and fitness brands. Status Forward was thrilled to join the Initiative to expand services in 2020 and beyond.
The San Juan Mountains Association was one of our 2020 partners. The following is a summary of our efforts and results.
About the San Juan Mountains Association
Founded in 1988, the San Juan Mountains Association (SJMA) promotes the exploration and protection of public lands in Southwest Colorado through stewardship and conservation education for people of all ages.
Like many active and ambitious conservation nonprofits, SJMA has dozens of projects that we could lend a hand with, but for this initiative, the most important was their Weminuche Wilderness Stewardship Fund.
The Weminuche Wilderness is the largest wilderness area in Colorado and contains some of the most spectacular mountain landscapes in the country. As a result, it’s pretty popular, but as visitation continues to climb, land management budgets have decreased. There’s also a host of additional forest health management challenges due to pests and climate change.
The Weminuche Wilderness Stewardship Fund was developed to counter the impacts of increased visitation and to support healthy forests through:
- On-the-ground stewardship projects
- Improved trail access
- Public education on Leave No Trace ethics
- Support for the hands-on San Juan Wilderness Stewardship Crew
- Coordination with wilderness volunteers
Ultimately, SJMA hopes to continue to build programs like the Weminuche Wilderness Stewardship Fund and create an endowment to support the necessary efforts to sustain this unique place, as well as provide examples and guidance for exceptional land-management practices.
To raise the profile of the Weminuche Wilderness Fund, they needed to get more traction on all things Weminuche, meaning some serious PR assistance, as well as search engine optimization (SEO) and content support.
Solutions Through Collaboration
Although the organization has a long history of making significant contributions to the public lands of Southwest Colorado, SJMA indicated that they wanted to improve their presence from a media and storytelling perspective.
Darby Communications helped craft a new boilerplate for media use and developed a press release template for the SJMA staff to easily re-use in the future. Additionally, the Darby Comm team worked closely with the SJMA team to shape and distribute a press release highlighting the many facets of their work. The press release focused on SJMA’s unique local land stewardship model and what the Weminuche Wilderness Stewardship Crew is accomplishing on the ground.
Darby Comm created a carefully targeted pitch list for SJMA’s press release to connect the organization with key outlets, and shared the press release with outdoor-oriented trade publications including SNEWS and Outdoor Sportswire. Press outreach also led to an article on the American Trail Running Association website.
Social Media Playbook
Darby Comm also created a custom Organic Social Media Playbook for SJMA, outlining an extensive social media strategy that aligns with the organization’s larger campaign goals. The Playbook is intended to serve as a standing resource, summarizing platform best practices, post optimization tips, a targeted hashtag strategy, and core campaign messaging that can be referenced long after the partnership ends.
SJMA indicated they were interested in learning more about how search engine optimization (SEO) could help them gain traction as well. PR and SEO play very well together, as the links earned to SJMA’s website from PR hits are very helpful for building overall site authority, which makes SJMA more competitive in search results.
The main opportunity, from an SEO perspective, was to help SJMA better optimize their site for the overall topic of the Weminuche Wilderness. If SJMA wanted to cultivate interest in their Weminuche Stewardship efforts, they also needed to cultivate and respond to overall interest in the Wilderness itself.
After doing our research, Status Forward was able to provide a thorough outline for a new site page dedicated to trip planning and outdoor recreation opportunities in the Weminuche Wilderness. The outline was informed by all the related topics most searched for.
The Status Forward team designed and optimized the new resource page and used it as a template and training tool to guide the SJMA team in creating rich, SEO-informed content in the future.
Prior to publishing the new Weminuche information page, SJMA was getting only a handful of visitors each month to their site from Weminuche-related searches. Since the new page has launched, SJMA is consistently appearing at the top of search results for dozens of Weminuche keywords. It is now in their top three pages for most traffic.
Year over year Google Analytics data shows an increase in Weminuche page views of over 600%.
But There’s More: Research-Driven Add Ons
The Stand Up Initiative is no small measure. Each team dedicates 50 hours to helping our partners succeed. As a pro bono project, we were free to work with SJMA during our research period to best align our skill sets with various challenges that we uncovered.
We provided the following research:
- Keyword research for best ways to gain visibility online
- SEO recommendations
- Technical review and website audit
Beyond the Weminuche-specific work, we honed in on several other key opportunities.
Very slow load times, especially on mobile devices, were hampering the website’s performance and usability. Status Forward worked to identify ways to speed up the site, thereby providing a better user experience for those who found their way to the SJMA site. Ultimately, this will result in more engagement and followers of the great work SJMA is doing and the resources the organization provides.
Additional SEO Opportunities
In 2020, SJMA united with Durango Nature Studies to create a model outdoor education program to inspire and empower the next generation of conservationists in Southwest Colorado. Critical work! They were interested in getting more traction for their summer camp program.
Status Forward helped them optimize their summer-camps page so it would show up in search results when potential participants Googled things like “Durango Summer Camps” and “Durango Day Camp.” Prior to our efforts, SJMA was on the bottom of the second page of organic search results for their key terms (which means they weren’t getting any traffic). They are now at the top of search results on the first page!
We look forward to following SJMA’s continued growth and impact in the years to come.
“SJMA has benefited from the Stand Up Initiative in countless ways over the last 6 months. Due to a recent merger, changes in staff, expanding programs and huge increases in public land recreation, SJMA was in need of experts to help guide where we need the most help and then provide it! The experts with the Stand Up Initiative did not disappoint! From new connections with key media outlets to improved website performance to increased web traffic due to excellent SEO analysis, SJMA is in a better position to deliver our mission to people near and far. Not only did we see immediate results, but they have left us with a toolbox we will use to continue to expand our reach and therefore increase our impact. The advances we have made in such a short period of time are invaluable to our organization. Thank you!”