Increasing the Online Communication Toolbox for Sustainable Rangeland Management: A Train-the-Trainer Program

Progress report for WPDP21-026

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $99,993.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2023
Host Institution Award ID: G355-21-W8617
Grant Recipients: University of Arizona; Colorado State University
Region: Western
State: Arizona
Principal Investigator:
George Ruyle
University of Arizona
Co-Investigators:
Retta Bruegger
Colorado State University Extension
Amber Dalke
University of Arizona
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Project Information

Abstract:

The goal of rangeland Extension professionals is to empower managers and producers with research-based, practical information to improve economic, social, and ecological sustainability. Well-managed rangelands are a key component of sustainable agriculture: they help satisfy human food and fiber needs and contribute to economic security while also protecting watershed health, providing wildlife habitat, promoting plant diversity, and storing carbon. Serving rural communities and ranchers to maintain and improve rangelands are a cadre of rangeland Extension professionals who bring the best scientific knowledge to their research and outreach programs. While traditional face-to-face assistance has been almost entirely curtailed during the pandemic, even before then, there was a critical need to improve online communication to meet sustainable land management needs given the growing diversity and connectivity of rangeland stakeholders. This two-year project will train rangeland professionals and producers to improve their online communication strategies and skills. Using a train-the-trainer approach, rangeland professionals at the University of Arizona and Colorado State University, along with Rangelands Partnership (RP) members and the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance, will achieve the following objectives: (1) increase knowledge of online marketing strategies among a cohort of producers and RP members through web-based trainings with a marketing expert; (2) increase awareness of online rangeland resources by designing and implementing online campaigns to reach stakeholders with sustainable rangeland management messaging; and (3) increase online marketing knowledge and skills within the rangeland community by creating a marketing guide and coordinating webinars on key aspects of the guide. The guide and webinars will be incorporated into the RP’s Rangelands Gateway (https://rangelandsgateway.org/) to extend learning opportunities. The RP, a collaborative group of rangeland professionals, agricultural librarians, and technology experts from 19 land-grant universities, is uniquely positioned to support a train-the-trainer professional development online marketing program for multiple audiences in the Western United States.

Project Objectives:

This project will provide intensive training opportunities and learning experiences about online marketing strategies including: brand recognition (i.e. Extension as a ‘brand’, grow Extension awareness); recruitment (i.e. engage more and diverse people); and communication (i.e. social media, electronic newsletters, identify key messages). These strategies will be used to implement online marketing to raise the visibility of sustainable rangeland principles on the internet. Using a train-the-trainer approach, rangeland professionals at the University of Arizona (UArizona) and Colorado State University (CSU), along with members of the RP and Altar Valley Conservation Alliance, will achieve the following objectives:

Objective 1: Increase knowledge and capacity of online marketing strategies among the marketing cohort of 15 rangeland professionals and producers. Activities:

  1. Conduct a needs assessment that will inform the marketing cohort training program;
  2. Attend 12 online trainings over six months with the marketing expert and complete exercises; and
  3. Survey the cohort to evaluate gained knowledge and capacity of online marketing strategies.

Objective 2: Increase awareness of online rangeland resources on the RP’s Rangelands Gateway (https://rangelandsgateway.org/) and related rangeland websites, newsletters, and social media outlets. Activities:

  1. Design and implement strategic marketing campaigns with guidance from the marketing expert; and
  2. Use Google Analytics and survey webinar participants to evaluate website use pre- and post-campaign.

Objective 3: Increase online marketing knowledge and skills among other rangeland professionals and producers as well as awareness of practical, easily adoptable communication tools and strategies. Activities:

  1. Create a marketing guide focused on online communication for the rangeland community;
  2. Plan, coordinate, and publicize three rangeland community training webinars focused on key aspects of the guide for up to 100 people per webinar;
  3. Incorporate the guide and webinars into Rangelands Gateway to extend learning opportunities and further the reach of this train-the-trainer program; and
  4. Survey webinar participants to evaluate gained knowledge and skills.
Timeline:

The trainings, guide, and webinars will be collaboratively organized and implemented with ongoing evaluation conducted by the project team from UArizona, CSU, AVCA, RP, and the marketing expert. Assumptions are: (1) webinar participants will gain marketing knowledge and use those skills; and (2) improved online communication capacity will make it possible to reach broader and more diverse audiences throughout the Western United States. The team believes a train-the-trainer program combined with strong outreach and webinars will significantly increase the ability of stakeholders to implement online marketing to raise the visibility of sustainable rangeland management.

