Communication and public awareness


Communicating for Change - an effective communication strategy can help change the attitudes and behavior of key audiences and raise awareness of the need to protect and conserve CWR.

Policy-makers and the general public are largely unaware of the importance of CWR and the critical role they play in improving agricultural productivity and supporting food security and ecosystem health. There is a need for an effective communication strategy in order to implement a change in attitudes and behavior among concerned parties. It is of particular importance to raise awareness of the need to protect and conserve CWR, since they represent a significant body of neglected and threatened plant species.

The aim of this module is to introduce a range of available communications tools and to explore the means for measuring communications impact.

Communications strategy

An effective communications strategy should be based on two major assumptions:

  • Public awareness can be used to change behavior by influencing changes in attitudes; and
  • Influencing profound changes in attitudes will require sustained, long-term efforts.

The objective of the communications strategy is to convince individuals and institutions whose actions –or lack of actions– prevent the conservation and use of CWR that an environment promoting CWR conservation must be created and constraints removed. TARGETS of the strategy should include both agents of change (policy- and decision-makers and key institutions) and end-users.

For your strategy to be effective, you must start by understanding the objective, the target audience, the audience’s current attitude towards the issue, key messages to be communicated and the best ways to reach the audience. The more you engage and consult with your audience about their information and communications needs, preferred formats and how they access information, the more likely your strategy is to have an impact.

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Things to remember

Be Aware of Information Overload
Producing more information materials (pamphlets, briefs, brochures, etc) does not necessarily mean more results. Members of your target audience may already receive large amounts of information daily. Face-to-face conversations and visual presentations may be more useful and cost-efficient depending on the context and situation.
Find a Helping Hand
Agriculture and biodiversity specialists, while experts in their own fields, may have difficulty understanding the range of opinions existing among multiple stakeholders. Therefore, it is good practice to consult a communications professional for advice and guidance in the development of your communications strategy and intervention. Help is available through networks which share and exchange expertise across different sectors; much information can also be found online.

Learn from your neighbors
Look at how other activities and initiatives in your country have generated behavioral change and note how this was achieved and what approaches were used.

Source - Adapted from Communication, Education and Public Awareness; A Toolkit for National Focal  Points and NBSAP Coordinators.

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Using the right tools

When thinking about what tools and techniques to use to reach your target audience, it is important to distinguish between your internal and external audiences. Your internal audience (those involved in the project) should already be aware, and in support of, the communications strategy and key messages. Your external audiences are those towards whom you are directing your communications strategy and those who you want to listen to your message. A guiding principle for an effective strategy is to communicate internally before communicating externally.

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Measuring the impact

You need to determine if the audience is more aware of CWR issues than before your intervention, if behaviors have changed and if this has led to a long-term impact or an environment promoting CWR conservation. Measuring impact is fairly easy if your target audience is small; however, it may be more difficult with a larger audience such as the general public, unless you have an unlimited budget.
Baseline attitude surveys are a good place to start, while focus groups may be useful to clarify what works and doesn’t work with your audience, what further information is needed, and what their opinions are about the messages they see or hear.  

Key Questions:

  • Have we achieved our objectives?
  • Did we reach the right target audience and use the right tools?
  • Did the audience understand the message and respond appropriately?
  • Did this result in concrete action?
  • Did we operate within our budget?

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