Case Studies

Maine Coast Heritage Trust – Communications Product Analysis Case Study

This communications example from Maine Coast Heritage Trust highlights some best practices in climate communications including “recommendation 1 – lead with politically neutral messages about conserving resources people already care about.” Recommendations are posted in the side-bar for easy reference. Click here to view the full PDF. You can read additional analysis below the displayed product.

Product Analysis

How this product showcases the recommendations:

1. Leading with politically neutral messages about conserving resources people already care about.

In the first two sentences, this piece offers three compelling reasons why anyone should care about the fate of salt marshes: clean water, commercial fisheries, and coastal infrastructure. By opening with a message about things that are key to the economy and quality of life in Maine, the author primes the reader to care that sea-level rise is an increasing threat to these and other resources.

2. Finding trusted spokespeople to deliver your messages.

Although there are no individual testimonials included in this piece, MCHT establishes a sense of trust by emphasizing the importance of collaborating with willing landowners, municipalities, and partners like The Nature Conservancy and the Downeast Salmon Federation.

3. Focusing on local climate change impacts and responses, rather than on the causes.

This piece is explicit about the severity of sea-level rise from climate change in Maine; in the worst-case scenario (a six-foot rise over the next century) all marshes, dependent species, and associated benefits will be lost. It is also specific about what MCHT is doing locally to address these threats — tidal-barrier removal, marsh restoration, protecting uplands — and why it is uniquely positioned to do so as “the only statewide land trust focusing on the whole coast”.

4. Avoiding technical jargon, instead using language that can be understood by anyone.

This appeal presents a four-part plan for protecting marshes with clear headings — Strategic Marshland Conservation, Marsh Restoration, Stewardship, and Statewide Leadership — followed by straightforward descriptions of what MCHT is doing to respond to sea-level rise on these fronts. Each description connects the dots between threats and consequences, and between actions and benefits. For example, protecting upland buffers to allow for marsh migration is critical to sustaining Maine’s “marine economy”, and tidal barriers “hurt Maine’s marshes” and deplete nutrients.

Rather than getting in the weeds about restoration, the author focuses on establishing a theme of partnership. The audience doesn’t need to know about marsh-migration modeling. They need to know that MCHT is working with others to align the resources and technical expertise needed to address a problem that spans multiple jurisdictions.

5. Selecting photos that bring your messages to life.

Scale: The appeal opens with a map that effectively communicates the scale of this problem, and simultaneously, the scale of MCHT’s response. With red dots, the map indicates area where MCHT is focusing — more than can be counted at a glance — and highlights marshes that are considered priorities on a state, national, and global scale. The message is: Maine’s marshes play a significant ecological role in our state, and beyond, and MCHT is covering a lot of ground to protect them “for tomorrow”.

What could be improved? Because this piece is intended for an audience that is interested in ecology, it might have been nice to have included a quotation from a staff scientist contextualizing the role Maine can play in addressing this threat.

Read more about the context of this product in an interview with Rich Knox, Director of Communications for the Maine Coast Heritage Trust here.