The Top Ten Tips on Communicating Climate Change

A few months back I was fortunate enough to be invited to join some really great people to talk about talking about climate change. The key findings from that day in Copenhagen are below. What became very clear was our inability to create more positive, exciting, inclusive stories about the issue. Hopefully these guidelines can help push the message into more positive territory.

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1) Ask yourself what effect you want to achieve.
Do you want to disseminate information? Evoke emotional responses? Inspire an action step? Introduce a new behavior? Once you know what you want to achieve, you can start thinking about target audiences, channels, messages.
2) Identify everyday climate change heroes
Sustainable solutions already exist and are used by people like you and me. Bring the solutions and the people who use them forward and let them lead the way.
3) Reframe the climate conversation
Creating a more sustainable way of life is not about sacrifice – it’s about benefits that exceed creating a more sustainable world. Focus on these benefits and don’t always relate them to climate change. Instead, the benefits of sustainable living should be easy to imagine for the listener.
4) Rebuild trust
On the journey towards the sustainable world of tomorrow, there is bound to be detours. Be open and transparent about the trial and error process of innovation. Recognize contributors in public and ask for help.
5) Be provocative
Climate change is a very serious challenge, but traditional communication creates more apathy than action. In order to reclaim the audience’s interest, we must dare to be provocative and rebellious in our storytelling. Include unexpected means of communication such as art to evoke feelings and make a lasting imprint.
6) No more polar bears
The image of a lonely polar bear on a melting ice sheet has done its job of raising awareness and communicating the serious nature of climate change – we are ready to move on. Climate change communication has to be empowering and answer the question: “What can I do?”
7) Make it convenient
The right thing to do for the planet should always be the right thing in general. We shouldn’t have to go out of our way to live sustainably. Anticipate needs of your target audience and let there be more than one “best choice” in the moment of decision.
8) Co-create the communication
Include your audience in creating the needed communication. They know their context and can make the material more personal and relevant.
9) Answer the question: Now what?
Never communicate a message without directions on what to do with it. Climate change communication needs to include action points on how to achieve success.
10) Visualize the future
Tell a story of change through the eyes of the people you are communicating to. Put it in their neighborhood, workplace or school and describe the positive changes in those environments – emphasize the direct and indirect benefits of the solutions.

What are your thoughts? You might think these are simple solutions, if so, why aren’t we doing this?

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