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Course Descriptions

Make a splash with your words and pictures! Relearn the language that everyday citizens use and become more confident and successful with your water outreach. This recently updated course draws on an in-depth national assessment of public attitudes and provides unique insights into the messages turn your audience on, and off. 
  • Part 1. The Perils of Preaching to the Choir. Learn how and why most environmental messages fail to connect. After completing this training, you will be able to spot the signs of "preaching to the choir" and recognize when you are sending messages that miss the mark or aggravate your audience.
  • Part 2. The Environmental Message Method, Steps 1-4. Learn to transform professional level conservation writing into messages that are suitable for everyday citizens. You will learn steps 1-4 of the "Environmental Message Method:" Begin With Behavior, Foolproof Photos, Swap the Shoptalk, and the Words That Work.
  • Part 3. The Environmental Message Method, Steps 5 and 6. You will learn to approach others to vouch for you in your message, and how to measure the difficulty of your writing to determine if it will educate -- or irritate -- your audience

More Than A Message, .6 CEUs

Even the strongest water message won’t deliver itself! Learn how environmental outreach pros plan their campaigns, measure their accomplishments, and do it even better next time. The More Than a Message training provides concepts and tips for planning and carrying out your next outreach, fundraising, or advocacy effort. The workshop trains you how to target specific audiences, deliver your message to them, and turn a fleeting moment of attention into action!
  • Part 1. What Happens to Your Message Once it's Out There? In this workshop, learn how you can use "the slope" to predict and measure the number of people who notice and respond to your message. Discover what it takes to turn simple actions into big steps that really make a difference.
  • Part 2. Ready, Aim, Fire! or Ready, Fire, Aim? In this session, we will explore how to research your target audience and deliver your message using mass media, direct marketing, and online techniques.
  • Part 3. Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan. You will learn to distinguish successful and unsuccessful communication efforts and how to draw up the best plan possible with the resources you have available.

Perfect Outreach Projects, .6 CEUs

On time, on budget, on message. So easy to say. So hard to do. In this course, you will learn how environmental outreach projects can go wrong and
how to reduce your risk of a self-inflicted disappointment. The Perfect Outreach Project series provides a practical introduction to the art and science of "project management" -- assembling skilled teams and ensuring productive teamwork.  
  • Part 1. Constructive Committees & Securing Signoffs. We will study the hilarious example of the worst outreach project ever and what mistakes caused the committee to tie themselves up in frustrating knots. Then you will learn how your team can work together to avoid the same fate.
  • Part 2. "Role" Up Your Sleeves. "Role" with the Punches. Don’t do it all yourself! Get the most out of the people on your team and learn where to find people who have the skills that you need... even if you can't afford to pay them.
  • Part 3. Chickens and Eggs. Overwhelmed by deadlines? There’s a cure for that. In this session, you will get tips for breaking big projects into manageable pieces. And you will learn what to say to secure cooperation from whomever is holding you up.

Capstone Project (Coming Soon)

Students who complete all three of our core courses, Water Words That Work, More Than A Message, and Perfect Outreach Projects, will be invited to complete a capstone project in a small group setting. All students who complete a capstone project will earn a professional "Communications for Community Leadership" certificate they can place on their resume. 

Elective Courses

Combat Communication for Conservationists

Conservation and controversy often go hand in hand. Sooner or later, tensions will rise and your reputation and success will be on the line. In this beginner-friendly workshop, you will learn the ground rules and smart outreach strategies for building public support for your position. The course includes specific tips for rate increases, land acquisition, regulatory changes, permits, litigation, legislation, and other common situations that ruffle feathers in your community.
  • Part 1. Rhetoric for Offense and Defense. We'll explore who can be persuaded, who can't, and the words and pictures that work best. 
  • Part 2. The Rules of the Game, and Playing to Win. In this session, we'll cover the different ground rules that public servants and nonprofit organizations must comply with. And we'll cover common situations and tactics for influencing public opinion, mobilizing support, and sending political signals to those in power.  
  • Part 3. "Organize" is More Than A Slogan. In this session, we'll provide tips for advocates and agencies to organize their outreach before they even begin. We'll explore how databases, coalition charter documents, designated spokespeople, and other tactics help your team function smoothly and focused on your goals. 

