Make the Case for Action

Persuasion is the toughest form of communication.

Urban Forestry Toolkit

Neither video nor brochure a campaign make.

Don’t confuse pretty brochures with effective outreach.  Your strategy will work only if you share what people want and need to hear — not when you simply say what you “know” and want to “say.”

Listen first.

Whomever you’re trying to reach, it pays to learn what matters to them. Sometimes surveys will be the appropriate tool, or walking the neighborhood, attending community meetings, or sitting down one-on-one with key opinion leaders.

Plan. Communicate. Test. Revise.

You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint.  Likewise, the elements of a communications campaign should fit neatly, in logical order, and include all the ingredients that will get you to success.

Speak so people can hear you.

Words matter.  The Nature Conservancy offers clear guidance on developing messages audiences will listen to, hear and act on. HINT:  Don’t say “green” or “infrastructure.” Say “natural solutions,” or “least-cost option.”

Self-interest isn’t a bad word.

“We are building the power and capacity of residents to analyze the structural problems and helping them realize they have the right to push our system leaders to change their policies that are affecting all areas of our lives.” Andrea Manzo, Building Healthy Communities, Salinas CA, 2016

Acknowledging this simple fact means you understand that people will do what they — not you — think benefits them. The National Academy of Sciences convened a 2016 workshop to address equity in health policy. The topic is different — but the principles behind successful engagement with underserved communities are relevant, and important.

For many, the goals will be community-oriented; policymakers need to address a panoply of public issues, from stormwater to public health. For others, the benefits they seek may be very specific and personal – higher sales for their local business; safer neighborhoods for their kids to learn and play. A robust strategy for urban forestry — based on listening, not talking — can help them all.

 Borrow, don’t build.

Our resource library is full of communications tools, including existing campaigns with all elements included – many of which can be adapted to your own needs. The California Urban Forest Council has produced an entire toolkit of materials called Invest from the Ground Up.  It even includes elevator pitches.  Many other communities have produced materials. Check out Trees are the Key, and other sources in our resource library, including the Conservancy’s Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities initiative.

Show, don’t tell.

I-Tree software can show how your own community – even individual neighborhoods – would benefit from more urban forestry.  Share your i-Tree Landscape maps to demonstrate the impact urban forestry can have on precisely the things that people care about.  Or try a live i-Tree demonstration that will show an audience — in just a few seconds — how adding trees to a particular site can mean dollars and cents for the owner.

Learn together.

With the right tools, residents can explore how their choices can influence the quality of neighborhood life. Paired with i-Tree Landscape or Canopy, you might try:

Related Resources
Urban Forestry Toolkit