Successful completion of this project requires resources: (1) UArizona salary support for project staff and technologist; (2) P.I. time allocation; (3) CSU salary support for Co-PI; (4) AVCA and RP financial and human support; and (5) marketing expert financial support. Partnerships will be leveraged and expanded through the RP and AVCA networks to help promote online skills to the boarder rangeland community.

Gantt Chart

Marketing cohort training (7/1/21-12/31/21): Co-PIs will conduct a needs assessment of the cohort to identify specific online marketing deficiencies. Based on needs, the marketing expert will design and implement a program consisting of 12 trainings over six months. All trainings will be recorded.

Online campaigns (10/1/21-6/30/23): The project team will: (1) collaborate to create new marketing materials; and (2) implement online campaigns featuring sustainable rangeland messaging.

Marketing guide (1/1/22-9/30/22): The project team will: (1) summarize marketing cohort trainings; (2) seek feedback and input within networks; (3) compile information and examples; (4) edit guide into an accessible format; and (5) distribute guide using new communication skills through the marketing cohort, RP, and AVCA networks.

Rangeland community training (7/1/22-12/30/22): The project team and marketing expert will plan three rangeland community training webinars focused on topics most critical to rangeland professionals and producers (i.e. social media best practices, viral marketing, internet and email marketing, search engine optimization, storytelling, branding, paid advertising, content marketing, cobranding). Participants will be reached using new communications skills through the project team’s networks. All webinars will be recorded.

Extend learning (1/1/23- 6/30/23): The guide, webinars, and related materials will be available on Rangelands Gateway and disseminated through social media, newsletters, and other new communication methods. Online resources will be promoted through the project team’s networks and at the RP annual meeting. An evaluation plan will use quantitative and qualitative methods, including pre- and post-questionnaires, to capture participants’ learning and webinar outcomes.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Sarah King - Producer

Education

Educational approach:

This train-the-trainer project uses a combination of intensive training for rangeland professionals and producers consisting of: (1) 12 one-hour sessions with marketing experts for a cohort of 15 rangeland professionals and producers; (2) development and distribution of a online communication and marketing guide; and (3) three one-hour virtual webinars to highlight key messages from the cohort trainings and marketing guide. 

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective 1
Objective:

Increase knowledge and capacity of online marketing strategies among the marketing cohort of 15 rangeland professionals and producers.

Description:

Activities:

1. Conduct a needs assessment that will inform the marketing cohort training program;

2. Attend 12 online trainings over six months with the marketing expert and complete exercises; and

3. Survey the cohort to evaluate gained knowledge and capacity of online marketing strategies.

Outcomes and impacts:

Short term learning outcomes: This project will result in increased in-depth knowledge and skill of online communication strategies among 15 rangeland professionals and producers who participate in the intensive marketing cohort. At the end of the final training, participants will have: (1) knowledge of marketing and online communication strategies; (2) skills to incorporate new online marketing strategies into their own programming and activities; (3) skills to select the most appropriate communication outlets; (4) knowledge how to implement new online marketing strategies; and (5) knowledge of where to find resources and learning materials on the internet for future reference.

Intermediate outcomes: Project participants will use new marketing skills and knowledge to: (1) conduct educational programs online focused on sustainable rangeland management; (2) incorporate online marketing into programming and outreach activities; (3) share project materials with ranchers and other rangeland professionals; and (4) develop and strengthen professional collaborations and involvement in teaching and research of sustainable rangeland topics, systems, principles, practices. Secondarily, producers who learn from project participants adopt new online marketing strategies to share and gain knowledge. Others who learn from project participants use new online marketing concepts in their work.

