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Stormwater Ponds in Coastal South Carolina Appendix A7-1 – Creating a Message


Based on the results from the expert interviews, network surveys, and focus groups, test messages were created and tested through a marketing company, Water Words That Work, LLC. Fifty “everyday citizens” from the following coastal counties were recruited: Beaufort County, Berkeley County, Charleston County, Dorchester County, Georgetown County, and Horry County (Fig A7.1). Participants included both male and female homeowners, and varied in age (ranged from 18-65 years old), ethnicity, household income, education, employment, career, relationship and parental status. NOTE: Given the small sample size (n = 50), the following results should be heeded with caution.

Figure A7.1 Graphic showing the South Carolina coastal counties represented by participants of WWTW test messages.

Message Slogan

These values were tested for their understanding, appeal, and motivation by South Carolina coastal homeowners. The following three messages were tested in a brief survey instrument:

  • Healthy Landscapes, Healthy Ponds;
  • Healthy Landscapes, Healthy Communities;
  • Healthy Landscapes, Healthy Stormwater

Findings revealed that the panelists interpret the different slogans similarly. That is, the slogans seem to be more alike than different. That being said, it appears that the third slogan, “Healthy Landscapes, Healthy Stormwater Ponds,” had the only negative comments of the three. Specifically, participants reported being confused and not knowing how to interpret the slogan. Others talked about not liking the phrase “stormwater pond” altogether. Although these comments were only mentioned by a few panelists, they should still be considered. While the second slogan, “Healthy Landscapes, Healthy Communities,” was also well-liked by the panelists, it seemed to convey to participants that having a healthy landscape would also lead to having a healthy community. While this may seem like a target message, it is unclear what participants understand to be “landscapes” and how that relates to pond maintenance.

As such, future efforts should strive to use the first slogan, “Health Landscapes, Healthy Ponds” (Fig A7.2). When asked to interpret this slogan, participants understood that maintaining landscapes would lead to a healthy stormwater pond, which in turn could lead to a healthy community for the residents. NOTE: This slogan was used in all remaining test messages (described below).

Figure A7.2 Word cloud associated with the slogan, “Healthy Landscapes, Healthy Ponds.”

Message Logo

The first of these three messages for consideration, Healthy Landscapes, Healthy Ponds, was also developed into a graphic to gain feedback on the logo’s appeal (Fig A7.3). Coastal county South Carolina homeowners were asked to select which of the following options were most attractive. Findings indicate that panelists are split between logos C and D. Participants seemed to like the bold, bright, and modern look of logo C. Specifically, they thought the design “stood out” and was “easy to read” and very “eye catching.” Similarly, panelists also liked the design aesthetics of Logo D. Specifically; they thought it was simple, clean, and easy to read. Many of them stated that they liked the professional nature of the design and the curved line, with its wave-like appearance. Given the above information, we recommend that future efforts use Logo C. We believe that its square shape will be easier to work with in more design contexts. Logo D is very wide and may create challenges in some design situations.

Figure A7.3 Four representations of the “Healthy Landscapes. Healthy Ponds.” test message evaluated for appeal by coastal South Carolina homeowners.

Message Graphic

In order to assess the graphic component of the message, we tested three different images. Each image was tested with the each of the four different logos. The three images were Healthy Perspective (Fig A7.4a); Recreational Activities (Fig A7.4b); and The Yuck Factor (Fig A7.4c). Participants were asked to indicate which image “most gets your attention.” Below are the three images accompanied by Logo C.

Figure A7.4a Healthy Perspective” test image evaluated for appeal by coastal South Carolina homeowners.

Figure A7.4b “Recreational Opportunities” test image evaluated for appeal by coastal South Carolina homeowners.

Figure A7.4c “The Yuck Factor” test image evaluated for appeal by coastal South Carolina homeowners.

Findings indicate that panelists are split between the first (Image A) and second (Image B) images, and feel lukewarm toward both. While almost half (48%) of the participants agreed that the images depict “…something that concerns me for my community,” almost two-thirds (62%) agreed that “…stormwater ponds are important to my community.” This finding may suggest that the problem is with the images themselves, and not the subject matter (i.e., stormwater ponds).

Given that Images A and B were essentially tied, future efforts may want to use the Image B design, but find more attention-getting images. The split screen design of Image B allows organizations to insert one photo that clearly shows a face (the most consistently attention getting type of image) and one other image that focuses on a well-maintained stormwater pond with a healthy and safe recreational value.

It is worth noting that Image C did not resonate with participants. They thought the image was “unsightly” and “not visually appealing.” This image may counteract the primary message of “Healthy Landscapes, Healthy Ponds.” Future efforts should aim at promoting what a “healthy” pond should look like.

Short and Long-term Outreach Strategies

A previous evaluation of stormwater awareness and best practice adoption found that intensive training sessions (workshops, consultations, and guidebooks), as well as media campaigns (television, direct mailing, signs/billboards) were the most effective methods in reaching residents and motivating practice adoption (Swann, 2000). Dietz et al (2011) found that newsletters, demonstrations, and the use of the Internet were not as effective in enacting environmentally responsible behavior changes. Given the residents’ interests in self-efficacy and having full access to resources for stormwater pond management, we recommend creating an instructional booklet for outreach to residents. We used feedback from pond management experts and city and county staff to identify the most frequently asked questions and concerns of residents, and stormwater, engineering and public works staff..

Given the preference for electronic sharing of information and resources, and the need to demonstrate the whole systems approach to stormwater pond management, the framework for an interactive, clickable neighborhood website has been drafted that focuses on the top concerns expressed by stormwater, engineering and public works staff and pond management professionals.

As the culmination of our research efforts, here we present our recommendations for a short and long term strategy to create and disseminate outreach materials. Next steps are outlined for agencies, communities, institutions, and natural resource educators. Based on our research and the included guidance on messaging, these are our recommended next steps for the development and dissemination of outreach materials using recommended messages.