What are you asking people to do?

What do you need people to do?

I start every workshop and course with this question.

It may seem simple and obvious. But it’s an important first step to get specific and clear with our “ask” for the audience.

And often times, it’s not as easy to answer as you’d think.

Therefore, it’s the question I start with. And I ask participants to pick something that people aren’t doing at all, or not doing enough of.

Typically this activity produces statements like:

  • Stop using plastic bags
  • Use less single-use plastics
  • Support our work
  • Care about X, Y, Z species or habitat
  • Learn about climate change impacts
  • Advocate!
  • And so on…

Then we start editing those statements, using the following prompts to make them more specific and actionable.

Does your statement include the words: stop, don’t, or ‘do less of’?

If yes, then re-write it so it’s a DO statement, instead of a don’t statement.

Instead of “stop using plastic bags”, try “use reusable shopping bags on every shopping trip”.

This re-write helps direct our audience towards the desired behavior, as opposed to leaving it up to them to figure out how to stop using plastic bags.

Replacing an existing behavior with a new behavior is much easier than asking people to stop doing something entirely.

Does your statement include the phrases: know about, learn about, or be aware of?

If yes, then edit it to focus on a specific action or behavior. Something they can complete and do. Something concrete.

Instead of “know recycling is important to do”, try “place recyclables in the blue bin every time.”

Consider what the end game is for knowledge or awareness. It’s not just that we want people to know things.

No, we want them to use that knowledge to do something new or different.

So what is that thing we need them to do with that knowledge?? That is your “ask”.

Does your statement include the phrases: care about, believe, or change attitudes about?

If yes, then make similar edits to the knowledge prompt above. Rewrite it so it focuses on a specific action or behavior they can complete.

Instead of “care about the environment”, try (similar to above) “place recyclables in the blue bin every time”.

Sure, it would be great if everyone cared. But why do you want them to care?

What are you hoping they will do more of, or do differently, if they did care more? THAT is what your statement should include.

Final touches

As a last step, give your statement a final review and edit to make sure it’s clear, specific, focused on one thing, and actionable (the do, not the don’t).

These quick editing steps help turn broad statements into clearer behavioral goals. Such as:

  • Bring your own reusable water bottles to the zoo
  • Buy sustainable souvenirs when traveling
  • Petition against destructive legislation
  • Join our events, donate and spread the word
  • Adopt more sustainable agricultural practices
  • Buy and use compostable bags
  • Unplug your chargers when not in use
  • And more!

There is always something we need people to do

Do you feel like you’re just trying to raise awareness and you don’t have a specific “ask”?

Then, you should STILL consider what you want people to do!

If your main goal is to raise awareness, then there are smaller things you can ask of your audience to engage them and spread your message further.

Such as:

  • Tell your best friend about this cause
  • Share this message on your Facebook page today
  • Read more about the impact we’re having on this issue
  • Sign-up to receive updates
  • Pledge to make a difference

Give it a try!

Want help making your statement clear, specific and actionable?

Then send it my way; I’d be happy to provide feedback.

Ready for the next level?

Then consider if what you’re asking people to do is an action or a behavior.



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