Social Skills of Social Media

Is your social media generating more zzzzzs than buzz? Or worse, are you still relying on press releases and reports to get the word out? Either way, let’s fix it! Water Words spent 2016 studying how leading clean water agencies use social media differently from the rest. And we have packaged our findings into a training that will help you reach more people and be more persuasive than ever. We will demystify what makes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites “social” -- and reveal best practices for joining the conversation and avoiding common pitfalls. This is a Water Words course -- and that means active participation! Bring your laptop or tablet and a willingness to try new things.
  • Part 1. The Message Method. In this session, we’ll define the five “social skills” and show how you can use our “Environmental Message Method” to prepare appealing and shareable content on Facebook and Twitter. 
  • Part 2. Reaching Beyond Your Choir. In this session, we’ll explore how Facebook, Twitter, and other services filter messages before they even reach your audience -- and what your options are to "beat the algorithms."  
  • Part 3. Managing Social Media Programs. In this session, we’ll learn about how successful organizations assign staff and develop budgets and workplans for social media. 

Breaking Through Barriers

Foreign languages. Cultural differences and isolation. Low education levels. More often than not, you will encounter these barriers when working in the very communities that are most at risk of catastrophic weather and environmental hazards. And you will also encounter these barriers when reaching out to those who catch the fish, cut the trees, dig the mines, drill the wells, and drive the bulldozers. The Breaking Through Barriers series provides big concepts and practical tips to help you reach out to "underserved" audiences from all walks of life.

  • Part 1. Culturally Sensitive and Targeted Outreach. If they don't read the paper, visit your website, or come to a public meeting, how can you reach them? In this session, we will review some of your options for finding and delivering a message to underserved communities.
  • Part 2. Messages that Connect. You have delivered your message. Can they understand it? In this session, we will explore the concepts of “readability” the art and science of writing for audiences that don’t read well. And then we will review your options for translating English language materials into foreign languages.

Move Up to the Majors

For every $1 that a foundation gives to a nonprofit organization, private donors give $5. So why is your organization stuck on the foundation fundraising treadmill? The "Move Up To the Majors" series provides big concepts and practical tips for setting up a fundraising program to tap the deep pockets of wealthy and generous individuals in your community. 
  • Part 1. Finding and Approaching Major Donors. What are the demographic and psychological traits that make somebody a promising major donor candidate and how can you find those people in your community? In this session, you will learn how to efficiently build a list of prospects and take the first steps towards developing a relationship with them.
  • Part 2. Schmoozing for Dollars. Major donors have very different needs and goals than foundation officers. Earning their trust requires a different approach. In this session, you will watch a variety of conversations between donors and fundraisers to see how it's done. Then you will rewrite the scripts and role play the conversations yourself. You will leave this session ready to approach that prospective donor without feeling like a beggar or a used car salesman.

Outreach Fundamentals

Do you need the skills and techniques to bring your outreach ambitions to life? Outreach Fundamentals is our "greatest hits" training series, designed to meet the needs of staff and board who must oversee and participate in fundraising, advocacy, and adult education or behavior change programs. We will provide a high level introduction to the most critical components of a successful outreach effort.
  • Part 1. Water Words That Work (condensed). Learn how and why most environmental messages miss the mark. You will learn the basics of transforming professional-level information into messages that are clear and compelling to your target audience.
  • Part 2. More Than A Message (condensed). In this workshop, learn how you can use "The Slope" to predict and measure the number of people who notice and respond to your message. Discover what it takes to turn simple actions into big steps that really make a difference.
  • Part 3: Perfect Outreach Projects (condensed). We will study the hilarious example of the worst outreach project ever -- and what mistakes caused the committee to tie themselves up in frustrating knots. Then you will learn how your team can work together to avoid the same fate.

Plenary Sessions

The World Outside: What They Say About Why Your Work Matters

Take a journey through conservation insights from social scientists and market researchers. The findings are sometimes heartening, sometimes frustrating — but always fascinating! We will explore what polls, surveys, focus groups, and other research tools teach us — and how they mislead us — about the public’s attitudes towards you and your work.

Taking Their Temperature: What Market Research Says About "Climate Change," "Global Warming," and Related Terms 

The most crucial conservation challenge of our times is a language landmine! In this fascinating plenary, we will explore how small choices of words can make a big difference in how the public perceives the problem and your solutions. You will discover how industry spin doctors have manipulated the public debate to stall legislative action and what that means for your efforts to help communities prepare for stronger winds, longer droughts, and higher waters.