Conditions/Long term outcomes: Over time, the results of this project will increase the visibility and accessibility of science-based information to producers, which can ultimately lead to an increase in economic well-being for producers, improved resource stewardship, and quality of life for producers and ranching communities. In addition, members of the AVCA attending the webinars will increase their capacity to use online marketing to supplement their current incomes through increased brand recognition and promotion of various enterprises including and beyond livestock production. The combination of the marketing guide, rangeland community training webinars with the marketing expert, and learning resources available on Rangelands Gateway will increase the capacity of rangeland professionals, producers, and community members to apply online marketing for sustainable rangeland resources, programs, and enterprises.

Objective 2
Objective:

Increase awareness of online rangeland resources on the RP’s Rangelands Gateway (https://rangelandsgateway.org/) and related rangeland websites, newsletters, and social media outlets.

Description:

Activities:

1. Design and implement strategic marketing campaigns with guidance from the marketing expert; and

2. Use Google Analytics and survey webinar participants to evaluate website use pre- and post-campaign.

Outcomes and impacts:

Short term learning outcomes: This project will result in increased in-depth knowledge and skill of online communication strategies among 15 rangeland professionals and producers who participate in the intensive marketing cohort (Objective 1), and increased knowledge and skills for an estimated 300 individuals who participate in the webinars (Objective 3) as well as others that use online content. At the end of the final webinar, participants will have: (1) knowledge of marketing and online communication strategies; (2) skills to incorporate new online marketing strategies into their own programming and activities; (3) skills to select the most appropriate communication outlets; (4) knowledge how to implement new online marketing strategies; and (5) knowledge of where to find resources and learning materials on the internet for future reference.

Intermediate outcomes: Project participants will use new marketing skills and knowledge to: (1) conduct educational programs online focused on sustainable rangeland management; (2) incorporate online marketing into programming and outreach activities; (3) share project materials with ranchers and other rangeland professionals; and (4) develop and strengthen professional collaborations and involvement in teaching and research of sustainable rangeland topics, systems, principles, practices. Secondarily, producers who learn from project participants adopt new online marketing strategies to share and gain knowledge. Others who learn from project participants use new online marketing concepts in their work.

Conditions/Long term outcomes: Over time, the results of this project will increase the visibility and accessibility of science-based information to producers, which can ultimately lead to an increase in economic well-being for producers, improved resource stewardship, and quality of life for producers and ranching communities. In addition, members of the AVCA attending the webinars will increase their capacity to use online marketing to supplement their current incomes through increased brand recognition and promotion of various enterprises including and beyond livestock production. The combination of the marketing guide, rangeland community training webinars with the marketing expert, and learning resources available on Rangelands Gateway will increase the capacity of rangeland professionals, producers, and community members to apply online marketing for sustainable rangeland resources, programs, and enterprises.

Objective 3
Objective:

Increase online marketing knowledge and skills among other rangeland professionals and producers as well as awareness of practical, easily adoptable communication tools and strategies.

Description:

Activities:

1. Create a marketing guide focused on online communication for the rangeland community;

2. Plan, coordinate, and publicize three rangeland community training webinars focused on key aspects of the guide for up to 100 people per webinar;

3. Incorporate the guide and webinars into Rangelands Gateway to extend learning opportunities and further the reach of this train-the-trainer program; and

4. Survey webinar participants to evaluate gained knowledge and skills.

Outcomes and impacts:

Short term learning outcomes: This project will result in increased in-depth knowledge and skill of online communication strategies among an estimated 300 individuals who participate in the webinars as well as others that use online content. At the end of the final webinar, participants will have: (1) knowledge of marketing and online communication strategies; (2) skills to incorporate new online marketing strategies into their own programming and activities; (3) skills to select the most appropriate communication outlets; (4) knowledge how to implement new online marketing strategies; and (5) knowledge of where to find resources and learning materials on the internet for future reference.

Intermediate outcomes: Project participants will use new marketing skills and knowledge to: (1) conduct educational programs online focused on sustainable rangeland management; (2) incorporate online marketing into programming and outreach activities; (3) share project materials with ranchers and other rangeland professionals; and (4) develop and strengthen professional collaborations and involvement in teaching and research of sustainable rangeland topics, systems, principles, practices. Secondarily, producers who learn from project participants adopt new online marketing strategies to share and gain knowledge. Others who learn from project participants use new online marketing concepts in their work.

