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A conservation marketing campaign to highlight the importance of riparian areas


(Please note this version excludes graphics and sidebar notes.)

Prepared by Sarah Kipp and Clive Callaway

Project Co-founders and lead authors

Working under the auspices of

The Federation of British Columbia Naturalists

June 1999


Through numerous workshops and conferences, representatives of The Living by Water Project have received positive feedback regarding the uniqueness of our approach for motivating citizens towards shoreline stewardship. In this paper we outline some of the differentiating tools and techniques of our conservation marketing approach.

The Living by Water Project is a campaign and contact program targeted to individual urban, rural and seasonal waterfront residents, in order to improve the quality and quantity of wildlife habitat, including cleaner air and water. The project assists our partners in addressing the problem of shoreline degradation by marketing an environment-friendly and wildlife habitat-friendly waterfront lifestyle. We offer a variety of services and products, and make extensive use of public service announcements, at the primary contact level. A set of guiding principles and a vision statement were developed for the project and appear in this summary.


Conservation marketing builds on modern business marketing, and on the tools and techniques of social marketing and environmental education. Our purpose is to move people along a continuum from awareness through education, to attitude change and sustained behaviour change. We believe that cumulative positive impacts are possible when many individual waterfront residents change their lifestyles - "In the nature of the problem lies the solution."

To effectively change behaviour through conservation marketing, a stewardship initiative must follow a number of principles.

1. Being customer driven. Marketing strategies speak of the central role of the customer in driving how companies do business. What does this mean, and how does it translate into action for a stewardship initiative?

Respect - The customer should be respected and his/her knowledge about, and vision for, their waterfront property taken seriously.

Meeting needs -- The customer's needs should be met as much as possible. These might include the need to save money or the need to protect personal health. One of our challenges is matching the needs of waterfront residents with natural resource messages using a conservation marketing approach.

Presuming that the customer wants to "do it right" -- Rather than approaching a group in a contact program under the assumption that they have caused a problem, presume that they want to live in harmony with the environment - they would not knowingly destroy habitat or reduce water quality. We will present choices but avoid preaching.

Understanding the customer - This means: providing services and products which meet the customer at his or her level; using appropriate language in materials; making material relevant for the customer, whether they are land owners, tenants or leaseholders; and, using illustrations which are appropriate for diverse audiences representing a range of ages and races. It means understanding the demographic, psychographic (pertaining to activities, interests and opinions), and psychometric (pertaining to personality and needs) profiles of the customers.

Testing and piloting - Materials are thoroughly reviewed and tested by using focus groups, questionnaires, and pilot programs.

Products and services that meet customer needs - While this may seem trite, it is often overlooked in stewardship programs. As a result of our overpowering enthusiasm to communicate stewardship messages, we frequently muddle them and fail to demonstrate their relevance for our audience. To package our message effectively and highlight its relevance, we must follow the principles outlined in the preceding points: we understand the customer's needs, we respect those needs, we pilot and test, we presume that the customer wants to protect rather than destroy.

Often, the blocks to a customer adopting stewardship actions may be financial, a lack of time, or perceived peer pressure. We must provide integrated services and products to help address these blocks. Such services might include access to low interest loans, access to volunteer labour, or access to local support groups.

In the case of The Living by Water Project, customer needs include homesite assessments and workshops, with tips and techniques for improving the home and property, and saving money. Workshops and site assessments can be offered by local groups that receive necessary materials and information; they are adaptable to area and situation. The focus on shoreline protection and restoration is almost a byproduct of these needs, through which the objectives of The Living by Water Project are met.

Meeting customer needs for products and services also means that services and products must be continually evaluated, and it means that they must be updated regularly to remain relevant. The Living by Water Project is achieving this through:

• regular monitoring of sales, conservation pledges and other indicators; pledge-tracking, including stories, pictures, and audio-visual

• web based updates which will not only update material, but will also provide users with greater information and detail on specified topics.

2. Using promotion extensively and creatively. A conservation marketing approach means that promotion is embedded throughout the program. This includes:

Catchy themes - For example, The Living by Water Project is using a number of themes, such as those listed in the sidebar. Themes help create a modern marketing appeal.

Sponsored Public Service Announcements - Using sponsored PSA's can help stretch limited marketing budgets. In the case of The Living by Water Project, sponsors are solicited from organizations and businesses with an interest in the services and products of the project. The public service announcements are then provided to the media, with airtime or print space paid for by the sponsor, and with the sponsor's name publicized.

A wide range of promotion - For example, The Living by Water Project is promoting the need for awareness of shorelines through Shoreline Celebration and Restoration Month; we have submitted a proposal to Canada Post Corporation for a shoreline stamp series; we applied for, and received, endorsement as a national millennium project. These are all ways of promoting the project and its themes and messages.

3. Using the arts. We see the arts as an aspect of our life and culture separate from marketing and promotion. Nonetheless, the arts are one of the main ways that our culture tells stories. Our stories shape the way we steward our waterfront lands. We need to rediscover traditional knowledge and relevant myths to adapt, and create new "stories". We must also integrate scientific knowledge about shorelines, from the microscopic level to the macro. The messages of these stories need to be in our stewardship handbooks and their messages told and retold in many ways - from dance to poetry, artwork to songs. In this way, we will help to develop and maintain a shoreline stewardship ethic.

