Helping Agriculture Victoria staff increase compliance through better letters.

Agriculture Victoria requires all Victorian farms to keep their property details up to date with the Property Identification Code (PIC) register, so they can be quickly contacted when there are animal disease outbreaks or natural emergencies.  

They engaged BehaviourWorks Australia to share behavioural insights to redesign the letters and emails sent to Victorian farmers to improve compliance with the PIC register.

Agriculture Victoria engaged BehaviourWorks Australia to train their staff in the application of behavioural insights. The aim was to empower staff to develop, test and experiment with an expanded suite of regulatory tools (part of the state government’s Strengthening Victoria’s Biosecurity System program). A series of three training workshops were conducted to;

●     identify a key problem to focus on (in this case, the written communication sent to farmers when it comes to updating their details for the PIC register),

●     redesign the emails using BehaviourWorks Australia’s INSPIRE framework, and

●     analyse the results to see if a small difference between two new emails could produce different results.

Letters can serve as not just ‘warnings’ (where an offence has been committed), but as early compliance interventions to reduce the risk of future harms and offences. These early compliance messages have more flexibility and are less constrained by what can be conveyed.  

The challenge:
Build the capacity of Agriculture Victoria staff to encourage regulatory compliance through effective written communication.
Agriculture Victoria

What did we do?

Workshop 1: Identifying the problem

This half day workshop introduced participants to the role of behavioural insights in supporting regulatory outcomes, the BehaviourWorks Australia Method, and described different behaviour change skills that can be applied at different times.  As a result, a trial using emails (type of communication) to hobby poultry farmers (the trial group) was agreed on.

Workshop 2: Redesigning the emails and trial design

Using some key elements of BehaviourWorksAustralia’s INSPIRE framework, two new emails were designed. The only difference between the two redesigned emails was a statement that focused on incentives (a fine), or social norms (this is what other farmers are doing).  Agriculture Victoria wanted to test the assumption that fines were more persuasive.

The key INSPIRE elements utilised in the emails were;

●      Salience: Clear subject header, coloured banners and logo to draw attention.

●      Procedural fairness: Describing why they are receiving this email.

●      Ease: Clear headings and a colour-framed ‘call to action’ section.

●      Reputation/Credibility: Personal sign off from a named, credible source.

●     Norms:The only difference between the emails were the two statements describing different PIC norms – an ‘incentive’ statement and a ‘social’ statement.

A total of 1,472 poultry farmers received the “social” email, while 1,445 received the “incentive” email (a fine).

Workshop 3: Analysing the results

The collected data was shared and analysed.  Approximately 35% of farmers who received the ‘social’ email updated or confirmed their PIC details, compared to approximately 39% who received the ‘incentive’ email.  This four percentage point difference was statistically significant, based on one different sentence between the emails.

What did we find?

While the incentive (fine) email performed better than the norms email, Agriculture Victoria were surprised by the similarities between the two (expecting the fine message to be more impactful).

This highlighted thatAgriculture Victoria could pursue a broader range of influences in their engagement with farmers, not just the threat of fines.

What’s next?

In future training, we would be more proactive in beginning with a trial testing an original email with a new design, before designing two totally new messages.

Agriculture Victoria staff now have a series of resources and templates (e.g. sample size calculator, INSPIRE worksheets, etc.) to replicate the learnings in future trials.

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