Tip •  2019-02-06

Managing Public Perceptions

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 Key Messages  - Confident conversations start with clear key messages

Landowner contact can be a little stressful. People may ask you all kinds of questions, and even if you are an expert at your job and a good communicator, you might not have quick, short answers at the tip of your tongue. That’s why we recommend you learn, practice and use key messages.

Key messages can be defined as simple statements of facts used to answer questions as directly and consistently as possible.


Key Messages

Herbicide safety

A question that vegetation managers hear quite often is “How do I know that what you are doing is safe?” or “How will it affect me … my kids … my pets … and so on?” You should feel comfortable answering these questions and have other resources, such as product literature, with you to support your response. Here are two key messages to consider.

The products we use work to control weeds and brush, and then break down after they’re applied.


Herbicide application

Other people may be concerned about the actual herbicide application. They may ask about how the herbicide will affect their trees and shrubs or if it will have an impact on their garden. Here are some easy ways to address those thoughts.

  • We use only trained, licensed and experienced application crews to apply these products.
  • We use selective herbicides and only target the brush and weeds we need to control.


Herbicide versus mechanical control

Another question that often surfaces is “Why don’t you just use a chain saw, mow it or trim it?” Here are some messages that will address these types of questions.

We do use mechanical control when it’s appropriate.

The control we are able to attain with herbicides lasts longer, provides the best control and can result in fewer worker injuries.


Benefits of vegetation management

Here are a few key messages you can use to promote treatment benefits and provide support when you need it. Try to tie the benefits directly to the things you think the people you are talking to care most about.

Vegetation management is critical in preventing power service interruptions and helping utility crews access power lines to restore power quickly if outages occur.

Failure to control vegetation along highways and roads can result in serious consequences, such as injury-causing accidents.

Left unchecked near railroads, weeds and brush can reduce train traction during starts and stops, and can hide damaged equipment and other hazards. At crossings, dense foliage limits a motorist’s line of sight.

Controlling unwanted vegetation with selective herbicides promotes a grass, herb and fern ground cover that not only discourages woody plant infestations, but improves wildlife habitat and creates biodiversity.


Tips on using key messages

The bottom line is that key messages need to convey that vegetation management is necessary, beneficial and carefully carried out. The wording doesn’t have to be exact – but the underlying message should always reinforce these ideas.

Usually one question requires only one or two key messages to provide an answer to a landowner’s satisfaction. Key messages cannot answer every single question, especially very specific ones about products. But the key messages provided here can be used to answer roughly 80 to 90 percent of the questions you may encounter.