The Russian Agricultural Census 2016 was one of the largest statistical projects of the decade. Its main goal was to update the rather outdated data that was collected by the previous agricultural census of 2006.
For CROS, it was one of the most ambitious projects that has been implemented for the Federal State Statistics Service after the information campaigns for the 2002 and 2010 population censuses, and the Russian Agricultural Census 2006.
In 2017, the project became a winner of the national public relations award the “Silver Archer” in the nomination “The best project in the field of promotion of state, public and social programs.”
At the very start of the project, the main problem was the extremely low interest in the agricultural census among the leadership of the relevant departments and ministries, as well as the media, both general interest and trade. The communication campaign was launched at the end of 2014, when the information landscape was filled with news about a dramatic turn in the Russian-Ukrainian relations, introduction of Western sanctions and Russia’s counter-sanctions, changes in oil prices and ruble’s exchange rate. In these conditions, the agricultural census was perceived as something completely irrelevant and not necessary. The project risked being left without support of strong opinion leaders.
Against this background, other issues related to the census – distrust of respondents, their fears about fiscal consequences and fear of confiscation, lack of understanding of its goals – faded.
This situation made organizers quickly rethink ideological objectives of the project. At the same time, research showed that prerequisites for these problems may well become the key to their solution.
GOALS AND COMMUNICATION STRATEGY
The purpose of the campaign was to convince millions of Russians who, in one form or another, were involved in agriculture or had household farmland, to voluntarily share information and tell the census taker – a complete stranger – something that even close relatives are not always talked to about. For example, how much land is owned and how much is leased? How many cows or chickens they have? How many employees they have? The census meant that respondents had to answer dozens of similar questions. Looking ahead, we can say that the goal has been achieved. The percentage of refusals from communication with the census taker was minimal.
How did the CROS team manage to achieve this?
First, the decision was taken not to go against the information mainstream, but to integrate into it. The census became an inherent element of the logic chain: state sovereignty – food security – import substitution in agriculture – agricultural census as an information base for the import substitution program. This helped remove acuteness of the main problem: indifference of potential opinion leaders was replaced first by interest and then by active participation. Experts and the media drew attention to the project.
The second fundamental thing was to create positive emotional background and to avoid bureaucratic language in official communications, using the slogan “Census is not at all difficult!” Several special projects have been developed to elaborate this message. The advertising campaign was built around the common creative concept of patriotism, love for the homeland, family and home.
Both concept lines of the campaign were reflected in the unique slogan “National Pride Starts with the Countryside”, demonstrating the symbiotic relationship between the rural areas and the country. Moreover, it was further developing the idea of the slogan of the previous census “Treat your country wisely!”
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE
The first part of the toolkit provided for the use of a full range of traditional communication instruments and was designed to convey to the audience answers to the key questions about the Russian Agricultural Census: who will be taking the census, where, when, how and what answers will be asked.
The second part included a number of special projects aimed at developing positive attitude within the target audience towards the census without a clear link to its terms, goals and other formalities. These projects were to create a comfortable atmosphere, to prepare and push respondent to the final and positive answer to the internal question: “Do I really need it?”
- Press office of the Russian Agricultural Census operating 24/7. In the period of its operation in 2015-2016, over 110 press releases and information materials were drafted and distributed.
- The website Vshp2016.ru became the central platform for communication with the census audiences. The number of page views reached 1.3 million.
- Advertising campaign (TV, radio, online, outdoor; the main target audiences – farmers, owners of household farmland, gardeners).
- Events for the media. Press conferences, round tables, briefings, press tours to the leading agricultural companies. In total, over the entire period of the campaign, 26 events were held in Moscow and regions with the participation of state officials, industry experts and the media.
- Video presentations and infographics, revealing features of the Russian Agricultural Census 2016 and agricultural statistics in general.
- The “Agricultural Poll” documentary on Russia 24 TV channel with comments by the Minister of Agriculture Alexander Tkachev, head of Rosstat Alexander Surinov and other senior officials. Farmers and owners of household farmland from different regions of Russia shared their opinion about the census.
- The Census newspaper. The newspaper was distributed in all regions of Russia as an insert in the weekly Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper. Two issues were produced with the circulation of 1.7 million copies each. The newspaper told why the census was organized, who was to participate, how the census-taker should look like, and introduced readers to the results of creative contests.
- Telephone hotline of the Russian Agricultural Census 2016 (with the symbolic number 8 800 707 2016). Over 3 500 calls were received during the entire period of its operation.
- Mascot design contest. A fictional character “Snopik” was chosen as the mascot of the Russian Agricultural Census 2016 – a sheaf of wheat with a perky smile, decorated with a bright cornflower. “Snopik” appeared in a series of illustrations used on the website of the census press center.
- “My Russia” photo contest. A total of 3 600 amateur and professional photographs participated in the contest. The most interesting of them together with children's drawings made up an exhibition in the lobby of the Federal State Statistics Service headquarters.
- Children's drawing contest accumulated about 1 600 works. The project once again confirmed the efficiency of children’s creative contests as an instrument for working with the general public within federal-level information campaigns.
- Census ditties contest – the most attractive and effective special project of the campaign. Over 1 500 ditties by over 500 authors from all over Russia competed for the awards. Several of them were performed by the professional folklore group “Partizan-FM”. An original music backing and an audio recording were made, and a video clip was shot for demonstration during the campaign events.
The preliminary results of the census presented by Rosstat confirmed that all the goals and the main objective of the campaign were achieved: respondents shared the necessary information with the census takers.
- 18.5 million respondents took part in the Russian Agricultural Census 2016.
- The share of refusals to participate was extremely low – below 0.2%.
- The majority of respondents were friendly and constructive towards the census.
- The number of crisis situations was minimal: most of them were identified and managed at the early stages.
- The media made over 31 300 articles about the census, about 55% of them were initiated by the agency. Many materials were reprinted in the social media with about 40 000 posts recorded.
- The campaign was very positively evaluated by Rosstat senior officials: key members of the project team received the official medals of the Federal State Statistics Service.