5 Ways to Improve Your Climate Change Communication

And achieve real impact.

Fridays for Future in Modena, Italy (September 2019)

We have been knowing about climate change for a long time, but never before has the world been so keen to engage in the conversation. The public opinion is finally shifting and everyone is talking about it, brands and individuals alike.

It’s undoubtedly an opportunity to send out a message that resonates, but are we doing that effectively? Are we focusing on the quality, rather than only on the quantity, of our communication?

Tackling the causes of climate change is both vital and urgent, so I compiled a list of 5 ways that I hope will help you reframe (or at least rethink) your messages around climate change.

1. Make it easier to understand

I once read somewhere that the strongest advocates for any cause are also the worst possible communicators: they forget that it’s not themselves, nor their friends, that they need to convince.

Given the amount of technical jargon, insider language and obscure acronyms that I see on a daily basis when I read about climate change or I research organizations and brands, I would say that this is 100% true.

The problem is that complex jargon doesn’t work. In fact, it alienates people.
Instead, try using simple and clear terms. Explain the why of things and the meaning of the words you are using.

Just because you are familiar with a concept or you have repeated it a million times already, it doesn’t mean that people know what you are talking about.

If you are afraid of oversimplifying concepts or being patronizing, remember that there is a difference between simple and simplistic. And while you don’t want to be the latter, the first can really help you to get your message across.

2. Be less vague

If you are “committing to a more sustainable future” I have bad news for you. It doesn’t mean anything to most people. Why? Because is too vague, too macro, too unimaginable. The result is that people are not going to listen, so if you want them to join your cause or buy into your efforts, you have to tell them exactly what you mean.

What is “sustainable future” to you? Is it a future where people choose public transportation over cars? Then, that’s what you should tell your audience!

And remember that people don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to be honest.

3. Use your voice

Sustainable
Build a better future
Commitment
Together we can

We see these expressions everywhere.

But you don’t want to sound like everybody else, do you? So stay away from clichés and over-utilized expressions. Your unique tone of voice is what makes you stand out and it’s what will ultimately make you relatable to your audience. Don’t lose it!

4. Bring diversity into your messages

Being able to take action is a privilege. For example, what people can afford to do individually to be more enviornmentally friendly may depend on their socio-economic background, their access to alternative solutions, their culture and education…

Your message needs to reflect that diversity. Bring in different perspectives when crafting your messages, hire copywriters and content writers that come from different walks of life, be open to unconventional types of communication!

5. Be (pro)positive

Psychology tells us that, albeit with some differences, people anywhere in the world tend to believe in the same set of intrinsic values (personal growth, community, intimacy etc.), while also striving towards similar extrinsic goals (money, appearance, popularity).

The good news is that people generally endorse intrinsic values BUT, when under psychological threat, they tend to seek refuge in their extrinsic goals.

In other words, people don’t respond positively to negative or threatening messages. The more we tell people that the world is doomed, the more people will hold onto material things and forget all about hope and action.

So, in your communication try to avoid using images and words that overcharge people with anxiety or negativity. Instead, highlight inspiring examples or local experiences that they can relate to. Accentuate the positive and tell people what they can do, not what terrible things will happen if they don’t.

This is the first article of Let Earth Speak, a series on environmental communication by Camilla Capasso.

Non-profit communications consultant, freelance writer and content creator. www.camillacapasso.com

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