This section details the importance of communicating reef health and resilience, and the steps needed to reach specific audiences. It is intended that this section will be useful to those responsible for communication and outreach on coral reef management and conservation. The following pages provide valuable tools for communicating resilience, including: key talking points, general power point presentations, and other communication tools.
A key strategy for communicating reef health, especially resilience, involves managing people and their relationship with the environment: trying to increase their understanding and respect of the world around them. When outreach and communication are not incorporated into reef management plans, key resource users are not informed; this can lead to misinformation, anger, dissent and harmful effects to the reefs. It is therefore essential to continually communicate about reef trends. For example, if a bleaching event occurs, you as the communicator must provide information on how to respond to ensure continued reef health, and to explain why some practices are destructive and need to be stopped.
Rules of Thumb
With so many facets of management needing to be communicated, there are a few ‘rules of thumb’:
Choose Priority Issues: Determine the main issues to be communicated and address them one at a time. Too many messages at one time can undermine the process and confuse your audience. Priority issues may include: bleaching, management effectiveness, general reef health, and resilience. There are many messages about these issues that can be conveyed, so clarity is essential.
Choose a Target Audience: It is important to convey key messages so that they resonate with the target audience. For example, if speaking to children, games, music or puppets are often helpful. However, if speaking to recreational fisherman, educating them about habitat needs of the fish they take would be more relevant.
Create a Forum: People are often skeptical or afraid of change, so it is necessary to develop an appropriate forum that allows people to share their concerns, and to learn more about the issue of concern. This may include public meetings or informational tables, where people can learn about the issue.
Target Behaviors: It is important to identify the behaviors you want your audience to change or the actions they should take. If you are raising awareness, make sure there are actions associated with the information provided, so the audience feels empowered. Include some measure of success in your outreach plan to track progress and effectiveness.
In addition to the above, build on existing communication structures, thus avoiding duplication. Address issues that resonate with the chosen audience, and design messages to appeal to the emotions associated with nostalgia, family and place.
Communicating Resilience—An annotated PowerPoint presentation (download pdf, 1,988k)