December 15, 2008

Best practices for talking about best practices

Last week I conducted a "Building Extension's Public Value" train-the-trainer webcast for Clemson University Extension. During the training, I made up a couple of public value messages that included phrases such as "best management practices" and "beneficial practices." As in: Participants in our program adopt best management practices for...

Among people with whom we share expertise, "best practices" can be shorthand for a set of behaviors or approaches that we are all familiar with. If you tell a group of Master Gardeners that participants in a program "adopted best management practices" for pest control, those MGs probably have a good idea of what the program participants are doing. The rest of us? Not so much. In fact, during the training, I tried to think of a specific practice to replace "best management practices" in a Master Gardener public value message. Being neither a MG nor an entomologist--I came up blank.

All of this is to encourage you, when you are writing public value messages, to review a draft message for shorthand language, such as the phrases above. Can you replace vague language with something more concrete? Can you replace "beneficial practices" with "built and maintained raingardens" or "stored food at a safe temperature" or "read to their preschool children every day"?

What do you think are Extension's best practices for talking about best practices?