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Five Climate Communications Rules of Thumb

by Don Knapp

People chain - Green link

On Earth Day, you’re going to get up in front of people and talk about climate change, and you want to see the lights go on. You want your audience to get it, but that’s not going to happen unless you get it: the art of climate communication, that is.

Make every word count by following these five guidelines pulled straight from ICLEI’s Outreach and Communications Guide:

  • Send a collective action message. Each of us has a role and responsibility, and we’re in this together. If we all make some simple changes, our collective effort will help make a difference.
  • Make it real. Where applicable talk about climate change in a broader context and one to which people can relate. Talk about the connection to water supplies, jobs, high gas and food prices, polar bears, weather patterns, or plant and animal migration. Also, don’t be afraid to completely remove reference to climate change and talk about the issues that are important to your audience such as the financial savings associated with changing light bulbs. Remember, use the issue that will most appropriately resonate with your target audience.
  • Make it local. How is climate change going to impact your community, and how will your policies benefit the community directly? Tie a local initiative to something happening in cities across the country or at the federal level.
  • Make it manageable. Present information in manageable chunks – not everyone needs to know every particular detail. Give examples of solutions that are working and that your target audience can actually implement. If you are talking about a goal that is 20 or 50 years away, be sure to include benchmarks to break up the goal into a reasonable timeframe.
  • Tie to people’s everyday lives. Make it relevant for your audience – how does your message relate to their life and what can they do to address the issue? But remember, never criticize or condemn your audience.
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