Make a plan for communications

As part of a six-month series on district operations, the Did You Know? monthly feature in eResource will highlight chapters of the NACD District Outlook Task Force report: “Blueprint for Locally-Led Conservation – A Strategy for District Success and Sustainability” (available here on our website). This month’s chapter tackles communications.

For most conservation districts, many of their residents, landowners, and local and state government officials, have little or no knowledge of what a district is, much less what a district can or is currently doing to conserve their community’s valuable natural resources.

Conservation districts can’t afford to be a ‘best kept secret’ any longer.

Each district’s survival depends on having a good communications plan that reaches out to all the constituents in their district. This plan should be comprehensive but also feasible given the resources available (e.g. personnel, training, finances, etc.).

In implementing this plan, districts can draw on resources provided by their traditional partners – state/territory associations, state/territory agencies, NACD, and NRCS – and illicit help from other partners in accomplishing their outreach goals.  Conservation districts are where the work ultimately gets done, but districts need to work with and through partners to accomplish their missions.

The survival of conservation districts depends on having a clear identity as a local entity as well as being part of a state and national conservation network and partnership. Conservation districts need to ensure that public officials and community groups recognize them as the “go to” organization leader for working with natural resource conservation issues. Together, we are stronger as part of a local/state/federal partnership network than as individual conservation districts.

The manner in which the public receives information has evolved and requires timely and concise communications. No longer is a quarterly newsletter or occasional article in the newspaper adequate. Successful conservation districts have harnessed the power of email, the internet, and social media to spread the word about their activities and create dialogue with customers. This requires a coordinated effort and planning by the district board and staff.

Every effort should be part of an overall communications plan which links to community needs, values, and concerns. Districts need to be aware of state and federal laws governing the public’s right to access government data, their obligation to produce such data and data privacy laws. Understanding the various data practices and laws can be complex when state and federal laws conflict. Conservation districts will have to be conscientious of data practice laws while communicating the public value of their efforts, including conservation results and outcomes.


Conservation districts need to develop and implement a communications plan that clearly articulates their identity and message consistently across all media while maximizing contacts for the district, its partners, the public, and government leaders. A successful communication plan includes these characteristics:

  • Clearly identifies activities and projects, goals, budget, time frames, and district board and staff responsibilities
    • Board members are invested in the communications plan and participate as well as staff.
    • District officials and staff are trained in all types of media.
    • Every communications activity reinforces the “District Brand,” the district’s identity, and includes your logo as well as the logo of NACD in joint communication with other partners.
  • Defines audiences and message
    • Recognizes the many audiences that the district addresses.
    • Focuses on building relationships with, or collaborating with audience groups.
    • Shows how your conservation district is relevant in addressing natural resource concerns.
  • Outlines the types of media to be used
    • Successful, progressive conservation districts utilize all types of media, not just newsletters, newspaper and broadcast media, but also websites, social media, and opportunities through conservation partnership communications.
    • Communications plan should provide a protocol for two-way communications, including a standard for answering inquires in a timely fashion
  • Provides ways to evaluate progress
    •  The communications plan should explain how effectiveness is measured.
    • Conservation districts should review their communication plan at least once quarterly to determine where changes need to be made.

The Montana Conservationist February 1

In what may come as no surprise, politics dominate this week’s edition of The Montana Conservationist. We take a look at how the national stage may affect our local efforts:

  • Who is Sonny Perdue? Northern Ag introduces us to the former Georgia governor who is the President’s pick to lead the USDA
  • Montana NRCS has announced conservation initiatives for 2017, and it’s a broad list.
  • gives us yet another reason to build soil organic matter: it can *literally* make it rain.
  • The rusty patch bumblebee is the first in the continental US to receive ESA listing, following 7 flying species listed in Hawaii
  • Montana is searching for an Ag Education Specialist to work at OPI, and apparently that’s a hard person to find (know anyone?)
  • In a deep cut from Ag Research Magazine, scientists discover a surprising source of deep soil carbon.
  • Montana’s Ryan Zinke is one step closer to confirmation as the next Secretary of the Interior
  • Meanwhile, Steve Daines is set to chair the National Parks Subcommittee, meaning we have two contacts working in the Nat’l Park arena
  • And a new Executive Order meant to reduce regulation may actually slow down the delisting of Grizzly bears from the ESA
  • Plus, we introduce you to Ian Cavigli, the new Big Sky Watershed Corps Member in the SWCDM office.

