This post was submitted by Lindsay Cornelius. Lindsay is the Natural Area Manager at Columbia Land Trust which hosts the East Cascades Oak Partnership.
Know Your Audience – Talking Oaks with People in the East Cascades
The East Cascades Oak Partnership (ECOP) is a group of people who know and love the Columbia River Gorge and the East Cascades as a place with thriving wildlife, a vibrant outdoor and natural resource economy, and incredible beauty. We are collaborating to leverage resources, share knowledge, and implement conservation strategies that will conserve and restore integrity and climate resilience to the diverse oak systems in the East Cascades region.
Understanding how people interact with oak systems and what they need from the oak landscape will help us find conservation solutions that work. For the last two years, we’ve engaged in conversations with the people who live, work and play here to understand what resources they need to make decisions and take action that improve outcomes for Oregon white oaks. Part of our learning was a communications assessment that revealed important insights into the communication preferences of many of our stakeholders.
We learned about specific language to avoid, messages that resonate or alienate, what sources of information stakeholder groups trust, and how to effectively deliver information, or more accurately, how to learn toward a common goal.
The ranching community, for example, often learns by trial and error and direct observation. They most typically pass information down generation to generation, not through written reports and print materials as the science community tends to, but by word of mouth and through shared work.
“From an early age, it got drilled into my brothers, sisters, and I that there are certain things we need to protect, and that are important. And we have to take care of those. We have a family mission with this place.”
- A rancher interviewed for the communications assessement
Glossy handouts, we have learned, are not preferred; particularly if they originate from a source the recipient doesn’t have an existing, trusting relationship with. To be successful with the ranching community, we will need to literally work alongside ranchers, sharing knowledge and engaging in effectiveness monitoring (both theirs and ours) on projects that demonstrate improved outcomes for oak while still advancing landowner management goals.
Learning about communication preferences early in the strategic planning process may seem premature, but communication is central to relationships, and relationships are central to behavior modification – theirs and ours! This learning informs the types of strategies that might be most successful, and ECOP is all ears.