Strategic Initiative 1: Enhance Communications, Education
- Strategy 1: Enhance communications by creating a marketing strategy
- Strategy 2: Enhance education by developing an environmental ethic among future generations
- Strategy 3: Enhance outreach by developing partnerships to assist in delivering DFG’s message
In forming the Office of Communications, Education and Outreach (OCEO) in October, 2005, leadership emphasized the need for DFG to more effectively engage our constituents. Communications, education and outreach activities are a valuable means to reach the people we serve. It is evident the state’s ongoing population growth, especially in urban areas, continues to put pressure on fish and wildlife resources, thus increasing the challenges of resource management. What isn’t always as obvious is the need for us to make targeted connections with Californians to inform and educate them about what DFG does, how we do it and why it should be important to them. It is imperative that we help foster not only the next generations of resource stewards, including future DFG employees, but also the next generations of responsible citizens who actively support our efforts.
Since the Initiatives were launched, a complete organizational restructuring within DFG created the Office of Communications, Education and Outreach (OCEO), which formerly resided within the Law Enforcement Division. Further, OCEO structured its staff in an effort to provide more marketing specialization. Previously, all communications staff was required to handle some of the multitude of incoming media and public calls. The new structure allows for a representative for each region as well as separate marketing specialists to handle major topic areas. This allows for more comprehensive, thought out products, and allows some staff to focus on DFG’s overall marketing and messaging rather than the hot button issue of the day.
We continue to refine our methods of internal and external communication. A new marketing specialist was hired to create an Information Center that will serve as DFG’s employee newsletter and repository for all department-wide communications. Externally, DFG makes countless contacts in media relations, community relations, web presence and social media daily, and we are pushing to have even more of a presence.
DFG continues to identify and connect with targeted audiences who are traditionally not reached, but who have a significant impact on the resource without excluding traditional constituencies (i.e. hunters, commercial and recreational anglers, conservation groups). Our marketing specialists have been targeting non traditional groups with like interests for partnerships. An example is a ‘Be Bear Aware’ program we are developing in hopes to partner with sanitation officials in the Tahoe Basin to reduce bear/human conflicts.
We work to instill conservation education in California’s youth through strong community outdoors programs (Fishing in the City, Nature Bowl) as well as classroom education programs (Project Wild, Archery in the Schools Program, Classroom Aquarium Project). Normally we work to grow and refine these programs, but recent budgetary years have just allowed us to keep them afloat.
In order to move Initiative 1 forward, these steps are the beginning of a statewide push to improve DFG’s image in California’s communities:
- Increase our social media presence: Currently we have a DFG Facebook page and Twitter account. Related accounts are: Wild Justice Facebook page, Olive the Oiled Sea Otter Facebook page, Sea Otter Tax Check Off page, OSPR spill Twitter account, and we are working on an OSPR Facebook page and QR code that will lead users to the CalSpillWatch page. We are currently exploring the idea of using viral marketing for warden recruitment. We need to actively update our You Tube site and market the videos we put there. These efforts need to continue and expand. Social media is all but overtaking traditional media in how people get information to constituents and DFG cannot be left behind. We are creating a social media outreach plan, but it requires significant staff time. Not only does this require resources to create these pages, but to monitor as well.
- Improve regional media relations: Regional Public Information Officers will travel to their respective regions to facilitate media trainings to promote consistent and appropriate messaging. Also, redesign DFG region websites for consistency.
- Improve community relations: With the help of the Natural Resource Volunteer Program, DFG will organize local workshops to help communities better understand DFG programs and provide a forum for exchanging ideas and concerns. The messages will be tailored to the needs of the community, but could involve Keep Me Wild, Conservation Education, Marine Protected Area boundaries, enforcement information, regulations clarification, etc.
- Increase youth participation: In addition to growing our Project Wild program (classroom curriculum) and making it more tailored to individual communities, we need to organize youth activities, workshops and events that help foster the importance of natural resource stewardship in people with they are young. These efforts need to include parents and other adults who see their children’s reactions to conservation messages.
- Reinvigorate partner organizations: as a result of budget reductions and other factors, DFG has not fully cultivated many of the relationships built over the years. Some examples include school districts, Project Wild facilitators, regional partners with conservation education programs, advertising partnerships, and others. DFG will rebuild those relationships and work to leverage the resources we do have to take the place of dollars used in the past. DFG will also work with multicultural organizations to provide information about DFG's roles and responsibilities (environmental educational), rules and regulations (and provide translated materials), and will staff informational booths or give presentations at organization events.
- Improve internal communication: several approaches to effectively communicating with our employees have been tried and the time has come for a fresh and comprehensive evaluation of internal communications. Newsletters used in the past have proven ineffective and a survey of employees is being worked on currently, complete with new ideas for information delivery. Additionally, and as a result of the lack of a centralized and effective internal communications mechanism, factions within the department have created their own newsletters (ie – OSPR, Region 1, Invasive Species, etc). These newsletters should continue, but with better coordination from OCEO. As mentioned above, a new marketing specialist was hired to complete this survey and create an Information Center that will serve as DFG’s employee newsletter and repository for all department-wide communications. Development of a database of staff expertise also needs updating and regular dissemination to all staff.
- Reinvest in Project Wild: Currently, DFG’s Project Wild coordinator position is vacant and needs to be filled. The program is just treading water, when California used to be the most active proponent of this nationwide curriculum. Project WILD is our oldest and greatest conservation education program and its continuation has to be a priority.
- The rapidly changing communications and media forums and outlets demand a nimble communications unit within DFG that can effectively react to media, facilitate internal and external communications, and develop positive messages and branding. A comprehensive evaluation of the communications functions to meet these needs is warranted.