There are lots of resources available on communicating about climate change—sometimes it seems like too many. Of course, that’s a good thing. There’s ample research and expertise to guide us and I see that it’s making for smarter, more compelling, and more effective messages about climate and energy. Still, sometimes, with all the tips and recommendations swirling around, a well-meaning climate communicator can feel a tad overwhelmed.
Happily, ecoAmerica and partners have boiled down the latest and greatest research to a manageable set of guidelines. They give us 13 messaging principles to live by, and, as I’m wont to do, I’ve distilled the list even more.
The top takeaways are nothing new, but good to keep in mind: Keep it personal and say why it matters and balance messages about the problem with hope and optimism about solutions that are ready to go, accessible, and meaningful.
As always, message discipline is critical. As ecoAmerica reminds us (tip #13), “simple messages, repeated often by trusted messengers are powerful…Be consistent, and don’t be afraid of repeating critical points.”
I couldn’t agree more. And that’s why lists like these are so important and worthwhile.
Here are my top 4 (I’ve taken the liberty to combine, paraphrase, and prioritize. The full list follows and you can also find it along with examples and references in ecoAmeria’s handy memo):
Users’ Guide: Climate Messaging
1. Start with people, stay with people. Say why it matters (to you and your audience). Connect with values—family, community, pride, working together for the common good.
2. Use facts wisely. Talk facts not science. You lose people with jargon and too many numbers. One or 2 memorable facts from a trusted source are far more powerful.
3. Make it concrete. Keep language vivid and familiar (wind and solar, not “alternative energy”). Start with personal (what we see at home) and scale up to the global.
4. Focus on solutions. The problem is paralyzing. Inspire and empower with hope and opportunity. Prepare, don’t adapt. Talk about meaningful solutions that are ready to go.