Members of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance met on March 4-5, 2009 at Five Rivers Delta Resource Center in Spanish Fort, AL to bring a Public Awareness Campaign one step closer to launch. Members of NOAA and EPA were both present as well as representatives from the nutrient, water quality and environmental education priority issue teams. University of South Florida Center for Social Marketing has been contracted by the Dauphin Island Sea Lab to develop a public awareness campaign focused on branding GOMA and developing a marketing plan to reduce nutrient loading; they facilitated the meeting and guided GOMA in a strategy session over the course of the two day meeting.

Although, the Alliance works on six priority issues (to view the priorities log onto: www.gulfofmexicoalliance.org), the nutrient theme was chosen for the marketing plan in hopes it could be used as an example for the other priority issues. USF is using a community based social marketing (CBSM) approach to guide GOMA’s public awareness campaign. Dr. Doug McKenzie-Mohr, an environmental psychologist thought of as the pioneer of CBSM, defines it as: “Community-based social marketing is based upon research in the social sciences that demonstrates that behavior change is most effectively achieved through initiatives delivered at the community level which focus on removing barriers to an activity while simultaneously enhancing the activities benefits.” USF helped GOMA to brainstorm on how to reach the general public with the message that fertilizing less would be a benefit for them, as well as many other topics which are explained later.

Members of GOMA were introduced to qualitative and quantitative data that was discovered through surveys, interviews, and focus groups conducted by USF. Data related to fertilizer use showed people would be willing to fertilize a specific amount and fertilize during appropriate times if environmentally friendly fertilizer use was promoted. Data related to knowledge of GOMA, showed that the general population was unaware of who GOMA is, giving the Alliance an upper-hand in being able to define themselves and hopefully passing on that reputation. Results from the data were critical to keep in mind while figuring out the best way to reach GOMA’s audience. Much discussion and brainstorming occurred among GOMA participants including: who is our target audience, who would be effective partners, who/what are GOMA’s competitors, what does GOMA stand for, what does GOMA want to be recognized as, and more.

Input from the GOMA participants gave USF the knowledge they needed to develop a marketing plan that fits the Alliance. USF expressed the outcomes from the meeting were essential for them to develop an effective marketing plan. Funding for this research was provided by EPA Gulf of Mexico Program and the Northern Gulf Institute.

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