In 1996, the release of a species specific virus to manage rabbits was undertaken prior to mainstream internet and email usage. Communication relied on the large-scale distribution of printed materials, strong media intervention and on-ground resources to communicate the messages (N Byrne 2016, pers. comm.).
In 2017, just over 20 years later, we are well and truly in the digital age. In Australia alone, there are 15 million Facebook users, close to 5.5 million WordPress internet sites and 2.8 million active users on Twitter (Cowling 2016). It is suggested that Australians own an average of three Internet-enabled devices which underlines our strong appetite for online activity (Sensis 2016). However, how well connected is the agricultural and rural sector? The 2015 Regional Wellbeing Survey stated that critical infrastructure, including telecommunications, was underserviced in regional Australia, and 50% of those surveyed reported internet access as ‘very poor’ or ‘inadequate’ (Schirmer et al., 2016). In knowing this, are we ready to fully communicate our messages online, or should resources be adequately focused towards printed materials and on ground resources such as extension officers?
Since 2015, along with a series of face-to-face community roadshows, the majority of communication relating to the national release of a new rabbit biocontrol agent, known as RHDV1 K5, has been online and through digital mechanisms. Communication tactics have included developing a website portal, an e-newsletter and targeting social and digital media (Invasive Animals CRC 2016). From October 2015 to October 2016, the web portal received 7362 page views, and 1040 emails subscribed to our regular e-news updates.
While it could be argued many Australians have access to online materials, can we maintain strong engagement with a majority rural audience through this mechanism? This presentation will discuss the success of our current online engagement strategies undertaken as part of the national release of RHDV1 K5, and make recommendations for future pest animal communication campaigns which may wish to utilise online engagement tactics.
Cowling, D. (2016) Social Media Statistics Australia – August 2016. Social Media News. www.socialmedianews.com.au/social-media-statistics-australia-august-2016/
Invasive Animals CRC (2016) The Healthier Landscapes web portal. Invasive Animals CRC. www.healthierlandscapes.org.au
Schirmer, J., Yabsley, B., Mylek, M., and Peel, D. (2016) Wellbeing, resilience and liveability in regional Australia: The 2015 Regional Wellbeing Survey. University of Canberra. www.canberra.edu.au/research/faculty-research-centres/ceraph/regional-wellbeing/survey-results/2015
Sensis (2016) Sensis Social Media Report 2016. Sensis www.sensis.com.au/assets/PDFdirectory/Sensis_Social_Media_Report_2016.PDF