Connecting with People
What do you want to see happen ? Whatever your vision, to achieve it, you’re going to need people on your side. People who love the land. Who act. Who give. Who vote. And to engage with people, you need to communicate.
There is increasing pressure to convert land, and land trusts need to swell the ranks of allies and supporters to meet these growing threats.
- We need young people to carry on a conservation ethic — yet increasingly Americans are growing up without a strong connection to nature.
- We need more local support so we can keep saving land — yet many people in our communities don’t see conservation as important to them.
- We need political will to enact the laws that make conservation possible — yet for many voters, conservation isn’t a priority.
- We need financial stability — yet our strongest supporters aren’t going to be around forever.
- We need to be relevant — our supporters must reflect the diversity of the communities we represent.
That’s why when we think strategically about our goals, we come to this conclusion: We need to connect with more people. That puts communications at the core of our work.
Setting Your Communications Strategy
You’ll get the best results from your communications if you start by backing up and thinking about your goals.
What are you trying to do?
First, be clear about the outcomes you’re trying to achieve, and focus your efforts accordingly. The point of sending a press release isn’t just to get in the news and the reason you do social media isn’t simply to have followers. The desired outcome is to motivate people to make things happen.
Who can make it happen?
Identify the people you most need to reach — people who have influence and a reason to become involved. That could mean residents of a particular area, community groups, active citizens, elected leaders, landowners, farmers, ranchers, teachers, students, newcomers, young families, outdoorsy types, potential donors, etc. Just keep in mind that “everyone” is not a target audience!
Why should they care?
Don’t lead with why you care. Focus on why they care. Frame your issues in language that resonates with your audience’s values. And emphasize the direct benefits — things like healthier communities, access to nature, places for kids to play, safe, abundant water, local food or economic benefits.
How can you reach them?
Once you know whom you’re trying to reach, you can identify the best ways to reach them. Does your audience follow local news? Do they get your emails? Are they on Twitter? Will you see them in person?
Building the Skills You Need
Communications is not the job of one person or one department. At a land trust, connecting with people is everyone’s job. Communication skills include everything from telling a story to updating a website or growing a social media network. And you can use Alliance resources to get better at any of them.
For as long as there have been stories, people have responded well to storytelling. Stories get people’s attention and get them to care — results you won’t get just by reciting facts. Stories change the way people see you. Tap into that power
Online audiences depend on your website as a hub of information about you. At the very least, you need a website that tells people who you are, what you do, and how they can get involved. The more useful resources you can offer on your website, the better — as long as you can keep it functioning and up-to-date.
Print and Direct Mail
Sometimes, printed materials are your best bet for getting someone’s attention. Offering publications both on paper and online can help you reach more audiences, and the more ways you connect with someone, the better results you get. Though many groups focus on digital outlets,print and direct mail generally secure the best results in fundraising campaigns.
With its quick turnaround, low costs and active links, email is a great way to communicate with your network. The challenge is getting people to open and read your messages. For best results, make sure your emails are relevant to your audience, keep the content brief (but link to more on your website), don’t overload inboxes, and come up with intriguing subject lines
Facebook, Twitter and other networks allow people to keep abreast of what’s happening in their community — and empower users to spread word to their friends. As you post, strive toward the Rule of Thirds, where one-third is your own messaging, one-third is news about you, and one-third is just having fun!
Media stories can help you reach a wider audience. Build relationships with journalists by reading their work, serving as a reliable source, and pitching stories that will interest them. When you get good press, make the most of it! Circulate the story via social media, your website and emails.