Communicating for Success - a handbook for MPAs



This guidebook for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) outlines how to use communication as more than just a tool for outreach, but rather as a mechanism to catalyze change in a community’s attitude and behavior. When using various communication techniques, it is important to regard them as tools to create change from the very beginning, rather than a way to update the community on progress after the fact.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are one of the most ef¬fective tools we have established to promote conservation and diversity in the ocean today. From the clear blue reefs of the Caribbean to the icy waters of the Arctic, MPAs have made a proven difference. In a recent study, scientists explicitly identified five key features of successful MPAS: No-take reserve, well Enforced, Old, Large, and Isolated (NEOLI). The more of these features an MPA encompasses, the more successful it is. Of the MPAs with all five NEOLI features, there is a “224% increase in fish biomass; over a 800% increase in large fish, grouper, and jack biomass; and a nearly 2000% increase in shark biomass, however less than 5% of the MPAs in this study had all 5 features.” These statistics provide a source of encouragement that MPAs work and a sense of urgency to make more them even more effective. One of the most fundamental tools that managers can use incite such change is strategic communication. 

This guidebook outlines how to use communication as more than just a tool for outreach, but rather as a mecha¬nism to catalyze change in a community’s attitude and be-havior. When using various communication techniques, it is important to regard them as tools to create change from the very beginning, rather than a way to update the com¬munity on progress after the fact.

Communication should not be a one sided conversation. It is ultimately a way to engage in productive dialogue with those that you are try¬ing to reach. When used properly, strategic communication is more practical and effective than policy, especially when there is inadequate enforcement of the policy. 

This guidebook is an unprecedented effort by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas-Marine (WCPA) to inspire a new view on communication. It will outline different types of media strategies with step-by-step instructions so that you can determine what is the most appropriate strategy for dif-ferent situations and how to effectively employ use it. 

We hope this is just the beginning of sharing communications and invite you to submit ideas, your best practices and case studies of applied communications strategies to share with others. Please send your input to via email to matthew. stout@noaa.gov and we will update this document regularly to share the best knowledge and practices out there.

Download the guidebook here

About the Author

As Chief of Staff, Matt oversees all communications, constituent and congressional programs as well as signs and exhibits for the ONMS. Matt joined the sanctuary office from NOAA Public Affairs in 1999. Before serving as Senior Public Affairs Officer for NOAA, Stout worked as for a senior staff for Senator DeConcini and Press Secretary for Congresswoman English. Matt holds a B.S. in Public Relations from Northern Arizona University.

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