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WOW: Communications Tools

Download the toolkit!

Download the toolkit


Upcoming Workshops

Attend one of our workshops designed to help you communicate more effectively about water in order to gain a wider audience of support. Pulling from our Communications Kit, we'll share insights from social science as well as experience in the field to explain how people "hear" and think about messages related to water. We’ll also explore frameworks for communicating effectively about complex issues, teach you how to develop effective messages, and present tips for language to use (and avoid).

If you're interested in hosting a workshop in your area, please email Chelsea Chandler at


Past Workshops

Healing Our Waters Conference
Tuesday, September 29 - Thursday, October 1st, 2015
Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL

Wisconsin Wetlands Association Conference
Thursday, February 26th, 2015 • 1:30-4:30 PM
Monono Terrace Conference Center, Madison, WI

Dane County Office of Lakes & Watersheds
Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 • 6-8:30 PM
Aldo Leopold Nature Center, Madison, WI



This guide is the result of recommendations from the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters Waters of Wisconsin (WOW) communications working group. The communications working group brought together leaders across a range of communication specialties and fields, including communications research, public outreach, journalism, ethics, faith, advocacy, and marketing. These leaders came together to ask, “What are the stories that need to be told about waters in Wisconsin?,” and, “What are some communication strategies and best practices that can help us tell those stories?” Their goal was to identify communications needs for engaging wider communities in the public policy process and in water stewardship.



This toolkit includes communication strategies and a guide for message development to facilitate effective conversations about water. It is designed for people working on water issues, water conservation practices, and public engagement around water resources in Wisconsin. Users of this guide may include members of neighborhood and grassroots organizations, nonprofits, environmental and natural resource educators and communicators, Extension agents, business and sustainability leaders, policy experts, and others.

The working group applied social science research and best practices in strategic communications to develop this toolkit. By following some of the recommended strategies below, a common narrative about the waters of Wisconsin may begin to emerge—one that will appeal to the citizens of Wisconsin to help conserve and protect this crucial natural resource.

This communications toolkit is made possible by grants from the Joyce Foundation, the Brico Fund, and donors who support the Wisconsin Academy’s Initiatives. We gratefully acknowledge their support for our work.



Primary authors include:

  • Jane Elder, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters
  • Bret Shaw, Department of Life Sciences Communications, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Marian Farrior, University of Wisconsin Arboretum

With contributions from:

  • FrameWorks Institute
  • Water Words That Work
  • Belden Russonello Strategists
  • Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates
  • Public Opinion Strategies
  • Meredith Keller, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters
  • Aaron Fai, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters

...and the Waters of Wisconsin Communications Working Group:

  • Dennis Boyer, Interactivity Foundation
  • Ann Brummit, Milwaukee River Greenway Coalition
  • Kate Golden, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
  • Moira Harrington, University of Wisconsin Sea Grant
  • Linda Honold, Consultant
  • Richard Kyte, D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership, Viterbo University
  • Pat Leavenworth, Spring Oak Farm
  • Ann Sayers, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters
  • Ron Seely, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
  • Jenny Seifert, Water Sustainability and Climate Project, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Bret Shaw, Department of Life Sciences Communications, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Kirsten Shead, Interfaith Partnership of Milwaukee


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Wisconsin Academy Offices 
1922 University Avenue
Madison, Wisconsin 53726
Phone: 608.733.6633


James Watrous Gallery 
3rd Floor, Overture Center for the Arts
201 State Street
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: 608.733.6633 x25