In 2017, the Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF) reached out to private landowners that had been affected by wildfires. They sent letters to landowners with parcels within known 2017 wildfire perimeters to raise awareness about post-fire rehabilitation practices and resources available to implement practices. Unfortunately, the letter got mixed results and left landowners confused, leaving NDF staff fielding sometimes angry phone calls from landowners concerned that the state government might be mandating some kind of work on their land.
To avoid a repeat in 2018, NDF decided to reduce the information overload brought on by 2017’s 3-page packet (containing a letter and 2 pages of technical information) about post-wildfire rehabilitation. Instead, they wanted to ease landowners into connecting to NDF and their resources with a brief to-the-point postcard. To check that they were headed in the right direction, they reached out to the TELE Team for some input on their draft postcard before going to print. Our recommendations focused on staying true to the Components of Good Messaging (page 38 in the TELE workbook) and were integrated into a final version. Find out about the evolution of their message below.
1. Clear Call to Action & Reason to Act
“Nevada Division of Forestry Post Wildland Fire Rehabilitation” opens NDF’s first draft postcard. Since the header containing this subject line sports a pair of matching NDF logos, repeating the agency name isn’t necessary. And, introducing this subject, “Post Wildland Fire Rehabilitation,” in the header might cause some readers to tune out because they don’t know what it means or if it’s even relevant to them. In the revised postcard, the header reads, “Help Your Land Recover from Fire, Call Us for Free Advice.” This gives the reader agency and tells them what to do right up front (call us). Your Call to Action (the content intended to encourage your audience to take a specific action) should be easy to recognize so that your landowners know what to do. NDF has done wonderfully placing their Call to Action and Reason to Act front and center engaging the reader to read on.
2. Tighten the Text & Lighten the Tone
While NDF’s postcard cut down the density of 2017’s 3-page packet, the first draft was still a bit on the wordy side and the tone may have come off a tad cold and bureaucratic to landowners. Instead of using a good chunk of space opening the message with a declaration that you might have had a fire on your land, in the revised draft NDF does it in one concise sentence. They then use the rest of that space to encourage you to CALL in an approachable tone.
3. Highlighting Benefits & Reducing Barriers
By cutting much of the text from their first draft, NDF opened up space to highlight benefits to the action and assure the reader that the expected barrier of cost was not an issue. The second draft postcard emphasizes that the advice and ideas provided by NDF will make it easier for YOU to help your land recover from fire—again giving the landowner agency to control the stewardship of their land. This benefit focuses the reader on their ability to make a difference—evoking feelings of confidence and pride in their ability to care for their land. Remember how folks thought that they were being told they HAD to do something in the 2017 letter? This avoids that prescriptive message by making it clear that the action is in the hands of the landowner and NDF is only there to provide support. Also, the revised postcard states several times that this offer is FREE. It is NO-OBLIGATION. It is only for the good of you and your land. Emphasizing that the potential cost barrier has been eliminated can help the landowner inch a little bit closer to picking up the phone.
4. Building Trust with Transparency
We applaud Heather for placing her specific contact information right on the front of this postcard in the form of her business card. It really underscores that there is a real person at this agency who is asking me to let them help me help my land. She’s even emphasized the point in the revised draft by making the text on the card bigger and clearer and reiterating that she’s the one to call right in the second sentence of the text. Kudos, Heather!
Thanks to Heather Giger and the Nevada Division of Forestry for allowing us to assist their effort and share the journey of their message.