Harnessing the science of social marketing & behaviour change for improved water quality in the GBR: an action research project


Data collection from two NRM areas participating in the study (Project 2.1.3. funded by NESP Tropical Water Quality Hub) identified several areas of potential concern that can be used to refocus communications with land managers in the future. In particular, it is evident that the majority of land managers do not believe their actions negatively impact on GBR water quality, coupled with high levels of frustration at what is perceived as unfair blame and a failure of government organisations to engage in discussions with land managers rather than persist in one-way, top down communication. Recognition of existing efforts and, especially, innovations should be provided.

There is a clear need to ‘sell the science’ to land managers and opportunities to build more inclusive integrated communication strategies in which respect for farmer’s opinions and experience is part of ongoing dialogue. As part of this, the impact of competing and conflicting messages, including news media coverage and also communications from mills and farm supply merchants should be recognised. Proactive plans should be developed for combating or at least minimising the effects of competing and conflicting messages including negative media coverage which presents a sensationalised and, at times, hostile perspective on reef-related issues.

Communication should use multiple channels, identifying the communication channels preferred by specific identified land manager segments, including the importance of land managers respected by others within their social networks as information conduits and gatekeepers. However the risk of information overload should also be recognised.

Readability of material is another barrier that has been identified: while there has been some improvement in readability, this continues to be a problem (see Project 3.1.3).

Data collection is underway to determine whether there has been any significant change in land manager attitudes and behaviours since the project commenced. A summary of findings from this latest round of data collection will be made available shortly.

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