Storytelling: Making Your Audience the Lead in Protecting Clean Water

Date / Time:
Tuesday, Sep 26 2:10pm to 2:40pm
Convention Center 202
Track / Session:
Municipal Programs Track / Public Outreach

The focus of most programs is about how to get residents to change. Unfortunately, this often sets up a situation where the story is about your program and your audience is more aligned with the villain role (and the more likely they are to pollute the more we need to reach them). But, when they become the bad guys, they are less likely to listen, let alone be motivated by our message. As a matter of fact, the results are often worse. Research has shown that by putting people on the defensive, they are more likely to resist, ignore and minimize the topic.

This presentation will look at ways to change the dynamics of an outreach program and allow your audience to be the heroes or lead actors. The key element is repositioning the main focus and building an outreach program around the audiences' narratives of how they see themselves and who they aspire to be. Then using the psychological principles of cognitive consistency (the desire to avoid perceived inconsistencies), programs can encourage audiences to take steps to reduce their impact and close the "perception/behavior gap." It is a subtle and very powerful technique.


The presentation will end with simple and concrete examples of implementation, then give steps to incorporate this concept into outreach activities that avoid the pitfalls of guilt or shaming, but build instead an on-ramp to behavior change.

Primary Speaker:
Stephen Groner, SGA Marketing
Primary Speaker Biography: 

Stephen Groner is the founder and president of S. Groner Associates (SGA) a social marketing firm that designs outreach programs that target environmental issues. Now in the firm's 18th year, the firm is a past winner of the Silver Anvil award from the Public Relations Society of America for the best public service campaign in the country for a project completed for the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Prior to forming SGA, Mr. Groner (a registered civil engineer) worked nine years on environmental issues for Los Angeles County. There he started out working on technical and policy issues, before shifting his focus to environmental affairs and communications, where he led the development of some of the largest municipal public outreach programs in the country.

Mr. Groner also is very activity in the community and serves on the board of three non-profits, the US Green Building Council - Zero Waste Advisory Board, Social Venture Partners, and Friends of Ballona Wetlands (a conservation group dedicated to preserving one the largest remaining urban wetlands in California).