Many natural resource professionals think of landowner outreach as an ongoing activity—they disseminate as many materials as they can; organize or attend as many landowner events as they can; provide technical assistance to landowners in the order the requests were received; and follow up with landowners when the opportunity presents itself. Not surprisingly, many feel overwhelmed by these tasks.
In this environment, setting specific outreach goals and driving landowner action to achieve them can seem impossibly difficult. In fact, however, organizing landowner outreach into discrete, time-bound efforts to accomplish specific actions can make the task more manageable. Here’s how.
At the most basic level, you can organize any goal-directed outreach program into three phases:
Phase 1: Marketing the program to capture landowners’ attention and interest. This leads to landowners "opting in" in some way, such as by requesting information or services.
Phase 2: Providing requested services and other needed assistance to support action.
Phase 3: Following up with landowners to monitor actions, sustain engagement, and, possibly, motivate them to take other stewardship actions. It helps to think of each of these phases separately and set time-bound targets for each of them.
The Ladder of Engagement (see page 20 of your TELE Workbook) can be a useful tool for this. Start at the top of the ladder to determine how many landowners need to take action to achieve your goals. Working backwards from that to estimate how many people will “fall off” the ladder at each step will tell you how many people you need to bring into the program. This is your “target” for the marketing phase of your work (Phase 1); once you have met the target, i.e., started engaging with sufficient landowners, you can stop or minimize the marketing effort of Phase 1 and start focusing on follow-up services (Phase 2).
You will be able to meet your Phase 1 target more quickly if you focus your marketing effort in a limited geography. The better you can saturate your market with your messages, the more likely they are to seep into landowners’ minds, overcome natural inertia, and move them to engage with you. Disseminate your materials and messages intensively for 2-3 weeks in one location. Bring in as many people as you can, and then move to another community, or target a different audience. Do this until you get enough landowners into the program.
Phase 2—providing requested services—will be much easier if you can engage the right partners to help you. When planning for Phase 2, think about organizations or vendors who might be able to provide specific services more efficiently. Organizing partners to provide services seamlessly takes upfront planning and some ongoing coordination. But once that is done, you can step back and maintain just enough contact with landowners to keep them on track. This is the ideal time to start transitioning to lower-cost communication methods, such as e-newsletters and emails.
Email, texts, and other electronic communications become even more important in Phase 3. Electronic media are not good mechanisms for initiating relationships, but they are great for sustaining relationships with landowners and growing their stewardship attitudes and behaviors. Use these channels to send out information and reminders, respond to landowners’ questions, keep landowners motivated, track and applaud their actions, or simply stay in their minds.