When you're trying to spread the word about invasive species, it can be hard to know you're making a difference. For agency leaders, people working on the ground, and recreationists involved in outreach efforts, evidence of impact can be hard to come by.
Using communications goals and technology, marketing methodology, and consistent messages can help, both by providing measures of success that you can celebrate, and by guiding you toward activities that are more likely to reach people and change their behaviors.
1. Set Your Invasive Species Outreach Goal
If you’ve ever competed in a race, or supported someone who has, you know having a goal motivates people to do the training. Winning is nice, but your average athlete signs up for a race because they know it will make it harder to skip that mid-week workout.
Having goals for invasive species outreach is similar. You may not be able to wipe out garlic mustard from your whole recreational area in the next month. But you can track how many people you reached this month with messages that will help them stop the plant from spreading.
To get more out of your invasive species outreach, start by setting your own communications goal, and make it a SMART one:
- Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
- Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
- Assignable – specify who will do it.
- Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
- Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
PlayCleanGo's SMART goal is, by March 1, 2020, to generate 3 million impressions online to encourage outdoor enthusiasts to clean their equipment before going to their next destination. At this writing, with 1.4 million impressions, we're just about halfway there. (We hope you’ll be part of meeting that goal. More on that below.)
Here are some plug-and-play ideas for goals you could set for yourself and your invasive species outreach team:
- Obtain [INSERT NUMBER] Reaches / Engagements for our invasive species posts on our [Facebook / Instagram / Twitter] account by [INSERT DATE].
TIP: Share content from the PlayCleanGo Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. Always add your own message, and use #PlayCleanGo for your invasive species posts.
- Reach [INSERT NUMBER] trail users with educational signage and boot brush station(s) by [INSERT DATE].
TIP: Use ready-made signage provided by PlayCleanGo.
- Obtain [INSERT NUMBER] subscribers to our enewsletter containing invasive species prevention tips.
TIP: Borrow content from the PlayCleanGo Protector enewsletter.
2. Measure Your Progress Toward That Goal
When you start with a SMART goal, measuring progress becomes easy. You know, for example, what channels to look at when you’re gathering data. And you also know what metrics to gather from those channels. Then it’s a matter of looking up the data at regular intervals, placing them in a spreadsheet, and presenting them to your team. These metrics can provide useful material when creating your annual report and other marketing or fundraising materials.
Here are some of the outreach channels we’re tracking as we progress toward the PlayCleanGo SMART goal. In parentheses are listed some of the online tracking tools we use to gather the data:
- Website: Sessions (HubSpot, Google Analytics)
- Social Media: Advertising Impressions, New Followers, Reach & Interactions (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; Brand24, HubSpot)
- Email: Unique Opens (HubSpot)
- Paid Search: Advertising Impressions (Google Ads)
- Media: Impressions (PRWire & others)
3. Know What Your Audience Knows
When it comes to knowledge of invasive species, are the people you’re trying to reach experts, or are they people who simply love the outdoors?
In marketing methodology, we use the analogy of the buyer's journey to understand the mindset of the people we’re trying to reach. In the case of getting recreationists to clean their gear before moving on, each person who loves to spend time outdoors is somewhere in that journey.
In the beginning, they’re just starting to hear about invasive species and wonder what that’s all about. This is the awareness stage. If we do a good job reaching them, they’ll move on to the consideration stage, asking questions about how invasives spread and how people can stop them, for example. Finally, they move into the decision stage, looking for specific steps they can take to change their behavior.
There are countless variations on the recreationist's journey, but the important thing is to be aware that every person who loves the outdoors is potentially at a different stage, and the message that’s effective for one might not be effective for another.
4. Make Use Of PlayCleanGo Resources
As you work on achieving your invasive species SMART goals, don’t reinvent the wheel. The PlayCleanGo website has a full range of educational materials that you can link to or download and share. Our social media accounts are also filled with posts you can share and customize with your own messages about the locations, species, and recreational activities you're focusing on.
The PlayCleanGo explainer videos, pictured in the graphic above, are particularly useful in reaching an audience at their stage of the recreationist’s journey, or in walking them through the journey as they get more educated and invested. Feel free to embed these videos in your social media or other outreach vehicles; they’re all on the PlayCleanGo YouTube channel.
As you make progress toward your own invasive species outreach goal, we hope you’ll be part of reaching ours. Please share your numbers with us! Just email us your spreadsheet with a brief explanation here.