Conditions/Long term outcomes: Over time, the results of this project will increase the visibility and accessibility of science-based information to producers, which can ultimately lead to an increase in economic well-being for producers, improved resource stewardship, and quality of life for producers and ranching communities. In addition, members of the AVCA attending the webinars will increase their capacity to use online marketing to supplement their current incomes through increased brand recognition and promotion of various enterprises including and beyond livestock production. The combination of the marketing guide, rangeland community training webinars with the marketing expert, and learning resources available on Rangelands Gateway will increase the capacity of rangeland professionals, producers, and community members to apply online marketing for sustainable rangeland resources, programs, and enterprises.

Educational & Outreach Activities

12 Online trainings
12 Other educational activities: Summaries of 12 cohort online training sessions including worksheets and presentations. These summaries will be the basis of the Online Marketing Guide.

Participation Summary:

8 Extension
5 Researchers
1 Nonprofit
1 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

15 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
15 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

3 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

Short term learning outcomes: This project will result in increased in-depth knowledge and skill of online communication strategies among 15 rangeland professionals and producers who participate in the intensive marketing cohort (Objective 1), and increased knowledge and skills for an estimated 300 individuals who participate in the webinars (Objective 3) as well as others that use online content. At the end of the final webinar, participants will have: (1) knowledge of marketing and online communication strategies; (2) skills to incorporate new online marketing strategies into their own programming and activities; (3) skills to select the most appropriate communication outlets; (4) knowledge how to implement new online marketing strategies; and (5) knowledge of where to find resources and learning materials on the internet for future reference.

Intermediate outcomes: Project participants will use new marketing skills and knowledge to: (1) conduct educational programs online focused on sustainable rangeland management; (2) incorporate online marketing into programming and outreach activities; (3) share project materials with ranchers and other rangeland professionals; and (4) develop and strengthen professional collaborations and involvement in teaching and research of sustainable rangeland topics, systems, principles, practices. Secondarily, producers who learn from project participants adopt new online marketing strategies to share and gain knowledge. Others who learn from project participants use new online marketing concepts in their work.

Conditions/Long term outcomes: Over time, the results of this project will increase the visibility and accessibility of science-based information to producers, which can ultimately lead to an increase in economic well-being for producers, improved resource stewardship, and quality of life for producers and ranching communities. In addition, members of the AVCA attending the webinars will increase their capacity to use online marketing to supplement their current incomes through increased brand recognition and promotion of various enterprises including and beyond livestock production. The combination of the marketing guide, rangeland community training webinars with the marketing expert, and learning resources available on Rangelands Gateway will increase the capacity of rangeland professionals, producers, and community members to apply online marketing for sustainable rangeland resources, programs, and enterprises.

15 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
1 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Additional Outcomes:

In a pre-cohort survey of 14 rangeland professionals and producers, the marketing cohort was asked to consider their online marketing knowledge in terms of: unaware; aware/basic knowledge but are not ready to implement it; ready to implement with some support or have some limited experience; capable of implementing the concept now and gaining experience; and skilled/regularly apply knowledge without assistance and can teach others. The survey results revealed a lack of knowledge and skill related to online marketing. At the completion of the cohort training (January 2022), the project team expects the cohort to have a significant increase in gained knowledge and skill.

Success stories:
  • Cooperative Extension Specialist from Hawaii: I think the online marketing training has been outstanding and I have learned a lot. The team did a great job organizing everything and keeping everyone on track. [Marketing Consultant] Kivi is great and she has done a wonderful job and provided excellent resources. Doing this training with RP colleagues has been great too. It is always fun to have the chance to engage and exchange ideas with them.
  • Science Director from a watershed based collaborative conservation organization in Arizona: I have been enjoying the trainings with Kivi. I like that she comes from the marketing world (not the range world) so she has the knowledge and experience of a pro marketer, and it's great when she mentions tools and trends from that world that none of us are aware of. I have appreciated the recent focus on concrete materials (like marketing plans and elevator speeches) that we can directly use. Although every training needs some conceptual/overview content, the specific concepts that we create/practice are more memorable
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.