[campaignstrategy] Campaign Strategy Newsletter No 43 September 2008 - Wetter Issue

campaignstrategy at campaignstrategy.org campaignstrategy at campaignstrategy.org
Fri Sep 12 11:14:15 BST 2008


This months's newsletter takes the form of an article summarising a major
piece of qualitative and quantitative research I've been involved in, which
has been used to help design public outreach and engagement on the undersea
landscape for the UK Government agency Natural England (NE).  The full
research documents are posted at the Ne website.  Students of values and
campaign design may find it of interest even if they are not turned on by
what lives at the bottom of the sea or how to protect the marine

Meanwhile particularly enthusiastic readers may also like to know
that instead of having to trawl through one Newsletter at a time in search
of the odd crumb of useful information that some may hold (they are all
posted at the website www.campaignstrategy.org under 'newsletters'), you can
now download nos 1 - 42 in a low tech indigestible single lump at
http://campaignstrategy.org/newsletter_index.html and use your search
function to find whatever it may be ...

**                 *                **


*Wetter But Not Better:  New Research Into Public Engagement With The

Chris Rose   chris at campaignstrategy.org

*Summary:  a large project of qualitative and quantitative
research[1]conducted for Natural England shows ways to engage – and
not to engage – the
English public in a positive appreciation of the undersea landscape.  The
research suggests that most conventional campaigns to promote Marine
Protected Areas are unlikely to 'work' for 60% of the population and this
will probably undermine attempts to create a political constituency for the
same.   Less than 1% of the population can name a real undersea landscape
feature and there is no sense of place for the undersea in England in the
way there is for terrestrial landscapes, despite a high affinity for the sea
as the coast.  Lacking real knowledge, responses to conventional polling are
determined by values and transposed views about actors and issues taken from
other experiences.  The common positive denominator is dramatic topography.
The Natural England  research has been used to design communications that
should work across all main psychological groups.*


In the UK, considerable efforts by NGOs and others have focused on promoting
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).  After many years of lobbying by conservation
groups the government has committed itself to implement a Marine Act, which
amongst other things, will enable it to establish some form of MPAs.  But
what will actually happen ?   How much will the government use its powers ?

The precedents from use of existing powers are not good – England has only
one no-take (no fishing zone), a tiny area around the island of Lundy.  Talk
to any former Environment Minister and the reason is not hard to find.  One
once told me (I paraphrase but this was the gist): "Whatever you say and
whatever I may think, if it involves a conflict with fishing, I say the
science shows we need controls but then a blue-eyed fisherman is filmed
doing his piece to camera in a yellow sou'wester on a windswept quayside
talking about the threat to his livelihood, and we are stuffed".

On the face of it, the British, an island people immersed in the culture of
the sea, care a lot about the marine environment.  Polls[2] show a
consistently high level of concern about threats to the marine environment,
and even support for MPAs.  Supermarkets increasingly demand sustainable
fish.  Many English people visit the sea, daydream about the sea, or have a
memento if it at home.[3]   So what's the problem ?  Why hasn't this sort of
concern yet translated into political support which really makes a
difference ?

* *

*Research For Natural England*

Over the past eighteen months I have been involved in a campaign-design
project for the government conservation agency Natural England (NE),
developing their 'Marine Campaign'[4].   The working hypohthesis behind this
research included:

- whatever powers Parliament might pass, no government would have the
political space to fully utilise them unless there was support for MPAs.   As
MPAs are [almost always] place-based mechanisms, this meant support for
protecting parts of the undersea – the seabed – as places.

- in the public mind the sea-is-the-sea-is-the-sea: unlike terrestrial
landscapes it looks much the same everywhere, at least around England.
there probably is no real sense of 'place', or a landscape, and without
that, nothing to identify with or protect.  Support for the concept of MPAs
might therefore remain latent and general rather than actual or specific.

Whatever consultation and dialogue takes place between the interest groups
and policy community – from fishing organisations to minerals companies and
Wildlife Trusts – will be more robust and realsitic if the wider public have
some real understanding of what actually lies beneath the waves.  In the
last year therefore we set out in collaboration with qualitative researchers
KSBR[5] and values analysts Cultural Dynamics[6],  to investigate the way
the English public perceives what might be under the sea.

