Five Tools That Will Change Your Communications Game

It feels like everyone has something to say these days — which isn't necessarily a complaint; there is a LOT to be talking about! An unfortunate byproduct of this is that getting heard is a lot easier in theory and not in practice. With the information and content overload that we sift through daily, employing different communications tools and strategies is a requirement to ensuring that your message is being transmitted as efficiently as possible.

While large organizations have communication departments at their disposal, smaller groups have to make due with what they have. Luckily, several game-changing communication tools exist online and can punch up your organization's communications to compete with the big guys. 


A social media must-have, Hootsuite is an absolute necessity for any organization that interacts with social networks (So... every organization!). This platform, with a totally fine free package and optional premium features, syncs all of your organization's social media platforms into one headquarters. Gone are the days of switching tabs between your org's Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Wordpress, and Google+ profiles... it's all in one place!

Hootsuite's Publisher hub via Hootsuite

Hootsuite's Publisher hub via Hootsuite

Hootsuite Analytics via Hootsuite

Hootsuite Analytics via Hootsuite

With handy engagement tabs that display all of the mentions and interactions between other profiles and your own, Hootsuite makes having one unified voice on social media easy. It's also great for scheduling posts, so that your brand can maintain steady communication based on your needs. The premium suite of features has some great resources, the best one being the analytic reports. Their comprehensive reporting tools can narrow down your audience demographics to a T, which is essential to crafting content that will be noticed by your intended audience. 


So you have all of your social media in one place... but what do you post? You may have some messages you want to get across, but maybe you don't have a way to make them appear very interesting? Fear not, for Canva is here to make everything pretty and readable.

Another free service, with premium options that are way less significant than the previous platform, Canva helps you create beautiful graphics to liven up any social media post. You needn't be a creative genius; Canva has a crazy amount of templates with wide arrays of color palettes already selected (but they're customizable too if you're feeling inspired). The user-friendly service makes infographics, blog graphics, Instagram posts, event headers, and many more attainable for everyone. 

via Canva

via Canva


Similar to Hootsuite yet a bit more focused, TweetDeck is a valuable resource to get the most out of your organization's Twitter. Keeping up with the theme of free services, this platform puts all of the most important pieces of your Twitter on one screen. Divided into columns, you can see all of your organization's mentions, follows, tweets, and other related activity. 

via TweetDeck

via TweetDeck

The best part of TweetDeck, however, is it's ability to throw you right into conversations you want to be a part of. By adding more columns — formatted to show you tweets containing keywords or specific hashtags — you can view the notable and ongoing pieces of the subject most important to your organization. Whether you want to measure the success of a campaign or gauge public response to an idea or product, TweetDeck is a godsend for making sense of your often over-saturated Twitter feed. 


Maybe the name "Free Photoshop" would've violated some copyright laws, but the Pixlr Editor might as well be called that for how close this complimentary service is to the classic program. Pixlr is the place to go when you need to make your photos ready for anything Communication related. It helps to have some background knowledge of how to use Photoshop, as Pixlr's features mimic most of PS's functionalities. 

via Pixlr

via Pixlr

Pixlr is great for quick edits, creative overhauls, and even branding images!

via MailChimp

via MailChimp

Last off is a service that targets the most-used communication platform of any organization: Email! MailChimp is an automation service that helps you build email lists like a pro. Whether your marketing something or sending out a newsletter, this program makes reaching lengthy contact lists simple!

While the sending of the emails is a huge help, the real fun comes with the analytics reports, which detail how many people opened your message and what links they decided to click while you had their attention. MailChimp helps you make the most out of your emails and gives you a great idea of what your subscribers want to see. 

via MailChimp

via MailChimp

MailChimp offers a great start of features for smaller businesses and has various levels of price plans for varying sizes of organizations. 

Communicating to your organization's best potential isn't difficult when you have the right tools! 

Joe DeWitt is a communications intern at the Choose Clean Water Coalition. 

Forget Millennials, GenZ is Here

Just when you thought you had the selfie-sticking, social media obsessed, rose-colored glasses wearing generation of Millennials figured out, a new group has to come along and make things even more complicated. Meet Generation Z (Also, what are we doing after this generation? Switching to Roman numerals? Emojis?)

Generation Z is roughly defined as anyone born in or after 1998, making the oldest of that group 19 years old (Take a second to feel old - I am.) While it may seem that everyone who grew up with filters on photos and never experienced the sound of dial-up internet (shudder) all belong in the same generation, there are some big differences in how GenZ sees the world vs Millennials, which impacts how they should be targeted.