All of that, plus more workshops than your wildest dreams (what’s that? You don’t dream about attending workshops? Just me then…). It’s The Montana Conservationist for the first day of February: TMC 2017-02-01

Photos from the Area 2 meeting


2338  Attendance at the Area II meeting was good with 60 participants at the meeting that was held in Wibaux MT

img_23422342  Retiring supervisor and treasurer Wayne Mangold from Little Beaver Conservation District and Emcee for the meeting, Bob Petermann from Wibaux Conservation District

img_23632363  Administrators from Area II:  from Left to right, Stephanie Carroll, Carter County CD; Sarafina Claeys, Little Beaver Conservation District;  Sandra Brown, Prairie County CD;  Julie Goss,  Richland County CD; Nikki Wesolek, Dawson County CD; Carol Watts, Custer Co CD; Liz Riter, Powder River CD; Renee Nelson, Wibaux CD.


Creating Connection with Instagram

I saw this post on, a segment of the General Services Administration that helps federal agencies augment their online presences. They’ve got lots of other great resources, ideas, and topics for government organizations like ours. Check it out here.


By . Posted November 10, 2015.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Instagram lately.

It’s pretty big, especially among the younger populations (AKA. Millennials).

Actually, from what I can tell, it’s pretty big with lots of different age groups, genders, and ethnicities; and it’s growing every day.

Instagram users

Full disclosure: I use Instagram in my personal life. I love it. Especially now that our phone cameras have improved beyond what most people can manage with a DSLR. Especially since micro-blogging took hold.

But the question today is, how can we, as government communicators, leverage this platform to greatest effect?

There’s a couple agencies out there that have taken the bull by the horns and managed to hang on for the ride: the Transportation Security Administration (@TSAon Instagram) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (@usinterior on Instagram). They both post photographs, but the similarities, at least on the surface, end there.

U.S. Interior posts beautiful, well-composed, high-quality photos and occasional videos of our national parks and wildlife. They regularly receive upwards of 20,000 likes on their images and have undoubtedly been seen by many more people than that. They post at least once per day, sometimes twice.

TSA posts small, sometimes grainy, sometimes bland photos of the strange things people try to smuggle onto airplanes. They have expanded now to post photos of their adorable and highly skilled 4-legged employees, along with reminders of the rules for safe airline travel. They post less frequently—sometimes with several days between posts.

So what are these government agencies doing right? They’re creating content that people want to see. They are sincere. Our parks really are that beautiful! Some people really think they can smuggle “Batarangs” on an airplane! When I think about scrolling through my feed on IG, it goes something like this: baby, baby, selfie, coffee, STRANGE LOOKING WEAPON THAT SOMEONE TRIED TO SMUGGLE ONTO A PLANE, baby, food, STUNNING NATIONAL PARK PHOTO, selfie, selfie, selfie. What do you think I’m most likely to stop on?

@TSA and @USinterior don’t necessarily “engage” in the traditional sense, but their imagery CONNECTS. Their content is accessible. Many Americans have experienced taking off their shoes in the airport—now they have chuckle about it because they understand the reason. Our national parks are more accessible to most people than the far reaches of this planet. Visitors can connect these images to their own lives; feel nostalgia for them; laugh about them with friends and family.

Unfortunately, many agencies don’t have these visual resources to work with, so we need to create them. Graphics aren’t right: People visit Instagram for photos, not infographics. (although the occasional one, used where appropriate, isn’t a bad idea). So here’s my charge to you as government communicators engaged in social media—figure out how your agency can use Instagram. Post an idea here. Let’s start a conversation.

The Instagram help center is pretty robust, but here are some links to get you started:


So, what do you think? How could Conservation Districts use Instagram to connect with your constituents? FULL DISCLOSURE: MACD doesn’t use Instagram yet. But I’m thinking about it. And in my personal life, it’s my favorite social media (I’m @sturdykate).

To spur some ideas, here are a couple of Montana Conservation Organizations that do a great job with their Instagram accounts: (click on the blue name to see their full feed).

Good afternoon from the Tributary Fire A photo posted by Michael Gue (@young_men_and_fire) on

2015 Fall EO Meeting Agenda

Below please find the agenda for the EO’s fall meeting at the 2015 MACD Convention. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 17, from 3:00pm to 6:00pm at the Holiday Inn in downtown Missoula. Please check MACD’s convention agenda for specific room assignments.


MACDEO 2015 Spring Board Draft Minutes | 2014 Fall Minutes 11-18-14

 2015_Convention_EOFinancialReport | 2014-2015 Financial Review