Coordinator Corner: Start Preaching to a New Choir

by Josh Behounek, Eastern Urban Forestry Coordinator

Now that the urban forestry conference season has ended and we are in the dog days of summer, I’ve been doing some reflecting. I always enjoy attending local and regional conferences. They are so great for catching up with old friends, learning the newest information, and obtaining those coveted continuing education units (CEUs). One theme that has remained consistent over the years is the desire for us, as urban foresters, to reach out to our allied professionals like Landscape Architects, Engineers, City Managers, etc and get them to our events. You know...stop preaching to the choir.

While I applaud this approach I believe it is fundamentally flawed. Why would a non-urban forester want to attend a ½ - 3 day event that doesn’t provide their CEU’s, have their friends, cost money, etc.? Seems like an effort in futility for us to keep trying this approach.

I propose that we as educated urban foresters take the message to them!

There are 3 relatively easy ways to do this:

1. Share Information

It seems like everyday I get emailed an announcement about an interesting webinar, news story, or project that is happening. This is because I’m on a lot of listservs. Chances are, your boss or allied partner is not on those listservs. We should be sharing this information.

I propose that when something interesting comes across your desk you engage your allied professionals in a meaningful way. This could be in the form of a simple forwarded email with a personal note as to why you think it is important & why they should pay attention. I’ve also worked with local groups to create “Webinar viewing events”. These type of live events usually get people to commit and can create a good place for additional dialogue. Plus everyone loves free coffee and donuts.

2. Go to Them

One thing we do at Davey is work hard to promote proper tree care and the importance of trees to as wide an audience as possible. This past winter we attended, exhibited and/or presented at national and local conferences like International City Managers Association (ICMA), Professional Grounds Managers Society (PGMS), American Public Works Association (APWA), American Planning Association (APA) to name a few.

Organizations like these (and others) are always looking for good and engaging content. We should work harder to write articles, conduct webinars, give presentations, and attend their events. I believe that our local and international ISA chapters or state organizations should also be exhibiting at their events. Last year at ICMA in Kansas City, MO you wouldn’t believe how many City Managers came up and asked about emerald ash borer, drought damage, climate change, and environmental equity. Davey was the only tree related exhibit booth there. Imagine the impact if the USFS, ISA, or SMA would have been there.

3. Get Social

Social media continues to explode and the choices are endless. This remains to be a great way to engage with allied professionals in a more subtle way. I recommend a professional Twitter & LinkedIn account. The great thing about these social media platforms is the amount of information that is shared. By following good accounts you can gain information about new research, tools, cool projects, and helpful tips and tricks. Also, by following your allied professionals and their groups you will gain better insight into what they want to hear and how to communicate better with them.

The amount of research and education about urban trees that is happening across the world is amazing. Trying to keep up would be a full-time job! In the current news environment, I believe that who vets and promotes the information will be more important than the information itself. In order for us to be effective in educating our allied professionals as to the importance of trees it is paramount that they trust and respect us and our field. We should each continue to improve and better communicate our message. I would like to challenge you - This coming winter “slow” season you attend, present, &/or exhibit at one of their shows. If nothing else, I sure would appreciate seeing a familiar friendly face. Cheers.

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