“If it’s birds versus jobs, you’re dead. You lose. If it’s corporate greed versus protecting the forests, that’s good.”
Jon Haber of Fleishman-Hillard, strategic communications firm

Unfortunately, the general public knows very little about the conflict between wildlife and transportation. A 2006 study by the University of Denver found four major barriers to effective citizen participation in wildlife sensitive transportation projects:

  • Lack of awareness—citizens are only minimally aware of wildlife and transportation issues
  • Public apathy or a lack of citizen interest in wildlife and transportation issues
  • Ineffective citizen participation techniques and processes
  • Poor communication with citizens

While millions of people are involved in wildlife-vehicle collisions, very few people understand the full scope of ecological effects of roads upon wildlife. Even fewer are aware of methods to reduce these impacts or understand their own ability to participate in the process. It’s our job to wake this sleeping giant and cultivate an informed citizen constituency.

How to Write a Press Release

Are you doing something newsworthy and want to tell the world about it? Then a press release may be just the ticket. A press release is a written statement to announce a news item such as a scheduled event, a victory or to generate a feature story. While nothing will guarantee your story will be picked up, you can improve your chances with a well crafted, professional press release.

  • Is your news newsworthy? Just because you’re excited about it doesn’t make it news.
  • Give your story a news hook by being unique, unusual or by tying it to a current event or issue.
  • Start strong. Tell your story succinctly in the headline and first paragraph.
  • Just the facts, ma’am. Don’t embellish. Answer the who, what, when, where, why and how.
  • Keep it short. unnecessary adjectives and make every word count.
  • Use correct grammar and spelling. No jargon, no acronyms, no CAPS and no exclamation points!!!
  • Make it easy. Journalists are busy people; the easier you make their jobs, the more likely they are to cover your issue.

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date

Contact: Provide contact info for the story

Headline Announces Story at the Top, Keep it Under 80 Characters

Subheadline: One short sentence on why the headline matters; brief elaboration on main message or introduction of secondary message.

City, State – Use the lead sentence to provide a brief synopsis of the information you are presenting. Don’t assume that the reader has read your headlines; the first one or two sentences have to capture the reader’s attention immediately.

First quote: 2-3 sentence quote from an identified source explaining your organization’s position/reaction/comment on the main message of the release.

Use the next 1-2 paragraphs to expand on the opening paragraph and provide backup data or history that further underscores your message.

Secondary quotes: These further expand upon your organization’s position or give other stakeholders an opportunity to comment.

Optional additional factual “context” paragraphs.

About Conservation Group: Close with organizational information and website.

###

Remember: Just like news stories, press releases use short sentences and paragraphs. Keep paragraphs to four lines or less. The entire press release should ideally be no more than one page or a page and a half at the most. The tone should be objective and neutral except within quotes; if you find “I,” “you,” or “we” outside a direct quote, start over. And when crafting your quotes, remember that the average newspaper reader absorbs information at an eight grade reading level, so avoid overly “wonky” words or phrases…

The Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project (SREP) spearheaded an education and outreach campaign in Colorado that focuses on the human safety issue, while drawing attention to the plight of wildlife on our highways. The Colorado Wildlife on the Move campaign urges drivers to watch for wildlife on Colorado highways, especially during times when animals are migrating. SREP held a media conference with Colorado State Patrol and other partners that reached millions through television, radio and newspaper coverage. Campaign posters and driver tip sheets are displayed in rest stops, tourist information centers, rental car offices and other locations across the state.

 

The I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition educated elementary students across the state of Washington about issues surrounding wildlife and our roads with a specific focus on the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. They asked the children to express their thoughts through drawings that show how we can collaborate to benefit both animals and people in the I-90 Project. Coalition Director Charlie Raines and Washington’s Secretary of Transportation Doug MacDonald selected the winning drawings.

How to Write a Letter to the Editor

Know the newspaper’s policy. Letters to the editor are great advocacy tools. They reach a large audience, including elected officials. They can bring up information not addressed in a news article and illustrate more widespread support for or against an issue. Following are some tips to help ensure success in getting your letter published and a sample outline to guide you as your write your own:Call the newspaper or check its Web site for its requirements for printing letters from readers. Some newspapers have strict word-count limits; others only accept letters from people who live in the community. Many newspapers even have forms on their Web sites for submitting letters.

Focus on the message. As you write, always keep in mind what you want the reader to come away with after reading your letter. Don’t make the editor wonder what you’re trying to say.

Be concise. Keep your letter brief (150 to 200 words) and limited to one topic. If your letter is too long or complicated, it may be edited or discounted altogether. You can be direct, engaging and even controversial, but never defamatory or obscene—no matter how provoked you are.

Type and proof it. Handwritten letters can be tough to read. Don’t chance it—type your letter and proofread it carefully; letters with mistakes may be discarded quickly.

Refer to specific articles in the paper. While some papers print general commentary, your chances of getting printed increase if your letter refers to a specific article. However, don’t do a lengthy rehash of the article, simply refer to it briefly. For example, “I strongly disagree with (author’s name) narrow view on habitat protection (op-ed title, date)”…

“I am deeply saddened to read that Representative Doe is supporting this destructive and unnecessary road project (article title, date)”…

 

“I am happy this paper has taken up the charge for protection of endangered species (op-ed title, date) and I hope Senator Doe listens to this message when casting her vote.”

Be timely. When responding to an article, submit your letter to the editor as soon as possible. You want the original article to be fresh in the mind of the audience.

Get personal. The best letters contain attention-getting information or personal anecdotes. Refer to personal stories to make your point. Use personal examples whenever you can.

Include your contact information. Many newspapers will print a letter only after verifying the identity and address of the author. Provide your full name, address, ZIP code and daytime telephone number so the newspaper can easily contact you to verify your letter or to discuss editorial changes prior to publication.

Don’t give up. Most publications are very selective. The smaller the newspaper’s circulation, the better your chances of getting your letter printed. Don’t keep calling to check on the status of your letter. If your letter isn’t selected, don’t be discouraged. You can send a revised letter with a different angle at another time. Be aware, too, that many publications have guidelines about repeatedly printing letters from a single individual, so don’t expect to have your letters printed on a regular basis.

Share your success. If your letter is published, don’t stop there. Send the clip to your elected officials so they see what their constituents are writing and reading about. And don’t forget to send it to your fellow conservation advocates. It’s your voice that helps us all succeed in our work and we want to hear it.

 

“The problem the environmental community has is they don’t listen to their opponents. When I do my research, I spend more time studying the opposition argument because that’s what I need to respond to. The environmental community never listens. If they listened, they would have realized very early on that they would find common ground with other allies.”
-Republican pollster, Frank Luntz

Additional Resources

Robin Hood Marketing: Stealing Corporate Savvy to Sell Just Causes
Andresen, Katya. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco, California. 2006.

Designing a Communication Strategy: the 4-P Workshop
Conservation International, Washington, DC

Charlotte Web Design
Website Design for non-profits. Lucid Crew, Charlotte, NC.

Now Hear This: The Nine Laws of Successful Advocacy Communications
Fenton Communications, Washington, DC

Communications Tools for Nonprofit Professionals
Spitfire Strategies

Speak Up! Media Relations
Governors Highway Safety Association

Dialing In, Logging On, Nodding Off: The True Costs of Teleconferences, Videoconferences and Webinars
Andy Goodman, The Goodman Center
“How NOT to run a teleconference or webinar” Over 1000 employees of nonprofits, foundations, educational and cultural institutions and government agencies across North America participated in a survey to determine the right and wrong way to meet and work online.