There’s a magic trick in environmental and sustainability communication.
It’s the slight-of-hand that brings into people’s vision something that otherwise might remain unseen.
Given many people live in urban areas, some far removed from wild places, the natural environment is not always on people’s radar.
Given much of the imperative for sustainability action (such as climate change) lives in the mysterious realm of the future, it’s not surprising that people don’t always see the need to act now.
As environmental and sustainability communicators, we have to magically reveal that which is all too often concealed.
Once you understand your audience, there are a few rabbits you can pull from the hat. These are things to keep in mind when creating messages that aim to inform, inspire and engage people to see the world differently. It’s a simple piece of magic that’s right before our eyes – the mystical practice of operating opposite to others.
Here’s a list of top ten opposites to help you communicate more effectively for an environmentally sustainable world:
1. Think opposite to a politician. Most pollies think short-term. They operate within election cycles and consequently the “big picture” tends to elude them. Instead, think long-term and establish messages that link to a broader vision.
2. Think opposite to a wallflower. Most wallflowers don’t like to be noticed within a crowd. They want to blend into their surrounds. They don’t want to be popular, sexy, or particularly brave. Instead, communicate in ways that allow your message to stand out and be heard!
3. Think opposite to an anti-hero: Most anti-heroes aren’t particularly likeable and they make poor role-models. They seldom attract fans who wish to emulate their behaviour. Instead, create local heroes and characters worthy of people’s aspirations. Give people someone to look up to and admire.
4. Think opposite to a stock-taker. Most stock-takers don’t think in terms of stories. They think in terms of quantities, what is and is not on the shelf (a bit like this list, really). Instead, think beyond the facts and figures. Engage with people’s emotions. Use stories to express empathy and maintain people’s attention.
5. Think opposite to a criminal. Most criminals aren’t particularly trustworthy. They are not always transparent in their methods or information, and they seldom give substantiated facts. Instead, communicate facts with clarity and transparency.
6. Think opposite to an outsider. Most outsiders don’t want to join the party. They don’t like to network or participate in success stories. Instead, communicate messages that link to the massive worldwide movement. Step into the virtuous circle. Conform to positive success and transformational change.
7. Think opposite to a pessimist. Pessimists wallow in guilt and criticism and self-doubt. Instead, recognise and acknowledge that sustainability is achievable, desirable, and a really good idea.
8. Think opposite to a harsh critic. Critics tend to be overly analytical and focus on the negative. Instead, press people’s “feel good” button. Communicate action for sustainability that inspires people to feel great about their efforts. Let people know they are loved by the world!
9. Think opposite to a clique: Cliques exclude people and tend to endorse stereotypes. Instead, use language and images that make people feel included. Advocate mass ownership of sustainability and a healthy and prosperous world.
10. Think opposite to a rock: Rocks seldom think of people. They seldom think at all. They tend to exist only for themselves. Instead, put people in the picture! Use language and images that relate big ideas to everyday life. Give people something to relate to, something “warm to come home to”.
Of course, even magic tricks take practice. And like many things, they are easier said than done. But if we know a few tricks of the trade, we have a better chance of connecting people with our messages in new and interesting ways.
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