Title page for ETD etd-04292010-183907


Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Shaddock, Stephanie Ellene
URN etd-04292010-183907
Title Communicating Conservation: Public Relations Practitioners’ Communication Efforts to Inform the Public of the Detriments of Coastal Erosion and Wetlands Loss
Degree Master of Mass Communication (M.M.C.)
Department Mass Communication
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Dahmen, Nicole S. Committee Chair
Broussard, Jinx C. Committee Member
Xenos, Michael A. Committee Member
Keywords
  • public relations best practices
  • qualitative research
  • quantitative research
Date of Defense 2010-04-01
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
Coastal erosion is a serious problem that directly affects Louisiana and indirectly affects the entire United States. Between 1990 and 2000, Louisiana lost 24 square miles of land per year, which equals an approximate football field lost every 38 minutes (Barras, Bourgeois, & Handley, 1994). Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 accelerated this land loss by transforming 217 square miles of marsh into open water (United States Geological Survey, 2006). As a leader in seafood, oil, and gas production, and shipping state, Louisiana and the nation have much at stake with continued land loss.

To inform Louisiana’s citizens and a national audience about coastal erosion, several organizations have formed to create awareness and serve as educational bodies. America’s WETLAND Foundation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, and the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities use public relations as a communication tool to spread the message of coastal restoration. By understanding what messages the public relations practitioners disseminate and how, best practices may be found to help future coastal restoration advocates.

This thesis examines these organizations’ public relations practitioners’ strategies and tactics as well as local and national newspaper coverage. Through in-depth interviews and a content analysis of organizational press releases, the researcher found that the messages focused on government and coastal restoration engineering. Each organization also focused on different attributes determined by the organization’s public. The public relations practitioners described media as an important communication channel. The researcher performed a content analysis of news articles about coastal erosion to see if their messages made it into the local and national media. The major themes from the news article content analysis revealed attention to government, hurricanes, and coastal restoration engineering. Though the major themes for the organizational press releases and the news articles shared similarities, the media did not always use these organizations as sources in its stories. To further spread the coastal restoration messages, practitioners must develop and maintain relationships with organizational publics and news media and establish themselves as the voices of coastal restoration authorities in Louisiana.

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