Outreach and education efforts make the most impact when they are part of a well-thought out education campaign. Educational campaigns must carry a consistent message, look, and “feel” to the outreach and education efforts so that the target audience connects each piece to the overall goal of your project.
Effective outreach campaigns don’t just magically happen. They take careful planning. Think about what is driving your group to put together a campaign. What do you hope to achieve? Who is your target audience? What do you know about them? Why aren’t they already doing the thing you are asking them to do? Then ask, what kind of message would they relate to? How should it be delivered? Who should deliver it? Finally, at the end of your campaign, how will you know if you are successful? All of these pieces need to go into your education campaign planning.
It may sound like a lot of work, but you don’t need a degree in marketing or environmental education to put together a successful watershed campaign. U.S. EPA has developed a handbook called Getting in Step: A Guide for Conducting Watershed Outreach Campaigns [PDF] to assist watershed groups in preparing and conducting stakeholder outreach and public education campaigns. It provides advice on how to collect information about your target audience, how to package and distribute your message, and what resources you might tap to implement your campaign. In addition, the University of Wisconsin hosts the National Extension Water Quality Outreach Education website. This website includes a wide range of resources for setting up or improving an education or outreach program.
Still having a hard time? Try checking out the U.S. EPA NPS Outreach Toolbox, an online clearinghouse of outreach materials that provides downloadable materials for TV, radio, and print. With the right editing and design skills, any of these materials can be customized for use within your local watershed.