Federal Budget Toolkit: Communications Strategy

Telling the Story: Communicating and putting a face on federal budget cuts

Our partners at Resource Media offer this advice:

  • Choose the most compelling story in your community– a wide range of targeted programs matter to your community, consider which will be most compelling when deciding where to focus
  • Choose a good messenger – find a compelling spokesperson that can speak to the health, economic or environmental impacts on the ground
  • Incorporate different views – look for conservative and progressive perspectives
  • Focus on Health – health impacts resonate
  • Point out the impacts to state and local governments – this issue will resonate with both political parties
  • Let your spokesperson tell the story – focus on a telling a good story, facts matter but don’t let them bog you down (check out Resource Media’s Toolbox for lots of resources on impactful story telling)

With this advice in mind, you’ll want to determine: 1) your message, 2) your messenger(s), and 3) the method of delivery.


Webinar: Using Communications to Put a Face on the Federal Budget Cuts (recording)
Liz Banse from Resource Media reviews how the media has covered the proposed federal budget cuts to date and the opportunities this presents in getting our message out. She also gives advice on persuasive messaging and how to tell effective stories. Anna Brunner and Jordan Lubetkin with the Healing Our Waters Coalition share how they’ve documented the benefits of federal investment and successfully communicated those benefits to protect investments in the Great Lakes.

Also, check out this easy-to-use worksheet from Resource Media to help you develop your message: Building a Message

Messengers (aka Spokespeople)

Consider the following messengers:

Small businesses or industries:  Who do you know that owns a business or is in an industry impacted by the budget cuts? Would they be willing to be a spokesperson to talk about what the proposed budget cuts will do to them and their business? If you don’t know a business owner personally, don’t be afraid to reach out. Many care about this issue and want to help protect water.

Outdoors enthusiasts: Do you know someone who enjoys hunting, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, or swimming with their family and friends? See if they’d be willing to be a spokesperson to talk about what the proposed budget cuts will do the waters or lands where they enjoy these activities.

Vulnerable communities: Do you know someone who lives or works in a community where there are ongoing pollution problems? Ask if they’d be willing to talk about what the proposed budget cuts will mean for their family and community.

Local or state agency staff: Try speaking with the local and state program staff who are facing proposed budget cuts. Perhaps they’ll be eager to speak about the benefits the programs provide locally and/or statewide and what will be lost if those programs are cut or eliminated.

Getting Your Message Out

Consider the following channels for message delivery:

  • Media
    • Pitch the story to:
      • reporters at local, regional and state-wide newspapers
      • area broadcast television news programs
      • local, regional and state-wide talk-radio programs
    • Offer your story to a newspaper as an Op Ed
  • Your own communication channels
    • Share the story in:
      • your newsletter
      • an email action alert
      • your blog
      • on your social media channels – encourage your followers to share with their followers

Once your message is delivered through one of these, or other, channels, consider how you can leverage it and distribute it further:

  • Share your published media story in your newsletters, by email, and on your social media channels
  • Ask your partners to share in their newsletters, by email, and on their social media channels
  • Ask your supporters to share via their social media networks
  • Send your published media story to your representatives in Congress

What You Can Do

  1. Assess budget cut impacts on your watershed and community
  2. Review available Resources
  3. Review the Toolkit Introduction

Resource Materials