A few months ago, we issued a “pocket guide” to the climate narrative developed by Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions. The narrative is powerful not only because the opinion research shows it resonates, or because it’s defined by core values, but also because it’s so simple—meaning it’s easy enough to learn by heart and put to work!

The storyline involves just three memorable (and essential) parts—the threat, the solutions, and the villains.

In the spirit of showing rather than telling, we’re always on the lookout for examples of these kinds of messaging recommendations in action.

And as it happens, Jay Inslee, former US Congressman and Washington State’s newly elected governor, has modeled this messaging strategy for years—if not decades.

The threat: To drive home the seriousness of climate disruption, here and now, Inslee often points to extreme weather—giving vivid examples from across the nation, as well as our neck of the woods. And he reinforces our personal stake in solutions by insisting on our responsibility to protect our kids and grandkids—he makes this more personal by emphasizing his own concerns and motivations as a father and grandfather.

The solutions: Inslee is known for talking about our proud history of ingenuity. A hallmark of his climate messaging is his unflagging confidence in our American (and Washingtonian) ability to tackle climate and energy solutions—and he backs it up with plenty of success stories about clean energy technologies and jobs.

The villains: Finally, though I’m not sure Inslee would necessarily refer to Big Oil and Coal as villains outright, he hasn’t shied away from frank acknowledgement of the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold on progress.

Here’s the narrative in Jay Inslee’s words:

Jay Inslee’s Powerful Climate Narrative

1. Talk about kids & extreme weather. “We’ve had epic flooding, searing drought, and devastating wildfires in Central Washington and rising tides along our coast. As a parent and grandparent, I cannot accept the dangers for my family or yours.”

2. Emphasize ingenuity. “Innovation is in our genes. We create. We invent. We build. There’s no challenge greater for Washington, with more opportunity for job growth and more suited to our particular brand of genius and ingenuity, than leading the world’s clean energy economy.”

3. Point to fossil fuel’s stranglehold on progress. “[We can’t] let big polluters control public policy.”

This Flashcard is based on Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions’ research and messaging memo, Climate Solutions for a Stronger America: A Guide For Engaging and Winning on Climate and Clean Energy (pdf).


January 24, 2013