Picking a Messenger

No matter how good your message is, you’ll need to find a messenger that complements your message and carries weight with your audience. All communications elements—message, audience, messenger and pathway—must work together. Messages are most credible when they come from people affected by an issue or problem rather than those far removed.

Sometimes you may need to provide training to your messenger so they will “stay on message,” especially when dealing with the media. In general, they may need to practice the message beforehand so they can respond to questions by re-focusing back onto the key message.

Potential Messengers

Conservation/Environmental Groups Staff and Volunteers

  • Use to reach members of your organizations, Mississippi Mavens and You-First Neighbors.
  • Credible when talking about ecological problems and solutions, as well as recreational, public health and quality of life issues.

US Army Corps of Engineers

  • Use to reach all audiences.
  • Credible when talking about problems and solutions, especially engineering solutions. They are likely to be more credible with some elected officials and decision-makers, and members of the media.
  • Exception is people living in Louisiana.

Emergency and Public Health Professionals

  • Use to reach Mississippi Mavens, Distant Connecteds and You-First Neighbors.
  • Credible when talking about toxic contamination and for stories about health threats, water quality and public health. Nurses are often more trusted than doctors.
  • Doctors, nurses or physicians assistants can talk about bio-accumulative effects of toxics, but make sure they explain their terminology and do not use a lot of medical jargon.
  • Exception is people living in Louisiana.

People “Invested” in the River – Barge Drivers, Farmers

  • Use to reach all audiences, especially Mississippi Mavens and You-First Neighbors
  • Credible when speaking about their story – the problems they face and the solutions they try. The stories should emphasize the values and concerns that connect with your target audiences. Reinforce and personalize their story with images.
  • Some examples include:
    • Grandparents and their grandchild fishing or hunting (generational legacy, recreation)
    • Children cleaning up the River (future generations, personal responsibility)
    • Farmers who adopted good sustainable practices (personal responsibility, accountability, economy)
    • Fisherman who suffers from polluted run-off (accountability, economy, responsibility)

Zoos, Museums, Aquariums, Nature Centers, Parks, etc.  Personnel

  • Use to reach Mississippi Mavens, Distant Connecteds and other public audiences.
  • Effective with families and media.
  • These messengers may be seen as less “political” than conservation and environmental groups, so using them for “co-branded environmental communications” may prove effective.
  • Credible when talking about sense of place issues, ecological problems and solutions, quality of life and specific economic issues (such as tourism); may be less credible when making reference to engineering, ecologic problems and solutions and some economic and moral/ religious arguments.
  • Hold a policy-related press conference at a local nature center or park instead of at the capitol building.

Local Weathermen

  • Use to reach Mississippi Mavens, Distant Connecteds and You-First Neighbors.
  • Credible when talking about Mississippi River facts and issues. May bring a local connection to stories about the River.

Faith Community

  • Use to reach Mississippi Mavens, Distant Connecteds and You-First Neighbors.
  • Credible when speaking in an authentic way, especially when talking about the beauty, benefits and quality of life that the Mississippi River offers.
  • Many people trust spiritual leaders as a source for information.

Sustainable Business Professionals

  • Use to reach all audiences.
  • Credible when speaking about the economic benefits of restoration investments, such as cost savings from energy and water conservation practices.
  • They offer an alternative perspective to the “jobs versus environment” debate by being inclusive of economics, ecology, and ethics in their decision-making.
  • Can model how to take responsibility by “doing things differently.” These messengers can offer hope and inspiration.

Historical Figures

  • Potentially use to reach all public audiences.
  • Credible when talking about the historic and cultural values of the Mississippi River.
  • Whether as messengers for the Mississippi River, or simply to illustrate the messages, making reference to the storied history and the legacy of River, and people’s dependence on the River for survival, is keenly important.

The Mississippi River and Wildlife

  • Potentially use to reach all public audiences.
  • Images of the Mississippi and wildlife as messengers in limited circumstances may prove valuable to build an emotional connection with audiences.
  • These messengers are not recommended for science and policy audiences.
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