So far as we know this is the largest study of perceptions of the undersea.
We conducted 18 moderated focus groups around England of 8 adults each.  All
had children of school age and who were not directly engaged in any marine
activity or environmental lobbying.   The groups were values segmented
according to underlying psychological needs: Settlers (Security Driven about
20% of the population), Prospectors (esteem driven about 40%) and pioneers
(Inner Directed, about 40%).   These are 'Maslow Groups'[7].  We then ran a
quantitative baseline awareness study of over 3000 people, against a
values-segmented quota (this time also to the 12 Values Modes level).

The process and results are described in a Natural England report, *Qualitative
and Quantitative Research into Public Engagement with the Undersea Landscape
in England,* Natural England Research Reports, NERR019* *now online at
http://naturalengland.communisis.com/naturalenglandshop/docs/NERR019.pdf   Even
if you are not interested in marine issues you may find the process and data
of interest – for example there are tables showing the correlation between
standard demographics, region and values.

In the focus groups people were shown concept stimulus material which
described real underesea features and their life, for example kelp forests,
seabed communities of reefs worms and anemones, the currents and rocky reefs
of the North East, and spawning areas (referred to as creches) of herring in
the Thames Estuary.  In the quantitative work they were asked a series of
option questions informed by the qualitative findings, and an open question
about the seabed.


In brief, we found a common ignorance about what actually lies beneath the
sea across all segments (under 1% could recall a real undersea place-based
feature in the quantitative work) and very marked differences between the
values groups  (stronger and more consistent than any demographic or
regional differences).

We found that the English really have no idea of what lies under the
sea.  Around
half were inspired to guess at the obvious, fish and weed for example, so
the undersea has no psychological or social place-based constituency of the
type enjoyed by terrestrial  landscapes such as the Pennines, Broads or
South Downs.  We also found that:

- all the groups but especially the outer-directed Prospectors, felt ashamed
that 'our seas' had got into a (largely assumed) state of disrepair and
damage.  Many spontaneously cited damaging activities such as pollution or
industrial fishing in support of this and and were inclined to believe there
was 'not much there' .  In addition both Settlers and Prospectors tended to
think that seas in other countries were the only 'nice' ones (with the
possible exception of Southwest England), and there was a strong sense of
fear and disgust about 'under the sea' – because it was dark, cold, slimy
and dangerous.  It was not something they had thought about or wanted to
think about.

- in contrast the Pioneers reacted more positively to ideas or features of
mystery and beauty and enthusiastically elaborated more possibilities but
for Prospectors and Settlers, the unknowable triggered feelings of
insecurity rather than interest: you might get entangled in a kelp forest
for example

- the Settlers, and to a lesser extent the Pioneers, reacted positively to
ideas of community: it was a positive 'result' to think that communities of
little creatures are successfully living-together in places around England,
'minding their own business'.  For Settlers this naturally translated into a
thought that they ought to be left alone, and that they were of value simply
for having survived.

- the only concept which really engaged positive interest from Prospectors,
*and* worked for the other groups, was dramatic topography.   Prospectors
could get enthusiastic about the scale of the Dogger Bank (underwater sand
dunes as tall as Nelson's Column), or the Lune Deep (a vertiginous trench
off Northwest England).  Prospectors in particularly wanted this proved – by
seeing it, or better still, experiencing it.  "You should have a submarine
to enable us to fly through it – zoom up and down it …"

Mention of 'issues' or 'problems' quickly triggered a cut-out for
Prospectors in particular: they did not want to know about anything
'political' and it triggered the feelings of shame, guilt, fear and
distaste.  Therefore communications efforts which start from here, are
likely only to engage a small subset, mainly the Concerned Ethical Values
Mode (a Pioneer subset making up about 10% of the population).  This of
course applies to much conventional practice.

The very word 'environment' was associated by many Prospectors as a sign
that criticism was on its way – they were about to be told not to do
something.  This provided another reason not to engage. (Consequently the
Natural England campaign is now framed as a *Landscape* Awareness Campaign).

Less obviously, mention of what conservationists see as solutions also had
the same effect.  The idea of more 'Protected Areas', although broadly
understood, was taken to indicate to signify that there were problems,
although there was also surprise that if there was anything worth
protecting, it had not already been protected, potentially leading to a
judgement against those in authority.  This is also an illustration of why
you first need to build awareness (in this case awareness that there is
something there – an undersea landscape), before moving on to problems or
solutions, let alone engagement for action based on perceiving problems and


This research shows that the main elements of conventional marine
environmental communications: talking about problems and solutions, issues,
policies, laws, politics and the weird-and-wonderful mysterious creatures of
the sea, all had a chilling effect on the majority (60%) of the population.

