Putting TELE into practice in the real world is usually an iterative process. TELE invites you to build on your work by paying attention to your audience and tracking your process and outcomes. Even small changes can make a big difference.
In this example, a Minnesota partnership brought together state representatives, wildlife NGO’s, sporting groups, and timber companies with a goal of getting 100,000 cords of aspen to market within three years while also improving wildlife habitat. Their focus area was a 4-county region in northern Minnesota, and their first step was to get 140 landowners to come to an event to get connected with a forester who would then develop a management plan for them.
The organizers had a good image of the audience they were trying to reach. They believed that many of the landowners:
- owned land in the northern counties, but lived further south in the Twin Cities region
- held their land primarily for hunting
- would be interested in improving their hunting through wildlife habitat improvements
- were wary of timber harvesting and anxious about being taken advantage of
- were “weekend warriors” and busy with family responsibilities
- lived in the suburbs
- were more likely to attend an event near their primary residence than take time away from their recreation while up north
With that information, the organizers decided to focus their outreach on improving hunting through better wildlife habitat, with timber harvesting as a means to that end, rather than focusing on timber harvesting with wildlife habitat as a side-benefit. While subtle, this distinction is important for an audience wary of timber harvesting and happy to take the “do-nothing” approach to woodland management.
Below, we will compare two postcard invitations that the organizers developed with this audience in mind.
Postcard - Version 1
Postcard - Version 2
While at first glance, these two hunting-themed postcard invitations may not seem that different, but when you look closely, the differences in language and details give them each a very different feel.
It’s impossible to say how much each small difference impacted the ultimate results, but the first postcard, which was accompanied by social media and email ads, only resulted in 29 registrations, while the second version of the postcard, which was accompanied by a mailed brochure and an ad in a sporting newspaper, resulted in 142 registrations.
The first version was a big step in the right direction - having the event when people were at their primary residence and more likely to be in a mindset to make decisions about their land, and hooking them with hunting rather than timber harvesting. However, the details in version 2 are even more closely aligned with what the organizers knew about their audience.
In particular, the organizers feel that the location of the event had a big impact on the tone of the invitation and the willingness of participants to attend. A brewery and a sporting-goods store are places that many people want to go to anyway, reducing some of the hesitancy a person might have when thinking about spending an evening at an information session. If they don’t like the event, at least the whole evening won’t be wasted since they’re at a fun place. This can be particularly important when trying to reach a new audience that is unsure about your organization or what you’re offering, or a busy audience that is very protective of their time.
These invitations highlight a number of key take-aways that apply to any outreach project:
- Review everything you know about your audience, and reference your list frequently
- Be willing to make changes to every aspect of your program, from location and theme, to language and imagery
- Sticking with what’s familiar to you (timber harvesting, university venue) may not be appealing to your audience, particularly if you’re seeking a new audience
- Even small shifts in language and tone can make a difference
If you need help understanding your audience and figuring out what’s important to them, see Chapter 4 of the Landowner Engagement Guide: Understanding Your Audience. The only way to know what shifts you should make in your outreach is to know your audience well.