Talk won’t solve the climate emergency. We need action.
But smart strategic communications are essential to building public support for the fight against the climate crisis – and for the urgent solutions we need.
As David Attenborough told G7 leaders, “Tackling climate change is now as much a political and communications challenge as it is a scientific or technological one. We have the skills to address it in time, all we need is the global will to do so.”
That poses a crucial question for environmental campaigners – and everyone who cares about saving the planet.
What are the most effective ways of communicating about the climate crisis to motivate change?
And how can the tools of strategic comms help build vital public support for climate action – that protects our planet and protects working people?
Here’s three easy tools and tips that environmental NGOs – of every size – can put to good use to connect with new audiences and help change minds.
We all have a long list of things we want to achieve. But to actually get things done, we can’t have 10,000 priorities.
The first step is to make a plan – and define exactly what you need to do.
It’s also the easiest step to miss!
Many environmental NGOs are small organizations. Dedicated staff and volunteers are already pulled in a million directions. And everyone probably has a good sense of the team’s mission.
After all, your goal seems clear – you’re trying to stop the climate crisis!
That’s why it’s easy to feel that making a plan can wait until tomorrow.
But strategic planning is worth it. And it doesn’t have to be a drain on time or resources.
At its simplest, start by articulating the key priority that your organization needs to focus on over the next few months – or years. Make sure your priority is ambitious but also achievable.
Write down the precise steps and milestones that will help you get there. And think about how you’ll measure your success.
(Remember: a plan needs to be in writing – and shared with your entire team. If it’s not on “paper”, it’s not a plan).
With a small investment of time, you can take a big step towards more effective and focused communications – ensuring that all of your team’s energy and resources are helping to achieve your goals.
Once you have a plan, you can start developing a message.
Not just a slogan or catchphrase, your message is a precision instrument that defines what you want to say to your key audiences – every chance you get.
It will also become your new best friend.
Hang it beside your desk and you’ll start using it every day. From social media posts and digital content, to interviews, press releases, and publications, your message should make everything easier. And help your entire team speak with one cohesive – and persuasive – voice.
When it comes to communicating about the climate crisis, the challenge is to convey urgency without making people feel overwhelmed.
Start with language that connects – talking directly about what people are thinking, experiencing, and feeling. And use concrete and relatable examples, like fires and floods. Or as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advises in its helpful handbook for communicators: “Talk about the real world, not abstract ideas.”
Draw out the contrasts in options and outcomes. Show the difference between taking action – and the devastating costs of failure. And remember to put people at the heart of your message.
While many big companies continue to profit off pollution, it’s developing nations, Indigenous communities, women, people of colour, and working-class communities who are paying the biggest price. The climate crisis is about people – and climate action demands climate justice.
Research also shows that many people feel a sense of helplessness. Replace that feeling with solutions that offer hope. Focus on protecting our kids, grandkids, and future generations. And share stories of positive change – and the impact it’s having.
Finally, get concrete about what we can do.
There are actions that individuals and communities can take to reduce our emissions. But there’s also bold action we urgently need from our governments. People need to know that serious climate action – that helps people, workers, and communities – is possible. It just takes political will.
Paid advertising isn’t just for big organizations who want to be on television and radio.
Environmental NGOs of every size can make the most of paid digital and social media tactics. With even the smallest budget, you can boost your social posts, expand your audience, and build your network of engaged supporters.
Make the most of free digital tools – like Facebook’s Organic Content testing, which allows you to change the variables of your ads to find the most effective strategy to reach and engage your audience. Google also offers a program with free Google ads for non-profit organizations.
To build engagement, take advantage of news cycles when the climate crisis is in the headlines. Get ready for those moments before they happen, with pre-planned content so you can jump into the conversation.
And don’t be afraid to re-use content. Every post does not need to reinvent the wheel. Your supporting copy can be unique, but your overall messaging and call-to-action should stay consistent.
In short, never be afraid of repeating what works. Consistency is essential to success in persuasive messaging.
By making smart use of these 3 tools of strategic communications, your team will be taking a big step forward – and building support for urgent and meaningful climate action.
Got questions? Want to talk about a specific challenge facing your environmental NGO?
Our team is always here to help. Get in touch here!