Marine Aquaculture or Seafood Farming? Evaluation of video series and message testing provides insight for more effective outreach
In 2017, the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Seafood for the Future program was awarded funding from NOAA’s USC Sea Grant program to create a video series to highlight responsible marine aquaculture in the U.S. The series, titled: Ocean to Table: Stories of Food, Farming, and Conservation launched in October 2018. It highlights various species and production types in the U.S. Each video (total of five) featured a conversation between a scientist, farmer, and chef and a cooking segment. The series was narrated by Chef Barton Seaver. As per the grant, Seafood for the Future was required to fund an evaluation to learn more about the efficacy of the series in terms of affecting public attitudes towards U.S. marine aquaculture. Due to additional funds available from another Sea Grant project, we were able to conduct two evaluations. The first featured the full videos and provided little information on the efficacy of specific messaging. The second allowed us to dive deeper into specific messages and segments. In this post we will share some key results from the second nationwide survey with a census-representative (general public) sample of 800. These results may be useful to help inform the development of stronger, more effective messages and communication strategies. You can view Survey 1 and Survey 2 for the full reports, including methodologies.
Are the Videos Effective?
Yes! Results show that survey respondents’ views about marine aquaculture improved after viewing the videos. These results mirror results from the first survey. In this second round, we broke down the videos to get a better sense of the specific segments and messages that resonated with the public (e.g. discussion segment only; cooking segment only; intro only; closing only). The results showed little difference in terms of the effectiveness of the segments. The “no food” segments performed slightly better, indicating that we could have shortened the videos by removing the cooking segments and probably had the same effect (some respondents from the first survey indicated that the videos were too long). That’s not to say that cooking segments are not critical for some groups who may be more engaged by the culinary elements. It’s also important to note that this series did feature a scientist, farmer, and chef (see trusted source info below), which may or may not influence its efficacy. The bottom line...videos can be effective outreach tools.
NOTE: Pre-test responses were given before viewing the videos and post-test were given after.
There has been some debate among communicators about the terminology we should be using to engage the public about marine aquaculture. Based on the results of this survey, it seems as though there is no clear winner. This could be due to the fact that most people have little or no prior knowledge about marine aquaculture. In terms of engaging the general public, this may be beneficial because they are essentially a blank slate. It's important to recognize that it is actually a small segment of the public who are actively engaging in political processes that can prohibit the growth and development of a responsible marine aquaculture sector in the U.S. Understanding how actively engaged groups leverage and respond to this terminology could help to develop stronger communication strategies to effectively engage with them and others.
Most Trusted Sources of Information
Understanding that most of the general public doesn't know what marine aquaculture is, we took a broad approach with this question, asking respondents to rank the most trusted sources of information regarding environmental sustainability of food. Scientists and farmers took the top spots, followed by chefs. This seems to complement a recent PEW study that revealed that public confidence in science is increasing. It may also be a contributing factor to the success of this video series in terms of improving perceptions about marine aquaculture since scientists and farmers were featured in each segment. As we develop communication strategies and resources, we should consider integrating information and perspectives from these key groups. Highlighting collaborative research projects, for example, where scientists are working with farmers to fill knowledge gaps and develop better practices that support healthy ocean ecosystems and improved product quality may be an effective engagement strategy.
Out of 10 messages tested, the following resonated most among respondents (see full survey report for list of messages and methodology). The messages themselves should not be used as written. They were roughly drafted to get a sense of general themes that resonate with the audiences and are not entirely accurate (e.g. we do not know if expanding domestic marine aquaculture in the U.S. will actually lower the cost of seafood). That said, the general themes and ideas presented should be considered and adapted as appropriate to ensure accuracy as we develop messaging and communication strategies. Because these are messages that resonated with the general public, they may also be useful for engaging some policy makers. More research should be conducted to learn more about messaging that resonates with more actively engaged groups.
This information is valuable in terms of helping us as a community to develop stronger and more effective messaging and communication strategies to engage the general public. It should be used as a guide from which we can identify general themes and strategies, adapting as appropriate to ensure that the end products are accurate. There are certainly opportunities to continue to improve and expand upon this information, particularly as it pertains to specific groups that are more actively engaged in the marine aquaculture conversation. It is important that we communicate these types of findings with each other and collaborate to facilitate more effective and accurate messaging across diverse networks. Leveraging this information individually won’t have much of an impact. Collectively, however, we can move the needle in support of responsible U.S. marine aquaculture that supports healthy ocean ecosystems, people, communities, and economies. We’re all in this together. In the words of Michael Jordan, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”
Do you have information to share? Or some insight based on your own experiences? We want to hear from you. Comment below or contact us directly.