Course Descriptions

Get the skills you need to approach your outreach duties with confidence and skill. Water Words That Work, LLC offers a variety of professional development training programs custom-tailored to the needs of environmental professionals like you. Each training consists of three 90-minute sessions that can be held onsite or online.

Course Descriptions

Core Curriculum

Water Words That Work: Choose Your Words and Pictures Wisely

Make a splash with your words and pictures! Relearn the language that everyday citizens use and become more confident and successful with your outreach. This course provides unique insights into what words and pictures turn your audience on, and off. Part 1. The Perils of Preaching to the Choir. You will discover how to spot the signs of "preaching to the choir" and recognize when you are sending messages that miss the mark or antagonize your audience. Part 2. The Environmental Message Method, Steps 1-4. You will learn a proven step-by-step method to translate professional-caliber information into messages for the general public. Part 3. The Environmental Message Method, Steps 5 and 6. You will discover techniques for getting others to vouch for you, and you will learn how to scientifically measure how easy or difficult your writing is to read.

More Than a Message: Outreach and Communication Planning

Even the most compelling messages won’t deliver themselves! This course explores modern outreach concepts such as market research, targeting, delivery, and engagement. You will learn how to give upper management and funders the “measurable results” they are demanding! Part 1. What Happens to Your Message Once it's Out There? You will discover how to predict the number of people who will notice your message, and how to measure their response. Part 2. Ready, Aim, Fire! or Ready, Fire, Aim? You will explore the basics of target audience research and how to choose among print, online, media, and face-to-face delivery. Part 3. Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan. You will dive deep into successful and unsuccessful outreach case studies, and learn to mimic the best practices and avoid rookie mistakes.

Perfect Outreach Projects

On time, on budget, on message. That’s easier said than done. This course explores common outreach project pitfalls and how to manage them. You will also learn how to assemble your team and coax more cooperation from team members. Part 1. Constructive (and Productive) Teams. We will study the hilarious example of the worst outreach project ever. You will learn what that team did wrong, and how you can avoid the same fate yourself. Part 2. "Role" Up Your Sleeves. Don’t do it all yourself! You will learn where to find team members who have skills you don’t, and how to get the most out of them. Part 3. Chickens and Eggs. Overwhelmed by deadlines? There’s a cure for that. You will get tips for breaking big projects into manageable pieces so you can get it all done.


Changing the Subject: Communicating Around the Climate Crisis

Conservation organizations are increasingly weaving climate science into their efforts to protect land and water. In this training, we will explore concepts, strategies, and tips for weaving climate topics into your communications. Part 1. Who Responds to What Message. In this session, you will explore climate change knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs in America. You will discover how your stakeholders fit into that picture and how to deliver messages that work for them. Part 2. Competing for Their Attention. Discover urban and rural citizens’ information habits, so you can make smart choices about how to deliver your message. Part 3. Keeping Your Eye on the Ball. Explore some pro techniques for keeping your workgroup focused and your climate messages clear and compelling.

Closing the Deal With Rural Landowners: Promoting Soil and Water Conservation

Learn the tricks of the trade from the most successful conservation field people. If you want rural landowners to say “yes” to conservation practices and easements, this course is for you. Part 1: Landowners and Their Perspective. You will explore the demographics of rural landowners, and how they make decisions about conservation practices and easements.
Part 2: Negotiations, Start to Finish. In this session, you will learn how to cultivate your personal reputation among landowners, and help them reach a decision to pursue a conservation on their property. Part 3: Persistence Pays -- and So Customer Service. In this session, we explore how top field staff provide good customer service while managing an ever-expanding workload.

Handling Hot Topics: Communication for Advocacy and Controversy

Sooner or later, the water will get hot and your reputation and success will be on the line. In this beginner-friendly workshop, you will to tell your side of the story during heated debates around rate increases, land management decisions, policy changes, lawsuits, legislation, and emergencies. Part 1. The Public and Their Opinion. You will explore who can be persuaded, who can't, and how to stick to your message with uninformed or adversarial audiences. Part 2. Rules of the Game. Playing to Win. You will learn the dos and don’ts of influence for government and nonprofit employees and how to get in front of movers and shakers to make your case. Part 3. The 5th Estate. Picking up where high school civics left off, we will explore strategies that advocates and associations use to influence public policy outcomes.

Social Skills of Social Media: Grow Your Reach Online

Is your social media generating more zzzzzs than buzz? Or worse, are you still relying on press releases and reports to get your word out? This course demystifies Facebook and Twitter -- and reveals how environmental organizations can join the conversation and grow their audience. Part 1. The “Social Skills.” In this session, you will master the “social skills” for posting and tweeting messages your audience will like and share. Part 2. Reaching Beyond Your Choir. In this session, you will discover how Facebook and Twitter filter your messages -- and get tips to "beat the algorithms” to get through more often. Part 3. Get With the Program. In this session, you will explore how top organizations incorporate social media into their operations, and how this is different from personal use.

Breaking Through Barriers: Outreach to Undeserved Communities

Foreign languages. Cultural differences and isolation. Low education levels. Sometimes environmental outreach takes you way out of your professional and social circles. 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 or come to your public meeting, how can you reach them? In this session, you will discover options for finding and delivering messages to underserved communities. Part 2. Messages that Connect. Once you deliver your message, how will they react? You will explore critical concepts like “readability” and review options for translating English materials into foreign languages.

Move Up to the Majors: The Basics of Major Donor Fundraising

For every $1 in foundation grants, private donors give $5. So why is your organization stuck on the foundation fundraising treadmill? "Move Up To the Majors" provides big concepts and practical tips for developing a major donor fundraising program. Part 1. Finding and Approaching Major Donors. In this session, you will learn how spot potential donors, build a prospect list, and take the first steps towards developing the relationships you need. Part 2. Schmoozing for Dollars. You will watch 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 prospective donors.

Make the Most of Mass Media: Working With Journalists

The news industry is changing fast, but it still shapes Americans’ opinions about their water and the people who are responsible for it. In this training, you’ll explore both old-school public relations and high-tech digital techniques for working with journalists to get the coverage you want. Part 1: Explore how to get your message out through intermediaries (e.g. reporters) -- and to stay on message when you face hostile or inexperienced reporters. Part 2: Journalists are doing a job, just like you. And they have bosses and deadlines, just like you. In this session, we’ll learn some newsroom habits and lingo so you can develop constructive relationships with them. Part 3: We will explore how news stories come together, and other options for getting your message out through the news media.


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.

Voices of the Land: Understanding Rural America's Conservation Motivations

What motivates landowners to voluntarily reduce erosion and runoff into public waterways? What does it take for you to close that deal? In this inspiring keynote, you will hear straight from successful conservation field staff what it takes to succeed and get more conservation practices in the ground.