Be the change … pass it on

BTCLOGO

Last week, I followed the progress of the UN Climate Change conference in Bonn, Germany. I was mortified when I read what most Americans think about climate change.

There was, however, a glimmer of an idea forming in the back of my mind.

Environmental groups and PR agencies often use the pitch that we should make a change. Compelling people to take action by signing a petition, writing a politician, going on a march, so forth and so on. I ought to know – I’ve done it too.

Stop for a minute and think …

How well is this strategy working out for you?
Have you noticed how stubborn these people can be?
Have you place your faith in change – in the hands of the wrong people?
Is it possible that you have become a bit tired of thinking up new ways of making people do anything let alone take action on climate change?

What’s up with that?!?!

How about being the change?

I can hear you … “Well duh, that’s just another word.”
Ummm … no it isn’t.

Here are 5 things that you can do to change your PR strategy for the better:

Practice what you preach.
How environmentally friendly and ethically responsible is your office, your travel, your business card, your coffee? We have Skype now – do you really need to be on that plane for a meeting?

Being a hypocrite is not cool.

Provide economic value.
The reason why China is cornering the market on carbon trading is because they know something about business. Providing a rational and reasonable ROI is what people are in search of. As you can see – the whole “making the world a better place” pitch is getting you nowhere. Go back to the drawing board and find a way to demonstrate how sustainability works financially.

Consider Cassandra.
Have you ever heard of the “Cassandra dilemma?” Environmental organizations are justifiably concerned about the loss of habitat and the extinction of species. Consider this – when bombarded with information signifying impending doom – people don’t listen because you are throwing their own mortality at them. It is instinctive in humans to deny their own mortality for as long as possible – otherwise – they would run around shouting “We’re all gonna die!” Everyone dies. If you saw someone running around shouting “We’re all gonna die!” what would your initial reaction be? “Yes we are!” or “I’m keeping my distance until I know what’s happening.” If someone can tune out their own mortality – what makes you think that your shouting will get through?

Reverse your statistics.
If 70 percent is going wrong – that means that 30 percent is going right … right? Every day, the media bombards us with so much negative statistical information – that instinctively tune it out. By focusing attention on the 30 percent and rising – you can change the course of a news story and capture attention by using positive messaging to get through. The success is due to the conservation and sustainability efforts made by thousands. People want to do what’s right – but only if there are other people doing it too. Weird psychology – but it works and gets better press.

Be a classmate – not a hall monitor.

Wouldn’t you prefer a conversation to a lecture? I’ve spent years translating technical language into conversation because no one wants to be told what to do. By engaging your audience (with the advent of social media – literally engaging your audience in the conversation) everyone learns more. You learn what matters to them and they learn about what’s happening and what they can do. Drop the structure and share information in a friendly way. No saints and high horses – just people talking about what to do next.

Being the change means rethinking how you develop messages and engage with your audience. By opening your mind and dropping language and the titles that divide – you can compel positive action.

Look around – there is only so much we can do to get our politicians to make decisions. We need to start making our own. Environmental change for the better is possible.

As communicators, we can take action and be the catalyst for change. We’re not just being paid to tell others what to do. We have to be the change too.

Do you have any suggestions to add to the list??
Please leave a comment and let me know.

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About Monica Boehringer PR

public relations professional with 15+ years experience delivering results on contentious and environmental issues for government and nonprofit organizations, counsel to senior management and community engagement.
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2 Responses to Be the change … pass it on

  1. Cool post, it reminds me of one of the most interesting things I learned in University. Which was that when it comes to trying to change behavior, it is far better to tell someone their actions are green and have their opinions follow (I.E. Oh? I did that positive environmental thing? That’s great, I now feel better about myself and am more likely to identify as an environmentalist). Than it is to tell someone the benefits or the reasons why they should act in such a way. In essence, human’s are better at having their beliefs follow their actions, than their actions follow their beliefs. I’m not sure if it would necessary fit exactly on your list, but remains something I think about to this day.

    • Thank you for your comment!
      Of course it makes the list. You’re totally right. Wouldn’t it be great if we told people they were doing something right for a change?
      It makes a great deal of difference to reinforce positive environmental messages.
      You hit on a really important point about identifying as an environmentalist – and it being a good thing.
      We’re often identified as “hippies.” My mom has been an environmentalist for over 60 years – and believe me – she is not a “hippy.”
      Activists come in all shapes, sizes and denominations. By opening our own language and messaging we can become more inclusive of
      people who care very much about what’s happening to our environment.

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