Context for the product
When we choose articles for the annual report, we try to represent the depth and breadth of our work: there is a farm message, a forest message, we try to get a little bit of everything in there. We think of the annual report as a way of saying: This is what we are doing with your support, here are the results we’re seeing, and here are all of the people who are involved. So we wanted to include a story that demonstrated something we are doing in response to climate change.
Understanding the audience
The annual report goes to our membership, which is about 3500 people and includes people who have conserved their land. We also send it to the state legislature, media, and people who have been members in the recent past. We share it with new members throughout the year and at events and meetings.. The total distribution is about 6,500 people, both in Vermont and out of state.
Framing the issue
This particular story is trying to get out a message about forest fragmentation, and to tie that to bigger picture concerns. This is a big issue in Vermont; the state was largely deforested as a result of sheep farming back in the mid-1800s, and gradually reforested over the last century.
In recent years, that forest cover has started to decline for the first time in 100 years, and that’s something that needs attention: breaking up the forest hurts animals, it hurts the climate, and importantly, it’s not good for the land-based economy.
We wanted to get the concept of climate change in there, but we didn’t want to weigh the story down with a scientific explanation. So we thought: Let’s open with the bear, because people love bears. What is the bear’s experience of forest fragmentation? Then let’s make it personal. What does this issue look like to people?
We brought biologist Liz Thompson into the story to talk about climate change, which isn’t the main focus of the piece, but it’s an important part of it. It’s all connected — the Northern forest is an incredible place where carbon is stored, and if the forest goes away, that’s not good for the climate.
We tend to share a lot of bite-sized chunks about climate change. It’s the idea in communications about repeating the message. Repeat the message about forest, repeat the message about climate, repeat the message about working landscapes that are compatible with protecting natural resources.
We try to focus on things that are uplifting. We know there is this issue. What can we do about it? In some ways, that’s an easier message to get across: Let’s figure out what we can do.