The Living by Water Project is linked to arts such as theatre; a group in Alberta is producing an innovative play based on "the ribbon of life" that will be premiered in the summer of 2000. Other arts initiatives are included in Shoreline Celebration and Restoration Month (see information in sidebar).

4. Assuring on-the-ground improvements. Conservation marketing is only as effective as the on-the-ground behaviour changes which result. The Living by Water Project has a number of principle tools and techniques for achieving these on-the-ground changes.

• The Conservation Pledge Program - allows waterfront residents to pledge to carry out environment-friendly actions. Pledges might range from simple commitments (for example, leaving a shoreline buffer) to major commitments (like restoring a section of degraded shoreline). The conservation pledge program will also include pledges to make changes within the home - to conserve water, for example, or use fewer toxic products. A unique feature of this program, in recognition of Canada's multi-cultural mosaic, is that pledges can be made in any language, either written or on video or audio tape. Pledge forms will be available in all major services and products of the project. Finally, waterfront residents have their own stories to tell of living "on the edge", the ribbon of life. Shoreline anecdotes will be encouraged as part of the pledge program and will be recorded on a multi-media data base.

• The Shoreline Ambassador Program - is an extension of the Conservation Pledge Program. Shoreline Ambassadors will be drawn from amongst all citizens, not just waterfront residents, and they can be of all ages. They will agree to various commitments such as keeping their eyes on the shoreline, helping to educate others, picking up garbage, etc.

• The peer pressure engine - Fashions are contagious. In part, this is why our shorelines are in trouble; pesticides, the raking of beaches, high maintenance garden plants, and other products and habits potentially damaging to our waterfronts have caught on in the past. We expect the reverse to happen when neighbours see neighbours being conscientious waterfront stewards. The Living by Water Project will encourage waterfront residents to lead by doing.

• Workshop-in-a-Box - The workshop will be packaged in a portable kit that can be shipped to, and delivered by, local groups. Where there is need for an outside facilitator, a local person will be recruited as peer co-leader. The workshop will be interactive and motivational, and will feature tips, advice and hands-on information for waterfront residents. The workshop will provide a personal sales approach to help promote conservation pledges; will help to link individual waterfront residents to a local community group and resources for follow-up support; and, will provide a basis for obtaining information for monitoring and evaluating changes in shorelines and other indicators.

• The Homesite Assessment Program - This is a program in which home visits are made by trained assessors to interested waterfront residents. The assessors will work with the resident and identify changes which could be made to a home and property (including shoreline) to improve environment-friendliness and wildlife habitat-friendliness. The program will allow for waterfront residents to receive individualized service, will help obtain pledges for waterfront conservation, and may by piggy-backed onto other programs such as the Green Home Visit.

• The Waterfront Living Handbook - will be a do-it-yourself manual for the waterfront resident. It will be full of time and money saving tips and advice on topics such as construction, maintaining services like wells and septic, environment-friendly tips for inside the home, naturalizing shorelines, living with wildlife, dock construction, etc. It will be user friendly, will contain a conservation pledge form, and will be affordable.

• The Monitoring and Evaluation Program - To monitor on-the-ground impacts of the above-outlined tools and techniques, an extensive arms-length monitoring and evaluation program will be implemented, funded by a levy on the sales of services and products to be administered through a trust fund.

5. Assuring self-sustainability - In addition to the self-financing monitoring and evaluation program, The Living by Water Project, under the auspices of a co-sponsor, is using a revolving loan fund to cover printing and duplication costs. A portion of the costs recovered through the sales of services and products will go towards this fund. Also, a brochure replenishment fund will be established using a donation approach. The feasibility of the donation approach has already been demonstrated through offers.

6. Using a Whole Ecosystem Approach - The overall approach to The Living by Water Project will be a whole ecosystem-based one which recognizes the interrelatedness of cycles on and beneath the ground, in the air, and on and in the water. In this way, attention is paid to issues such as non-point source pollution and its impact on ground water, and the impact of toxic products on organisms which live in the soil. Micro- and macro-organisms will be treated with equal importance.

Connected with this approach, the project utilizes the concepts of "zones of cooperation" and "zones of influence", modified from the biosphere reserve program. Waterfront residents are seen as living in a zone of cooperation - between the fragile waterfront and the uplands - while exerting their influence among other upland dwellers.

By keeping goals clear, carrying out regular monitoring and evaluation, and remaining customer-centred, conservation marketing which meets customer needs can assist ecosystem objectives.

The Living by Water Project. All rights reserved: copies of any part of this document may be made and distributed, provided full citation is included and no changes are made to text and design without prior permission.

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For further information:
Contact: The Living by Water Project, 250 832 7405 Fax 250 832 6874
P.O. Box 7, Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Canada, V1E 4N2
email: [email protected]

"Working towards healthier human and wildlife habitat.....
along the shorelines of Canada"

Copyright 1999 by Living by Water Project. All rights reserved.
Revised: October 30, 2000.

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