Globally, honeybees are responsible for producing one-third of the food we eat, through pollination—a service worth hundreds of millions of dollars to agriculture annually. But across the globe, honeybee populations are crashing and the causes are not understood. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency, initiated a research program—the “Swarm Sensing” project—in Hobart, Tasmania, to help understand bee movements, their relationship with the environment and why they are dying en masse. This involved the use of tiny sensors, attached like “backpacks” to the back of bees.
However, CSIRO quickly realized the issue was larger than one organization (or one country) and began looking for ways to expand the research program to ultimately save the humble honeybee. This ultimately led to the establishment of the Global Initiative for Honeybee Health (GIHH).
In January 2014, the communication team recognized the news potential and global impact of the “Bees with Backpacks” project and, working with scientific leaders, developed a communication plan to assist in achieving scientific and business goals and objectives.
The “Bees with Backpacks” media and communication campaign took a local scientific research project and turned it into a global research initiative to help understand the global decline of honeybee populations and protect food security.
As part of this process, the communication team conducted research that indicated the science project represented the largest swarm sensing attempt ever undertaken in the world, with some 5,000 tiny sensors to be attached to the backs of bees during the 2014 Australian summer. The communication team also knew, from past experience, that January was a “quiet” month for media outlets and reporters were generally on the lookout for good news stories. Further research, using Meltwater and Mediaportal online analytics,...
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