10 research-driven ways to supercharge your climate comms

10 research-driven ways to supercharge your climate comms
Source: Yingchou hanhas 

This guide follows our flagship research with key Persuadables, a mixed-method and immersive qualitative program of research with cultural insight agency Bricolage, where we spoke to:

  • Urban 'somewheres' in Newcastle
  • British Black & South Asian communities in Birmingham
  • Rural Dwellers in Yorkshire

Read on for our 10 recommendations powered by this research, backed up by Persuadable perspectives, and examples on implementation.

1. Lead with personal benefit and opportunity, not climate

Across every key Persuadable group, climate change was far down their list of daily worries and concerns, with other issues like the cost of living crisis, family security, unemployment, and an uncertain future keeping them up at night.

As climate issues are not enough of an interesting hook for Persuadables, we need to root sustainability measures in tangible, positive benefits. We know sacrifice narratives and too much doom and gloom are also a turn-off, so focusing on an opportunity also helps us cut through the negativity and remind audiences that we are not trying to restrict them.

📢
Persuadable view
"I’m not giving up my meat... I’m not eating Quorn!” (in response to talking about ‘environmentalists’ on TV)

Example:

Our campaign with Local Storytelling exchange helped created positive sentiment for insulation by showcasing the real cost-benefit to Persuadables.

2. When it comes to misinformation, ​don't fight fire with fire

When dealing with misinformation, it can be really tempting to double down on the truth and try to tackle it head-on. However, our research highlights the mistrust Persuadable groups have toward climate-related news, which they often see as over-exaggerated or promoting hidden agendas from green 'elites'. Entering an adversarial conversation can sometimes reinforce this idea and make things worse. It is better to promote positive climate stories before a targeted misinformation campaign occurs, to create positive sentiment around topics and prevent people from buying into future misinformation narratives, whilst having a crisis plan in place just in case.

📢
Persuadable view
“People lie, how do I know the environment is that important?"

Example:

Read what happened when we tried to debunk the well funded pro-fracking misinformation narrative on Facebook last year.

3. Take the class codes out of climate comms

'Urban Somewheres' strongly feel that the climate movement is simply not for them. Representation is often London-centric and climate spokespeople are seen as 'snobby' and out of touch with working people. Climate communications can be unconsciously middle-class coded, reinforcing the idea that climate is only an issue for those who can afford it. Using 'trusted' messengers who are politically moderate is a good idea, as Persuadables are weary of people trying to push their views onto others. National and class diversity in casting is also essential, so accents represent people across the UK.

📢
Persuadable view
“The Green Agenda is unrealistic, undoable, and honestly shite.

Example:

0:00
/

Read our case study where we show how effective it was to use alternative spokespeople to help change opinion on climate change, including the fantastic results we achieved from partnering with electrician influencer @residualcurrent.

4. Make climate change relevant to men too

Climate action campaigns usually contain traditionally female signifiers, for example, using emotive language about ‘care’ and associations with nature. This is excluding men from the conversation.  Focusing on matters close to their hearts, such as the opportunity that the green transition presents for the manual job market, which was embraced by our male Persuadables, can include them. For each campaign, we should also consider imagery and verbal language, and explore unexpected brand partnerships to enter spaces that are culturally relevant to men.

📢
Expert perspective
“If we look at campaigning and social marketing for the environment, the feminisation of environmental responsibility was typical (since) the early 1990s” Angela Franz-Balsen

Example:

The first carbon neutral football team Forest Green Rovers show how the sport can act as a great entry into male Persuadables lives.

5. Seek diverse perspectives and platform non-white folks

Ethnic minority audiences don't see themselves represented in the climate movement. There is also historical mistrust and scepticism towards white people's intentions at heart when approaching them for participation, or when communicating their ideals of 'security' or a 'better future'. The best way we can address this issue is by improving diversity within our organizations and platforming non-white voices.

📢
Persuadable perspective
"I have never seen an Asian Greenpeace person"

Example:

The Yikes podcast explores climate through a multi-ethnic lens, platforming important guests and discussing the intersection between climate change and justice.

