Developing Messages for Change: Stormwater Communications Research and Tutorial

Have you ever talked to a local leader and had their eyes glaze over when you began to talk about stormwater? When you say “LID,” what do people hear? If either of these questions interests you then you will benefit from the results of American Rivers’ research on how to develop a message about stormwater to prompt local leaders to take action for smarter stormwater solutions.


Over the last several years, American Rivers conducted in-depth research with a variety of local leaders in the Chesapeake Bay region about their understanding of the problems with polluted stormwater runoff, the corresponding solutions, and their response to a variety of message concepts. While the research was conducted in the Mid-Atlantic, many of the lessons learned are broadly applicable to communications and messaging work for clean water.

Based on a series of workshops we hosted, we have converted these insights into the below Stormwater Messaging Tutorial that can strengthen your advocacy strategy. The goal of the Stormwater Messaging Tutorial is to teach participants a process to develop messages that will be effective in persuading their local leaders to take action to reduce polluted stormwater runoff and increase green infrastructure at the local level. The presentation integrates communications tools with specific research on how local leaders understand the issue of polluted stormwater runoff. This tutorial includes the following modules:

  • Developing a communications plan and principles of message development;
  • An overview of our stormwater communications research;
  • Integrating the principles of message development with stormwater research to outline a process to develop your own messages;
  • Word choice for clean water issues.

Download tutorial here

This file is large (185 MB) and runs in Quicktime.  You can also view the tutorial below or on our YouTube channel.
If you have trouble downloading the file please contact us for assistance.

Additional Materials:The following two exercises are part of the stormwater messaging tutorial – the first helps to define you audience and objective and the second is designed to explore message context and themes. The tutorial will further explain how these can be used. Once you are finished, please help us by filling out the evaluation to provide feedback on the tutorial.

Watch the Tutorial Now:



Further Messaging/Outreach Information:

U.S. EPA Nonpoint Source Toolbox – For good information about outreach campaigns and an entire section on existing public opinion research and polling see