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 from proposal:
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:
- Conduct a needs assessment that will inform the marketing cohort training program;
- Attend 12 online trainings over six months with the marketing expert and complete exercises; and
- 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:
- Design and implement strategic marketing campaigns with guidance from the marketing expert; and
- 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:
- Create a marketing guide focused on online communication for the rangeland community;
- Plan, coordinate, and publicize three rangeland community training webinars focused on key aspects of the guide for up to 100 people per webinar;
- Incorporate the guide and webinars into Rangelands Gateway to extend learning opportunities and further the reach of this train-the-trainer program; and
- Survey webinar participants to evaluate gained knowledge and skills.