New ecoAmerica Guide: 15 Steps to Create Effective Climate Communications
Along with politics and religion, climate change is high on many people’s lists of “Topics to Avoid.” It can certainly be challenging to talk about, since the issue has become so highly polarized and partisan – but as global temperatures continue to rise and carbon in the atmosphere continues to increase, it’s more important than ever for us to speak up and motivate our fellow Americans to take action.
The good news is, most Americans are either consciously or subconsciously concerned about climate change and can be engaged with the right approach – one that connects on common values and beliefs. As climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe explains in this interview, it’s not about changing people’s hearts, it’s about changing their minds. “We’re starting with the assumption that someone’s heart is in a good place,” she says. “We’re just trying to show how the values already in their heart connect with the issue of climate change.”
If the prospect of changing someone’s mind sounds daunting (or just plain impossible), don’t worry – we can help. Our new messaging guide, 15 Steps to Create Effective Climate Communications, offers a simple and comprehensive approach to creating messages that resonate. Whether you’re making a case for starting a climate task force at your organization, asking your city council to consider measures to reduce carbon pollution, or helping a friend understand the need for action, this process helps you present your information in the most powerful and effective way.
How you frame your message is important, but so is the sequence. We explain the specific order in which to arrange the points of your argument, so you’ll get the best results.
Very briefly, here are the 15 steps. For a more detailed description and a sample speech, download the complete guide here.
The 15 Steps
1. Start with people, stay with people. Make it clear to your audience that you understand their perspective and care about their concerns.
2. Connect on common values. Create rapport by showing that you honor and share the values they hold dear, such as family, community, and health.
3. Acknowledge ambivalence. Not everyone is equally concerned about climate change. Give them the space to hold their own opinions.
4. Make it real. Point out local, tangible climate impacts to make the issue more personal and help motivate people to action.
5. Emphasize solutions. Explain that affordable, effective climate solutions, such as clean wind and solar energy, are already here.
6. Inspire and empower. Let your audience know that they can make a real difference in a multitude of ways.
7. Focus on personal benefit. Show that climate action doesn’t equate to personal sacrifice – instead, it saves money and creates a better, healthier world.
8. End with your “ask.” Encourage your audience to turn the information you’ve given them into action, and offer ways for them to do so.
9. Sequence matters. Start off personal and relevant, and move from impacts to solutions for optimal results.
10. Describe, don’t label. Avoid using climate jargon – stick to familiar language that paints a clear, vivid picture.
11. Have at least 1 powerful fact from a trusted messenger. Too many facts can get overwhelming, but one or two memorable statements from someone the audience trusts adds credibility.
12. Ditch doom and gloom. Though climate change is a serious and urgent threat, it’s more motivating to talk about what can be and is being done about it.
13. Use stories to strengthen engagement. Personal stories – especially your own story – help make climate messages more relevant and vivid.
14. Stay above the fray. Don’t get sidetracked by arguments, finger pointing, or quibbling over details – focus on the big picture.
15. Message discipline is critical. Keep to your talking points, and be sure to tailor your message to your audience.
With these steps as your guide, you can start inspiring people to take meaningful action on climate, and give them the confidence they need to support and advocate for solutions. To see our complete library of research-based messaging tips, insights, and reports, visit our research page.