How to Get the Most for Your Advertising Dollar

Question: I want take out an ad in my local paper to educate people about an issue our group is currently working on.  Any suggestions about how to create the best ad possible?

Answer:  Well, you’re in luck, because there is a person put here in the world who can tell you exactly how to do this!  Eric Eckl of Water Words That Work has a website full of useful information about how to create ads, brochures, websites, petitions or fundraising letters that people will respond to. 

Here Eric suggests what NOT to do when making an argument to the public to protect our rivers:

  • Mistake #1: “If only they knew.” I hear this one from my clients a lot. “If only they knew they lived in a watershed,” “If only they knew they knew the storm drain went to the creek.” So they produce materials that are long on science education and short on action messages. As you might expect, these materials produce little action.

  • Mistake #2: Weak photography. Nature protection groups use a lot of pretty nature pictures. Pollution control organizations show a lot of pipes and oil slicks. No problem there, but when we pre-test those messages, test subjects often ask for photographs that demonstrate what action they can take.

  • Mistake #3: Professional jargon. Scientists, engineers, and lawyers tend to use professional lingo that sends the message to the public that your message isn’t meant for them. Pre-testing your materials is great way to uncover words that you thought were plain English, but aren’t.

  • Mistake #4: Too depressing. Sure, you have to convince people there’s a problem before they will do something to help solve it. But if you go to far, you will demoralize your audience.

  • Mistake #5: It’s all up to you. Let’s face it. Most of the things that everyday citizens can do to protect nature or control pollution make a pretty small difference — and they know it. But when we all do our part, it adds up to something big. So it’s very important to include in your message some words and pictures about the other people who are doing their part: donating, picking up after their dog, turning off their lights, signing that petition, etc.

Check out Eric’s website to find great examples of good media, as well as the not-so-good!