Community partnerships and effective urban forestry branding and marketing: we can learn from our sister states’ approaches. Here, Vice President of Public Relations at CEL Kari Logan talks about the Kentucky Roots campaign of the Northern Kentucky Urban & Community Forestry Council and gives suggestions for “Developing Creative Community Forestry Partnerships.” If your community has forged a creative partnership that has benefited your urban forest, please tell us about it:   

Kentucky RootsDynamic community partnerships can be the fuel needed to propel educational forestry campaigns and programs with additional resources and vehicles for distribution. However, the best partners are not always the most obvious, but the reality is opposites can attract and can come together for the greater good of both.

Consider thinking past your typical supporters to businesses, retailers, entertainment venues, and beyond. Community forestry programs need support, and businesses need to support programs that elevate their position as environmental leaders.

When my firm launched the Kentucky Roots Campaign with the Northern Kentucky Urban & Community Forestry Council, one of our most successful partnerships was forged with a speedway nestled amid a lovely community forest. Instead of simply buying advertising, we invited the owner to help us educate his patrons on the value of trees and their care.

After learning more about why trees are dying in Northern Kentucky and the importance of getting homeowners to better care for the trees on their property, he became a campaign champion. He cut our advertising fee in half and gave us the added value of addressing the crowd over the loud speaker, setting up a table with our campaign materials at the track entrance, and shooting our t-shirts out of his cannon into the crowd. Why? Our message touched a nerve and he wanted to do something now to “protect the planet” for his grandchildren. The speedway is and will continue to be a champion of Kentucky Roots!

From there, we approached Duke Energy of Kentucky and Ohio who signed on to support the campaign with a large donation/sponsorship. We added their “right tree in the right place” and “call before you dig” messages to campaign materials and it was a perfect match!

What are the best practices and strategies for building powerful partnerships and advancing mutually desired outcomes?

Follow these steps … and triple your success.
1. Identify what you have that they could benefit from by partnering with you.
2. Determine what they have that you need.
3. Find the common ground.
4. What is the easiest thing for them to say yes to —- and what is your wish list?
5. Find a person(s) who has some decision-making power or influence, someone who can be a “champion.” How do you find them? Research, ask, and listen.
6. Make the request in person and bring a leave-behind document outlining your needs or follow up with an email stating your partnership request.
7. After you sell the partnership, provide the measurements to sustain the relationship.

When you step outside of your comfort zone, you can find a surprising amount of funding, in-kind, and public awareness support that can take your forestry campaigns and programs to a higher level.

Kari Logan is Vice President of Public Relations at CEL, a marketing/PR/design firm known for developing and implementing community forestry campaigns that educate citizens on the value of trees and engage them in tree planting and care.