Millennials (the time frame varies, but generally people born between 1984 to 1997. Don't even get me started on Xennials.) tend to look at the world as their oyster and that opportunities are everywhere. They are optimistic , sometimes to a fault, and value a positive workplace over pay. GenZ has grown up in a time of global terrorism, climate change, violence in schools, etc., so to say they are a little more cautious may be an understatement. They watched their parents struggle during the Great Recession, so they are more realistic about opportunities and look for stability and security. GenZ also prefer face-to-face communications more than their Millennial predecessors, and favor tech tools that encourage that, like Skype, Facetime, and Snapchat.

Here are some more stats on GenZ:

  1. 26 percent have donated to a cause their own money, or allowance, to a cause. (Side-note: The average allowance of a GenZ is $70 a month. Yea.)
  2. The most important causes to them? Children and youth, education, and animals.
  3. They grew up in the Great Recession, making them cautious about money, more likely to save than spend, and they want to know their money is going to actually do something.
  4. They got their first social media account at 11 years old, on average.
  5. Gen Z believes that climate change is the biggest challenge facing the world in the next decade. 63% favor solar energy. 58% have recycled. 31% have boycotted a company that has hurt the environment. 
  6. They are the most diverse generation (over half will represent minority groups by 2020) and the most tolerant generation (56% of Gen Zs in the United States know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns.)

So what do we do with all of this information? It is important to remember who our target audience is and what appeals to them when creating communications strategies and campaigns. For now, it looks like the new generation of potential clean water supporters are primed and ready to be activated around issues that they care about, especially climate change and wildlife. We are challenged though to prove to this generation that their time and money are actually going toward making a change (X number of trees planted when you donate $X). 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to find this building where you can send mail by hand with something called a stamp? Weird.

Kristin Reilly is the communications manager with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.


West Virginia Rivers Coalition Launches Youth Engagement Project

Environmental stewardship youth engagement programs aren’t what they used to be. A generation ago, most kids grew up spending lots of free time outdoors—those connections to nature are how many people first learn environmental ethics. And back then, there weren’t so many exciting activities competing for teens’ attention. Environmental educators and mentors have had to change their approaches.

So when West Virginia Rivers Coalition planned a pilot youth engagement program focusing on two Chesapeake Bay tributaries, we did three things before we put pen to paper. First, because our goal was to use youth engagement to help build watershed groups' capacity, we surveyed our Choose Clean Water Coalition watershed partners in the Eastern Panhandle. They said they needed help reaching out to young people and their parents. They hoped teens would be ambassadors to other teens and parents.

Then we queried young adult leaders of youth programs to get their advice. The takeaways there: Empower teens to be self-directed, and incorporate technology.

Finally, we teamed up with two amazing West Virginia Choose Clean Water Coalition partners, Warm Springs Watershed Association (WSWA) and Friends of the Cacapon River (FCR). Together, we set about trying to create a program that could be replicated across the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The resulting program is OneWatershed, a scheme to empower youth as ambassadors and leaders that we marketed as a film school. Our recruitment invitation says it all: “Are you an aspiring storyteller or filmmaker? Want to learn to make films and produce news by telling the stories of Warm Springs Run and the Cacapon?

Our planning team identified a terrific retired television producer, Jack Kelly. Jack’s first idea was to dump any notion of using conventional cameras. “If we want kids to make films on their own, and upload those films the web,” he said, “we’ve got to train them how to use those things in their pockets or backpack.”

Those “things,” of course, are phones and tablets.

And so Jack, WSWA’s Kate Lehman and the FCR’s Rachel D’Agostino planned out a weeklong film camp. In addition to the technical elements of filmmaking and editing, the workshop hosted people with stories to tell: a sportsman whose life has been enriched by the Cacapon, a retired sewage treatment plan operator, a local fifth generation business owner, and more.

WSWA and FCR took on the task of helping to identify these interview subjects. They also recruited watershed experts from agencies and nonprofits to present on watershed topics for a short time each morning—sessions which sparked curiosity in our filmmakers.

Each group also planned events that could be filmed for stories. For example, WSWA conducted a stream monitoring program that was filmed by students.

On the first day of camp, when it was time to set up the iPads, I asked if any of the kids has an Apple ID. “Duh. . .” Of course they did. Did we give them instructions on setting up their new “cameras”? No, of course we didn’t. Did they take to creating stories about streams and the connections between people and water? Indeed, like fish in water, they needed no help learning to swim.

Seven teens attended the pilot program. They all say they learned way more than they thought they would. But it’s safe to say we adults learned so much more from our teen filmmakers: about how kids naturally know how to collaborate with people different from them; about how they are capable of using technology to explore being human—not detract from it; and how their approaches to environmental stewardship are going to different than their parents’, and that’s okay.

We’re sorting through the practical lessons of the pilot, especially how the model can be both effective and replicated watershed to watershed. We look forward to sharing those ideas with the Choose Clean Water Coalition community.

In the meantime, have a look at some of our short videos at