How to Engage Millennials on Climate Change

110314_youngvoices_OrigIt doesn’t matter whether you are creating a marketing strategy or a research report on climate change, putting yourself in the shoes of your audience and understanding their perspective is a critical part of the process. Only if you can think like, feel like and behave like your audience, will you be able to communicate with them effectively. These are often called customer personas and they tell you how your audience feels about certain issues, but also where they spend their time online, whether they read blogs, watch videos or slideshares, where they dedicate their money and time and other relevant information.
Researchers from COIN (Climate Outreach and Information Network) wanted to find out how 18-25 year old’s (their customer persona in this particular instance) engaged with climate change and organized a series of discussion groups to explore participants’ values and aspirations, as well as their views on climate change and climate policies. They wrote a report encapsulating their findings called Young Voices.
For most people, climate change is a complicated topic with political overtones, making it even more important to ensure all different personas are explored and understood when creating a communications strategy. What resonates with one persona may not resonate with another. Step One of our 13 Steps and Guiding Principles clearly states:
“if you research to understand their needs and relate to them where they are, it will open hearts and minds. Start from their perspective, and infuse what they care about throughout the entirety of your conversation or communication”.

Research reveals current climate engagement strategies are failing to reach young people

Adam Corner, contributor to Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN)
Today COIN releases ‘Young Voices’, a major new report looking at young people’s attitudes to climate change. Supported by the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics, it is the first study to ask young people themselves how to engage their peers more effectively, and to propose and test new climate change narratives specifically designed to engage 18-25 year olds. Commenting on the study, Dr Adam Corner, COIN’s Research Director, said:
Our research suggests that many young people care deeply and passionately about climate change. However, there has been a collective failure to talk to young people about climate change in a way that inspires them. Too many assumptions have been made by communicators, which haven’t been tested. Working directly with young people we have been able to trial a series of narratives about climate change, providing valuable insights for anyone interested in improving communication about climate change with this group.
The findings revealed that many current climate engagement strategies may be failing to reach young people.
Some of the key findings and recommendations from the report include:

  • For young people, climate change is fundamentally about the ‘here and now’– describing the effect it will have on future generations, as campaigners and scientists often do, undermines the urgency of the problem.
  • Young people want to hear how climate change relates to (and will affect) those aspects of their everyday lives that they are passionate about– but communicators must take care not to ‘trivialise’ the issue by failing to link the ‘personal’ to the ‘political’.
  • Fighting organised scepticism is mostly seen as a waste of energy by young people– scepticism is relatively uncommon among the young and talking ‘solutions not science’ is a much better approach.
  • Young people often find it hard to talk about climate change with their peers– there was a fear that talking about climate change would set them apart as ‘preachy’ or ‘un-cool’.
  • There is widespread doubt that there is a ‘concerned majority’ among the general public who support action on climate change– communicating a ‘social consensus’ on climate action may be just as important as the scientific consensus.
  • Young people have very little faith in mainstream politicians– so it makes more sense to ask young people to challenge (not support) politicians on climate policies. Campaign messages should clearly set out what needs to be done – who, when, where and what young people can do to make a difference – and which policy prescriptions support this.
  • Climate jargon is unfamiliar and off-putting– phrases like ‘managing climate risks’, ‘decarbonisation’ and ‘2 degrees’ are seen as hollow and vague. People want to hear about specific policies and how these relate to protecting the things people love and are passionate about.

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One Response to “How to Engage Millennials on Climate Change”

  1. This is rather insightful and significant research, and I think the findings apply well beyond millennials. We all should keep this in mind when we’re reaching out to folks on climate solutions.

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