How to Market Climate Change: Tips from an Expert
One of the biggest challenges environmental advocates face is talking about eco-climate issues in a way that resonates with mainstream audiences. David Fenton, Founder and CEO of Fenton Communications and ecoAmerica Board Member, however, is out to change that. Over the past three decades, Fenton and his colleagues have transformed the way hundreds of environmental communicators frame climate and environmental issues. Grist recently sat down with Fenton to chat about his work and what he’s learned about marketing climate and environmental issues to build more public support.
Here were some of his main takeaways:
1. Trade polar bears for people. In Fenton’s words: “One of the problems we have is that too much of the public thinks that environmentalists are people who care about the environment and not about people.” To overcome this obstacle, Fenton recommends avoiding words like “Planet Earth” and “environment.” Instead advocates should use language that communicates that climate and environmental issues can also be about people’s lives, the economy, and “all the things that people do care about.”
2. Use values and imagery. The environmental movement tends to be concentrated among academics, lawyers and scientists – folks who are used to talking in terms of numbers and facts. But using values, moral narratives, and imagery — the stuff of business professionals — is often a more effective way of swaying public opinion.
3. Sell solutions. Climate change is a “really tough, depressing issue,” that many people have trouble accepting or understanding, Fenton says. Until advocates start putting forward a clear solution, people will continue to have trouble wrapping their heads around what the issue is and what they can do about it.
4. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Many climate and environmental advocates think that once they’ve said something once or twice, everyone knows it, Fenton says. But advocates need to take a word from marketers and repeat, repeat, repeat, and then repeat again in order to actually get their message across.
By Heather Smith, Contributor to Grist
For over three decades, David Fenton has played an unusual role in the environmental movement: marketing it. The company he founded, Fenton Communications, has worked with everyone from Nelson Mandela to MoveOn.org. It recently managed an an anti-fracking campaign for Yoko Ono (fracking, it promised, would ruin New York’s groundwater, and therefore its bagels and pizza).
To many environmentalists, what Fenton does — with all the celebrity chefs and celebrities, period — is … a little bit simplistic. To his opponents, he’s the Great Satan. If you find an article about him online, it’s probably a hit piece.
“People working in the nonprofit world sometimes have trouble adopting a marketing mindset,” Fenton Communications wrote in a 2009 report. “But in the end, the goal is for people to ‘buy’ our ideas — ideas for a better world.”
Read more here.
Image credit: grist.org