Expert Ideas, Tools & Musings
How can ‘green’ communication be more than scientific speak?Amber Daines | 17 July, 2023
Climate change is one of those terms, like any ESG message, that can get lost in translation – or worse still, just be ignored because it’s too dry or overly complicated by scientific jargon. It remains a core challenge for companies of all sizes to articulate their sustainability achievements, projects, targets, and partnerships without their communications losing momentum.
Communicating climate change in a way that is engaging and accessible to a broad audience is crucial for raising awareness and inspiring action. While science textbooks are essential for conveying detailed information, they can often be dry, illusive, and dense. To make climate change communication less textbook-like, consider the following ideas:
- Tell stories: Use narratives and personal anecdotes to connect with people on an emotional level. Share stories of individuals or communities affected by climate change or those who have taken positive actions to address it. This can make the issue more relatable and compelling. Talk about local climate issues and personal connections. “Stop my house getting flooded” resonated much better with people in Florida than “Get to zero emissions to stop climate change.” Another example is shifting from conceptual language (e.g., gains for the economy) to human (e.g., the story of a tiny start-up and their new app for measuring short-term weather patterns by suburb) to make it relatable.
- Use visuals: Incorporate visually appealing elements such as infographics, charts, photographs, and videos to present information more engagingly. Visuals can help simplify complex concepts and make them easier to understand. Lose the acronyms and climate speak; use everyday language anyone can understand.
- Focus on impacts: Instead of overwhelming people with technical details, emphasize the tangible effects of climate change. Highlight how it affects daily lives, communities, and the natural environment. This helps create a sense of urgency and personal relevance.
- Tailor the message: Adapt the communication to the target audience’s interests, values, and knowledge level. Different groups may respond better to different communication styles and mediums. example, messages targeted at young people could use social media platforms and popular culture references.
- Highlight solutions: Get clear on who is causing the problem (e.g., polluters) so people have a clear focus to act on rather than the abstract concept of climate change. Then offer practical and actionable solutions that individuals, communities, and governments can adopt. Presenting a positive vision for a sustainable future can inspire hope and encourage people to take action.
- Foster dialogue: Climate change communication shouldn’t be a one-way street. Encourage open discussions, invite questions, and address concerns. Create opportunities for people to engage, share their perspectives, and be part of the conversation. For many people, climate change seems abstract, distant, and too big to imagine. The words we often use to describe it – emissions, CO2, methane, net zero, anthropogenic – are, simply put, confusing. People don’t wake up and say, “It’s a great day for some decarbonisation.” These words can often become obstacles rather than gateways to understanding rather than making a green-lit change.
- Collaborate with diverse stakeholders: Involve scientists, policymakers, community leaders, and communicators from various backgrounds to ensure a broader range of voices and perspectives. This collaborative approach can enhance credibility and foster trust. People are likelier to listen to others they perceive to be like themselves. Engage various people in climate campaigns, and invite them to present their personal stories and experiences.
- Use everyday language: Avoid technical jargon, complex terminology, or too much data in one channel. Use clear, concise, and plain language that non-experts easily understand. Consider employing analogies and metaphors to make abstract concepts more relatable such as “By now eating vegetarian meals for a day a week; this can reduce greenhouse gas emissions per person by 10 tonnes a year.”
- Focus on solutions and hope: While climate change is a serious issue, it is crucial to convey that solutions exist and progress is being made. Frame the conversation around the potential for positive change, highlighting success stories and innovative solutions.
- Be consistent and persistent: Climate change is a complex topic requiring ongoing communication. Consistently reinforce critical messages, repeat important information, and maintain a presence in various communication channels.
By employing these logical strategies, you can make climate change communication more engaging, relatable, and less like a science textbook. Remember to adapt your approach to your target audience and foster an open dialogue to encourage a deeper understanding of the issue.
If you want to discuss how to flip your green speak into a more tangible language your people understand, don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.