Environment

Evaluation of 'Harmony' Public Service Campaign

Author: Dan Himsworth, National Resources Conservation Service, September 1993

Harmony - a national public service campaign with a call-to-action to improve the quality of the environment - established records for the USDA, Soil Conservation Service (SCS). Improvement over a previous public service campaign effort include:

  • 170 percent jump in the value of donated radio and television air time
  • 240 percent rise in potential audience reached
  • 720 percent increase in individuals requesting action packets
  • 30 percent more volunteers joining the Earth Team
  • Significant outreach efforts with Native American organizations and groups.

Comprehensive Public Service

Campaign Harmony urged urban, suburban and rural Americans to take individual action for improving the quality of the environment.

Harmony included TV, radio and print public service announcements (PSAs), that advertised SCS's 1-800-THE-SOIL toll-free telephone line. Callers received an action packet that included a series of conservation tip cards featuring activities to improve the environment, a four-color poster, a Native American coloring book, a bumper sticker, volunteer recruitment information, and an evaluation card of the packet materials.

The Harmony theme drew on the response to the movie Dances With Wolves, which showed that Americans are interested in Native American cultures and how those cultures lived in "harmony' with the environment. Dances With Wolves co-star, Rodney A. Grant, served as the spokesperson in Harmony's TV, radio and print public service ads. Speaking in a native language, Grant urged all Americans to "share the heritage of taking care of our Earth" and to call 1-800-THE-SOIL for an action packet.

A team of public affairs specialists in three states and a regional office collaborated with the Blackfeet, Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana to initiate and create the Harmony campaign. Several other SCS employees throughout the nation supported this core team.

Harmony Goals

The Harmony team established three goals in developing the campaign:

  • Increase the awareness of water quality and other environmental issues among nonfarm residents
  • Motivate people living in urban and suburban areas to adopt behaviors that improve the environment and
  • Increase public participation in soil and water conservation activities by calling 1-800-THE-SOIL and joining the Earth Team volunteer program.

Harmony - A Success by Five Measurements

Five methods were used to measure the success of Harmony:

  • Media use of public service announcements
  • Telephone calls to 1-800-THE-SOIL
  • Volunteer recruitment
  • Action packet evaluation and
  • Improved relations with Native Americans.

Measure 1: Public Service Announcement and Print Ad Use

Harmony radio and TV public service announcements (PSAs) were released to approximately 1,000 television stations, 350 cable TV networks, and 5,000 radio stations on January 4, 1993. In the five months following the release of the PSAs, stations donated in excess of $3.5 million of airtime to play them. This is a 170 percent increase in donated time from the This Land campaign, SCS's last nationally distributed campaign.

Harmony PSAs were used in every state and reached a potential audience of more than 200 million. That's a 240 percent increase in the audience reached compared to This Land.

Television

Goodwill Communications, the distributor of the PSAs, reported that Harmony TV spots "generated the highest levels of dollar value for exposure of any PSA we have ever evaluated." Goodwill's evaluation showed that Harmony "significantly exceeded the benchmark PSA campaign that we use as a basis of comparison, and generated 50 percent more dollar value than typical PSAs we evaluate."

Radio

Goodwill Communications reported that Harmony "radio PSAs performed considerably better than the benchmark and slightly exceeded the dollar value of exposure." The number of radio stations reporting using the radio spots "is one of the highest response rates ever recorded for a radio campaign (distributed by Goodwill)."

However, the spots were used more in rural markets where dollar values and audience levels were lower.

Print Ads

Harmony print ads were distributed to 2,000 newspapers and nationally circulated magazines. Although the use of the ads was not quantitatively evaluated, the ads appeared free of charge in many national publications. These included the New Yorker, Western Horseman. Agri-Marketing, MacWorld and Kiwanis. Many daily and weekly newspapers also used the ads.

Measure 2: Telephone Calls to 1-800-THE-SOIL

The Harmony public service campaign generated 700 percent more requests for action packets than the previous This Land campaign. This response - more than 30,000 calls by September 1, 1993 - set a record for 1-800-THE-SOIL, which has been in operation since 1988. Many callers have taken some kind of action to improve the environment.

Measure 3: Volunteer Recruitment

During the first three months of the Harmony campaign, the number of volunteers increased by 36 percent compared with the same time period one year ago. A 30 percent increase was recorded in the second quarter. Some of this increase in volunteer numbers can be attributed to the campaign.

