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REGION 8: “Messaging” is the message at the Communications Training at the Region 8 All Project Leaders Meeting
California-Nevada Offices , June 26, 2008
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Scott Flaherty (right) interviews spokesman Cesar Blanco of the Region 8 Fisheries Program during media training June 26, 2008 in Monterey, Calif. (photo: Steve Henry, USFWS)
Scott Flaherty (right) interviews spokesman Cesar Blanco of the Region 8 Fisheries Program during media training June 26, 2008 in Monterey, Calif. (photo: Steve Henry, USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a

By Alexandra Pitts, Erica Szlosek and Scott Flaherty, External Affairs, Region 8

 

“Communicating what we do for the Resource and why we do it is critically important and is the first step in gaining public trust and support for our mission.  I want communicating your station’s successes to be a priority”

 

- Regional Director Steve Thompson: 2008 Regional Priorities Memo

 

The ability to clearly and expertly communicate is a skill requiring constant practice.   In recognition of this, several years ago Regional Director Steve Thompson asked all of the project leaders to take a week-long media training at the Service’s National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia. In addition, Thompson made communications part of his annual priorities memo and supported the External Affairs program’s idea to provide a “refresher” communications class for the attendees at the All Project Leaders Meeting held in Monterey in June .

 

The presentation began with an overview of the External Affairs program in the regional offices and how important our field office PAO colleagues are to coordinating and delivering the Region’s and the Service’s messages.

 

As part of the communications training, the presenters asked the question “the Project Leaders are the voice and face of the Service.  We have messages to deliver.  What’s yours?”

 

Messaging:  Messaging is a brief focused statement that clearly communicates what we want an audience to understand.  A great example of a clear message is the Service mission statement.

 

The US Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve fish, wildlife plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

 

Messaging is not a lengthy, jargon filled rambling containing beliefs or opinions expressed in data, lists tables and figures and its NOT spin.

 

So how do Project Leaders learn to develop effective messages?

 

Project leaders next learned some of the basic elements of crafting messages. First, communicate what we want the audience to know.  Who we are and the most important things we do are key to include. Consider adding our core competencies, reason for being and “value added” benefits.

 

Next, make it conversational. Avoid jargon and overly scientific terms.  Make it easy to understand.

 

Finally, make it quotable and memorable.   Have your message be what you want to appear in print or broadcast in a sound bite.  In media interviews, messages are responses rather than answers.  Have your messages function as a take away for the audience, something that resonates with them after he story is published or broadcast.

 

Developing Messages:

 

Project Leaders also learned some basics of developing a message.

 

Rule of three: determine the three (or five) most important facts you want your audience to know.

 

Keep it simple: put each fact into one or two simple, declarative sentences (eight to 15 words)

 

Be Bold.

 

Paint a picture, use analogies.

 

Connect your local message to a regional or Service message or priority.

 

Role Playing:

 

In our first exercise we asked three project leaders to respond to a question about their stations.  Their first answer was a “just the facts”, no message answer.  Asked the question again, they responded with a brief, succinct response that captured the essence of what they do.  The laughter and nodding heads in the audience told us they could really tell the difference.   

 

After a brief primer on Service core, climate change and children and nature messages, the project leaders, including Regional Director Steve Thompson and several Program ARDs, were assigned to small groups. Each group was given a different fictitious scenario relating to possible real-world situations.  Group members discussed and developed messaged responses to questions posed in their scenario and selected a spokesperson to respond to “the media.”

 

External Affairs’ Scott Flaherty “acted” as inquisitive reporter, including California outdoor television legend Heull Howser, and interviewed the spokespersons for each group. The Role-playing exercise helped provide a realistic and challenging interview experience for our project leaders.  The light-hearted and often humorous training served to drive home the point that excellent communications don’t happen without effort and practice. 

 

Employees can view the presention and training on the Region 8 Intranet site.   

 

 


Contact Info: Alex Pitts, , alexandra_pitts@fws.gov



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