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Advocacy Toolkit

How to Use This Toolkit

Before beginning outreach efforts, it is important to think about specifically who you need to engage, what they care about and what might hold them back from taking the action you want them to take.

This approach to communication, centered in understanding and responding to your audience’s specific values, is called values-based messaging. Most importantly, it requires you to acknowledge that what your audience cares about may not be the same thing that you care about. Finding the place where your interests intersect is key to building support.

It takes support from all kinds of people to make policy change, and so the first step in building your message platform is to identify which specific audience you want to target with your message. Below are some examples of different types of audiences to consider:

  • Policymakers influenced by equity
  • Policymakers influenced by economics
  • Municipal agency partners
  • Park and recreation professionals concerned about costs and capacity
  • Community members
  • Local businesses and the private sector

As you think about each audience’s values and barriers to action, you also want to consider what kind of information or encouragement they need. Different audiences may have different levels of understanding when it comes to your issue or action item.

For some audiences, you will mostly be sharing information. This involves explaining an idea that your audience may not know, believe in or have strong opinions about. Effective communication uses facts and data points to make the audience aware that a problem exists and/or that action is needed. As a values-based message, you will choose your facts or data based on what best aligns with your audiences’ interests.

For other audiences, your task will be motivating them to act. This kind of audience knows and perhaps even cares about an existing problem, but something else might be holding them back from getting involved.

1. Use Facts and Data — But Not Too Much!
There are a variety of resources that you can use to help craft messages for your target audiences but be careful not to overwhelm them with statistics. How much is too much? We encourage you to choose carefully, understanding that most people can remember no more than three facts at a time. If you share more than that, chances are your listener may not focus on the three you think are most important, so less is more.

2. Choose the Right Messenger
Regardless of the audience, whether it is a mayor or community organization, it’s critical to consider who your most effective messenger will be, bearing in mind it may not be you. As you plan your communications, think about specific individuals or groups who are most influential to each audience, and whether you may be able to secure a champion to carry your message. When your audience trusts the messenger, they will be receptive to the message you are trying to send. Whether this is a policymaker’s constituent, community leader or someone else, who carries your message is as important as the message itself.

3. Communicate Your Limits
The messenger needs to be clear about what is and what isn’t in their power to change. This prevents mixed communication, encourages realistic expectations and helps build trust with your community.

4. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Good messaging is repetitive for a reason. The rule of “effective frequency” dictates that people need to hear a message as many as 14 times to absorb it. By the time you are tired of saying something, your audience may have just caught on!

5. Use “Actions” to Build Relationships
When you ask your audience to take action, consider each request as a rung on a ladder. Your request should give the audience an easy entry point to engage and build a relationship with you, one where you can then ask them to take another step to connect with you on a bigger or more sustained basis.

6. Use Images and Stories
Photos and narratives can be powerful tools in helping your audience see the difference you’re trying to make. When building your message platform, find pictures from other communities or stories from your own community that help illustrate the need and the opportunity it presents.

You can engage in the local and national conversation about the importance of public parks and green spaces by informing your Council Member, as well as your House and Senate members, and asking for their support.

Not sure who represents you?

You can look up your Council Member here >
You can find your House member on this web page — all you need is your zip code
You can find your senator’s contact information here >

In-person, grassroots lobbying is one of the most effective tools for persuading legislators and other elected leaders. A group of constituents coming together to make their voices heard about the importance of park funding can send a powerful signal to policymakers and their staff. Maximizing your effectiveness takes preparation.

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