Original Research

Making the case for biodiversity in South Africa: Re-framing biodiversity communications

Kristal Maze, Mandy Barnett, Emily A. Botts, Anthea Stephens, Mike Freedman, Lars Guenther
Bothalia | Vol 46, No 1 | a2039 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/abc.v46i1.2039 | © 2016 Kristal Maze, Mandy Barnett, Emily A. Botts, Anthea Stephens, Mike Freedman, Lars Guenther | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 November 2015 | Published: 03 December 2016

About the author(s)

Kristal Maze, South African National Biodiversity Institute, South Africa
Mandy Barnett, South African National Biodiversity Institute, South Africa
Emily A. Botts, Independent consultant, South Africa
Anthea Stephens, South African National Biodiversity Institute, South Africa
Mike Freedman, Freedthinkers, South Africa
Lars Guenther, Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


Background: Biodiversity education and public awareness do not always contain the motivational messages that inspire action amongst decision-makers. Traditional messages from the biodiversity sector are often framed around threat, with a generally pessimistic tone. Aspects of social marketing can be used to support positive messaging that is more likely to inspire action amongst the target audience.
Objectives: The South African biodiversity sector embarked on a market research process to better understand the target audiences for its messages and develop a communications strategy that would reposition biodiversity as integral to the development trajectory of South Africa.
Method: The market research process combined stakeholder analysis, market research, engagement and facilitated dialogue. Eight concept messages were developed that framed biodiversity communications in different ways. These messages were tested with the target audience to assess which were most relevant in a developing-world context.
Results: The communications message that received the highest ranking in the market research process was the concept of biodiversity as a ‘national asset’. This frame places biodiversity as an equivalent national priority to other economic and social imperatives. Other messages that ranked highly were the emotional message of biodiversity as ‘our children’s legacy’ and the action-based ‘practical solutions’.
Conclusion: Based on the findings, a communications strategy known as ‘Making the case for biodiversity’ was developed that re-framed the economic, emotional and practical value propositions for biodiversity. The communications strategy has already resulted in greater political and economic attention towards biodiversity in South Africa.


Biodiversity; Branding; CEPA; Communication; Marketing; Socio-economic development; Stakeholders; Value proposition


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