6. Loosen up, be cheeky

When competing with the hoards of information and content our Persuadables are inundated with every day, being serious and factual is unlikely to help us cut through. We can afford to learn a little from internet culture, loosen our tone of voice, and inject some much-needed humour into the topic.  This is not only a very powerful way to create memorability, but lightening up can also make the climate movement feel more human and approachable.

📢
Persuadable perspective
"They're not all Gretas, but they don't seem like very fun people".

Example:

This advert from RAM electric vehicles confronts real concerns about the performance of EV's using a funny and unexpected hook. The campaign was also shown at the Superbowl, exposing it to large Persuadable audiences, especially men.  

7. Match your hope with a concrete plan

We know there is distrust towards climate change messaging, and with awareness around greenwashing at an all-time high, Persuadables need hard evidence about the impact and benefits of climate action. Transparency about our goals and implementation is essential, and when using facts we should still frame them in the strong personal benefit to our audience, especially if it's linked to relief from pressing issues such as the cost of living crisis or levelling up.

📢
Persuadable perspective
“It all feels like a sales pitch, empty words on a page. I need something to back it up, then it’s common sense, and you spread it like that"

Example:

Sky's ocean rescue told visual and compelling stories about the value of plastic plastic-free seas, combining it with concrete plans for action for sports teams, schools, ordinary people, and Sky itself.

8. Leverage hyperlocality to tap into local pride ​

The massive scale of global warming is intangible and overwhelming to Persuadables, making them feel apathetic to change. All our audiences (Urban Somewheres, British Black and South Asian communities, and Rural Dwellers) have a strong emotional connection to their local area and communities. Localising issues, solutions, and benefits in their local areas can boost understanding and relevance. We need to immerse ourselves in Persuadables worlds before we create campaigns so we can best reflect their neighbourhoods and ways of living with cultural cues from their communities.

📢
Persuadable perspective
“I can’t relate to protecting the planet. But if someone was to chop down the willow tree outside my home, I would get upset. Nothing could ever substitute that willow.”

Example:

Read the case study of ACT's project with Possible to find out how we used local people and cultural cues to change opinions around car usage in Birmingham without mentioning climate change.

9. Expand the scope of 'climate action' to include the diverse ways people are getting involved

The action we typically demand from Persuadable groups, such as writing to MP's, joining a protest or signing petitions are often misunderstood, seen as futile, or not inclusive to their communities.  These groups are often engaged in their own way, whether that's taking part in local action groups, church run sessions, community clean ups or training for the green transition in their career. Our campaigns need to seek embrace the multifaceted ways Persuadables get involved.

📢
Expert perspective
​​“The environmental justice movement for working-class people is the trade union movement. So working-class people are engaged-they’re just not engaged with the same things as you” Dr Karen Bell,University of Glasgow

Example:

The UK’s first Black Ecofeminist Summit was held in London last year. The event amplified the voices of Black environmentalists from the UK, US, and African and Caribbean diasporas.

10. Develop an effective media and targeting approach, and make it work hard for you

Where and how many times a Persuadable sees a campaign can have a big impact on how receptive they are to the message at its heart. Campaigns should embrace a multi-channel approach, which reflects Persuadables diverse media consumption patterns and includes more trusted sources.

Across the six advertising projects we delivered last year, social media was the least trusted channel across the board, whereas more traditional channels such as press in the local newspaper, billboards, or video-on-demand were better received, seen as inherently more trustworthy. These channels might be a little bit more expensive than digital, but they can be more affordable if, for example, you choose to localise a campaign and focus on one region of the UK. Get in touch with the team if you would like our help with advertising on trusted channels.

📢
Persuadable perspective
"I’ll put the TV on the background while I work...I get my content on Whatsapp and Facebook or Instagram"
0:00
/

By using a multichannel approach and positive messaging we were able to create hope for a green industrial future in the West Midlands.

🖊️
If you are enjoying our resources and want to get access to all of them, sign up as a member.
👋
If you want to try advertising to get your message in front of millions of people, get in touch with Florencia at florencia@actclimatelabs.com
🧾
Further reading:
Advertising Guide: How we created impact with six innovative climate campaigns. A resource bank to dive into learnings from our advertising campaigns so far.
Misinformation Alert: Conspiracy Thinking. Tools to help you navigate and combat conspiracy thinking.
Advertising Guide: Fact, Myth, Fallacy. A useful model on how to identify and combat misinformation.