By Emma Likens
On any given day, consumers are exposed to thousands of media messages. These messages are filtered by importance, according to needs, desires and interests. According to UNL Assistant Professor of Life Sciences Communication Karen Cannon, the challenge in disseminating information about food scarcity issues is getting past consumers' mental filters and onto their "radar screens."
Cannon said food scarcity issues are important on both local and global levels, particularly in the community in which an individual lives. If not enough food is available, individuals cannot be properly nourished. Cannon said this is especially problematic for school-age children. She said if students come to school with a lack of food and nutrition, "those students aren't able to learn as well and they don't get the full benefit of being the member of a community that will educate them and help them learn and grow." Cannon believes children need to have access to food and nutrition so they grow up to become contributing members of the community.
From a global perspective, Cannon believes food scarcity issues are not well-understood by the majority of people in the United States, and is complicated because the issues can look very different from country to country. Because of that, Cannon said it's important when disseminating information about food scarcity issues to remember that perspectives differ from one country to the next.
Learning to reach target audiences
Teaching students how to disseminate information to different audiences is Cannon's main purpose. Audience identification is vital, because different audiences have diverse interests and preferences. Cannon said messages have to be "sticky," or attention-grabbing for the targeted audience. Messages must cater to the audience's wants and needs and break through mental filters with information about food scarcity issues.
After the message has been created, it must be in the proper media avenue to reach the targeted audience. While digital media and social media are huge players in today's media, she said different generations have different preferences, and it's important not to forget those who prefer more traditional media. Different audiences use social media differently, and should be considered when disseminating information.
Globally, Cannon said evidence of the role of digital and social media lies in the Arab Spring, a movement of people in the Middle Eastern and North African countries who were unhappy with their governments. The demonstrations and riots were shared worldwide through digital and social media.
Cannon said once the messages about food scarcity issues reach the audience, they need to be clear in expressing why the issue is important and how audience members can participate in the issue- sometimes called the "call to action." Cannon said when communicating using social and digital media, issuing a call to action tells an audience how they can participate.
Barriers to reaching the audience
Another challenge in creating effective messages is overcoming language, cultural and political barriers. Cannon said that language barriers include not only the language, but also different dialects. For example, everyday language in the southern part of the U.S. varies from everyday language on the country's west coast. Cannon said when creating messages, people with experience with that dialect need to be involved, so that the message meets the needs and registers with the target audience. Cannon said "It's just too bad that the issue of food scarcity comes up against politics... ultimately, it's not a political issue, it's an issue that is about people getting food, and having enough food to sustain their lives."
A Message From:
Facing the Global Food Challenge
A Place Without Limits: NU's Leading Role in Ag Innovation - J.B. Milliken
"Ag is Sexy Again" as Global Need for Food Increases- Ronnie Green
"Failure is Not an Option" in Addressing Global Food Scarcity- Archie Clutter
Dickey Reflects on Years as Dean of Extension- Elbert Dickey
Food Scarcity Information Dissemination Complex, Vital- Karen Cannon
Technology and Food
Nebraska- the Food Capital of the World?- Rolando Flores
Is a Fully-Sustainable World Within Reach?- Mark Burbach
Agricultural Efficiency Sustains Resources, Produces More- Roch Gaussoin
Technology, Teamwork and Stewardship Vital in Meeting 2050 Global Food Need- P. Stephen Baenziger
Protein Production Essential in Feeding the World- Matt Spangler
Nebraska's Irrigation Research Goes Global- William Kranz
The Plight of the Honey Bee- Marion Ellis
Society's Health Reflects Changing Food Culture- Georgia Jones and Marilynn Schnepf
Steps to Building a Healthier World- Jean Ann Fischer
Economics of Food
Ag Economists- Working to Assure Abundant, Safe Food- Larry Van Tassell
Global Food Scarcity, Distribution, Roadblocks- Dennis Conley
Global Economics Research Explains Food Scarcity Challenges- Lilyan Fulginiti
World Food Supply Adequate, but Poverty is the Problem- Wes Peterson
Ag Land Reflects Value of Growing Food for the Future- Bruce Johnson
A Land of Plenty- Exporting to the World Stan Garbacz- Stan Garbacz