At first sight this may seem to run counter other evidence but in fact it
fits with it.  For example the great love of the sea apparently reported in
surveys by Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust and others is not as much
about the sea, and even less about the under-sea, as it is about *the
coast*– a known and explored place where the perceived negatives of
the undersea
are kept at a safe distance.   The high levels of concern about problems
such as pollution, themselves probably generated or reinforced by decades of
campaigns about pollution, are consistent with the idea that the undersea
around our coasts is empty and degraded.  This is not to dismiss the worth
of other surveys (some of which are summarised in the report) but shows that
they cannot be used to design campaigns to actually build support for
undersea place-based conservation measures.

Natural England's campaign to increase awareness of undersea landscapes
therefore focuses mostly on the dramatic underwater topography, and finding
ways to show that 'there is something there'.  NE hopes to create
experiences and generate media and word-of-mouth about those  which 'prove'
the existence of these features, including through an Undersea Landscape
Explorer motion ride, working rather like a flight-simulator.  It also tries
to communicate the idea of communities, and it sets aside the potential of
the 'beauty spots' which so intrigued the Pioneers, as these had a negative
effect on other groups. Of course a more segmented campaign, could select
and tailor communications for any one Maslow Group, more precisely.

The NE campaign has also involved creating event-based workshops for
children, including landscape-making, in part to reach their parents.  If
something 'works' for their kids, this is almost invariably seen as a
'result' they will go along with: being a parent is so important to identity
that it over-rides or bypasses many of the judgement filters that adults
would otherwise apply.  In this study we also found that all Groups could
actively rationalise this greater enjoyment of the undersea by children
because they believed their offspring to have what the researchers termed 'a
higher disgust threshold' than did adults.

How applicable these particular findings are to anywhere outside England is
unknown.  The principle of research to produce a communications campaign
which resonates with motivating needs certainly applies.  In countries with
clearer water and more divers and snorkelling (etc), there will probably be
far greater awareness that there is a landscape-under-the-sea.   Take a look
at websites such as Divernet[9] or Sea Search[10] and it's obvious that even
around England, the experience which many divers get is far different from
that of the general population.    Having these people enthuse about the
undersea, usually around some individual creature dislocated from location
may work for the Pioneers but even the much-celebrated BBC Series *Coast*,
and the popular nature mega-documentary *Blue Planet* which was watched up
up to 8m people, appears to have had no impact on awareness of the undersea
as a place or a landscape around England.   If divers painted a word picture
of an undersea landscape and then were able to connect this to a known piece
of coastline, that might be more successful but the principal need is to
create visual and experiential proofs – hence the simulator (the Undersea
Explorer) and other products and outreach which Natural England is trying to

In England at least there is also the complicating factor that turbidity
/cloudiness is often equated with pollution, and not being able to see,
reinforces all those fears and feelings that there might be something cold,
slimy and dangerous just underfoot.

The words of the song from Disney's* Little Mermaid *have it that
better*,* down where it's* *wetter*, *under the sea' **but 60% of the
English population at least, is more than sceptical about this idea.  They
are saying, as they do when going to the cinema, "show me".***

* *

Acknowledgement: my thanks go to Natural England, KSBR and CDSM for making
available these research findings for publication


[1] ROSE, C., DADE, P. & SCOTT, J. 2008. Qualitative and Quantitative
Research into Public Engagement with the Undersea Landscape in England.
Natural England Research Reports, NERR019.

Download at
http://naturalengland.communisis.com/naturalenglandshop/docs/NERR019.pdf and
see also
http://naturalengland.communisis.com/naturalenglandshop/docs/RIN019.pdf  The
original KSBR debrief will also be posted at the NE website if it isn't
there already – in case of difficulty email the author
chris at campaignstrategy.org

[2] See report ref (i) op cit

[3] National Trust research cited in the report

[4]  the views in this article are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect
those of Natural England.  Enquiries about the campaign should be addresed
to Karen.Mitchell at naturalengland.org.uk  The Campaign website is at

[5] www.ksbr.co.uk

[6] www.cultdyn.co.uk

[7] For an explanation see the report or *Using Values Modes* at

[8] The motivation sequence awareness> alignment> engagement> action see p.
6 of *How To Win Campaigns*, Chris Rose 2005, pub Earthscan

[9] www.divernet.com

[10] www.seasearch.org.uk
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://campaignstrategy.org/pipermail/campaignstrategy_campaignstrategy.org/attachments/20080912/fe2ad18e/attachment.html 

More information about the campaignstrategy mailing list