In written comments on action packet evaluation cards, several people indicated their desire to volunteer. They made comments such as: "Sent the card in for volunteer work" and "I am very much interested in our environment and would like to help in some way to preserve what God has given us to enjoy and use."

Measure 4: Action Packet Evaluation

The action packet included conservation tip cards featuring "hands-on" activities for improving the environment, a four-color poster, a Native American coloring book, a bumper sticker, and volunteer recruitment information. A postage-paid card was also included for callers to evaluate the materials in the packet.

About 5 percent of the initial 22,000 callers returned an evaluation card. About 55 percent of the cards were from those living in urban or suburban areas.

About 79 percent of those returning cards read or used most of the materials in the packet. One-third of the respondents shared the materials with others. Over 15% of the evaluations had contacted their local SCS office for more information.

Eighty four percent of respondents identified the tip cards as the most worthwhile item in the packet. This response shows an interest in taking action to improve the environment.

Most of the responses, nearly 43 percent, selected "other" and wrote that the information was on target, good, and they wanted more. Many of the written comments indicated that the tip cards will be used: "perfect for my needs, especially the tip card on plants," "I am now better informed and can inform others," and "I will tell my friends about the facts I learned." Others wrote notes of thanks and appreciation.

Two respondents provided an excellent summary of the overall comments received. "Thank you for sharing and for your creative leadership!" said one. "When I read the material, I found I can make a difference!"

Measure 5: Improved Relations with Native Americans

Harmony's Native American theme significantly improved SCS relations with Native Americans.

In Georgia, Harmony brought the Native American Cultural Society to SCS. The society is now working with SCS to localize the Harmony theme for northeast Georgia, as well as working with the agency on assistance to American Indians. At a recruitment fair in Utah, the campaign materials drew several hundred Native American high school students to a recruitment booth. Similar actions have occurred in several other states.

Harmony could not have been produced without the outstanding collaboration of the Blackfeet, Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana. The Blackfeet Tribal Council passed a resolution supporting the filming of the TV PSAs on their reservation. Blackfeet tribal members reconstructed a culturally authentic Indian camp for the filming, and a tribal council member volunteered as the language coach for Rodney A. Grant, who spoke in the Blackfeet's native language. Tribal members also coached the narration of the radio PSAs.

Salish Kootenai College on the Flathead Reservation made arrangements for Rodney A. Grant to participate in the campaign, and provided many crew members for the filming.

The college also created the Harmony coloring book, and shared it with Salish and Kootenai cultural committees on the reservation. Members of each committee were so enthusiastic about the project that they volunteered to interpret the drawings in the color book in the Salish and Kootenai languages. Not only does the color book help all Americans understand the diversity among Indian cultures, but the committees are using the book as a language instruction tool for youth on the reservation.

Conclusions

Although SCS did not conduct extensive public opinion research, the evidence shows that Harmony far exceeded its goals of awareness, motivation and public involvement.

Measuring the benefits of instilling an improved environmental ethic is more difficult to assess. The majority of the evidence is anecdotal. Nonetheless, based on the overwhelming response from public service directors and the target audience, it is reasonable to conclude that a significant number of Americans are better informed to prevent natural resource degradation and are ready to volunteer their help to resource professionals in their communities.

Soil and water stewardship, once considered to be the responsibility of the farming and ranching community, is now seen as everyone's responsibility, thanks in part to this campaign. Capitalizing on the public's interest in the environment, a creative (nontraditional) treatment, a clear-cut action-oriented message, and local follow-up to distribution, were paramount to the success of Harmony.

Recommendations

The key to the long-term success of this project is message continuity, frequency and market penetration. Continued efforts to sustain this campaign's momentum should be undertaken. In order to compete with the thousands of other organizations who are attempting to get their messages out, it is critical that creativity be at the center of subsequent campaigns.

Ideally, the long-term emphasis of natural resource protection should be on problem identification and avoidance. Central to that theme is education. Central to education are effective outreach campaigns such as Harmony.

The response to Harmony shows that Americans want to do more to protect our precious natural resources. Harmony capitalized on that spirit. The SCS, and ultimately, the environment will benefit if that spirit can continue to grow.