Outreach Building Blocks

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Part I. Developing a Watershed Outreach Campaign Plan

Developing Your Outreach Campaign

To develop a watershed outreach campaign, you need to follow the six steps of outreach, which are covered in this module:

    Outreach Building Blocks

  1. Define the driving forces, goals, and objectives
  2. Identify and analyze the target audience
  3. Create the message
  4. Package the message
  5. Distribute the message
  6. Evaluate the outreach campaign

These steps are the building blocks to effective, successful outreach campaigns. It is important to identify the elements and information needed to complete each step before proceeding to the next. Starting in the middle of the process or skipping steps—identifying and analyzing the target audience—can be ineffective and wasteful.

Step 1: Define the driving forces, goals, and objectives

Once you've decided to take on an outreach campaign, you'll need to identify its driving forces. You'll also need to set goals and objectives to guide the process of engaging and informing those who are contributing to water quality degradation and motivating them to adopt more appropriate behaviors.

Driving forces

Identifying the forces that are driving the need for an outreach campaign will help determine the scope of the campaign and focus it on exactly what will get the job done. The driving force for a campaign often centers around a specific issue, such as a violation of state or federal water quality standards, the need to upgrade an NPDES permit to expand wastewater treatment capacity, or unmanaged development that has led to increased flooding and water quality problems.

Development pressure, for example, was the driving force in west Michigan, where protection of the Bear Creek watershed meant gaining public buy-in for the development of stricter ordinances outlining where homes could be built. The Bear Creek Watershed Project organizers launched an outreach campaign that was tailored specifically to spread their message.


Goals are general statements that express the broad focus of the entire watershed effort. For example, a goal for a river might be to restore recreational uses (fishing and swimming). This goal might be further defined as improving cold-water fisheries by reducing sediment in runoff and increasing dissolved oxygen concentrations, and reinstating swimming by lowering bacteria counts during the summer. A wide range of specific objectives will be developed and implemented to support each aspect of the goal. Make sure that the goals link back to the driving forces.


The objectives developed to achieve a goal need to be specific, measurable, action-oriented, and time-focused. You will probably develop several objectives for each goal you're trying to achieve. Keep the desired outcome in mind when forming your objectives. Do you want to create awareness, provide information, or encourage action, among your target audience? It is very important to make your objectives as specific as possible and to include a time element as well as a result. This approach will make it easier to identify specific tasks and will enable you to evaluate whether you've achieved the objective.

It is important to remember that as you progress through your watershed management process your outreach objectives and activities will change. For example, during the early stages it might be necessary to generate basic awareness on watershed issues, but as problems are identified your objectives will focus on educating your target audiences on the causes of the problems. Finally, during the implementation phase of your watershed management process, your objectives will focus on a specific action or set of actions by your target audience to reduce adverse water quality impacts.

Setting up the evaluation process
Although Step 6 of this module provides in-depth information on how to evaluate your outreach campaign, it is important to build in evaluation from the beginning and during every step to ensure that you stay on the right track and meet your program objectives. Ideally, feedback generated after each completed step will help you carry out the tasks for each subsequent step more effectively.

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Section 3 of 28