Using the Stick Person

Purnima Chawla

October 22, 2019

The Stick Person tool (see the TELE workbook, page 32) helps you to develop a profile of your target landowner population in response to four categories of questions:

  • What’s important to them? What do they value?
  • What do they do? How do they spend their time and money?
  • What gets their attention? What are they concerned about?
  • What do they know, hear, see or believe about the target behavior?

Only the last question directly pertains to forestry or conservation in particular; the first three are about landowners’ regular lives. Knowing people’s general values, circumstances, lifestyles, and interests may seem irrelevant at first, but this information is crucially important for developing effective programs and messages. For example:

  • Information about what landowners value tells you what might motivate them to take action. Organize your message around a value that is important to them (like family legacy, community character, or a sense of personal responsibility). Other related or complementary values can be included as secondary reasons to act. You can also reflect landowners’ values in your imagery. For example, one group used images of picture-perfect, meticulously tidy farms because they knew that well-kept farms are a source of pride in that community.   
  • Knowing where and how people spend their time and money tells you two important things: (1) how much disposable time and income they have to put towards conservation and (2) what are good locations and channels for reaching your audience. For example, if the locals tend to hang out at a particular coffee shop, put your fliers there. If they’re likely to go to the county fair, make sure to get a booth.
  • You can use your audience’s consumer or leisure preferences to connect with them or get their attention. People will pay more attention to you if your materials signal that you “get” them and their world. For example, if your landowners tend to spend their money on their trucks, you can feature a landowner in a shiny new truck to suggest prosperity or confidence. If hunting is a big pastime, use images or language to reflect their enthusiasm for the sport.
  • Knowing what people in that area are concerned about—i.e., what tends to dominate the local conversation—can help you find the perfect attention-getter. For example, you can use a rural community’s concern about encroaching development to call attention to land management issues that affect their income or quality of life. Or, if your target farmers tend to tune into a particular radio show, that might be a perfect channel for your message.

The key to using the Stick Person well is to understand that landowners are simply people who own land. They share many of the values, circumstances, preferences, and ideas of others who live in their community. Understanding their broader values, circumstances, and prevailing social norms is crucial for reaching landowners, getting their attention and trust, and persuading them to take action.