European Youth Media Days 2016

How to “sex up” green issues: A modern-day communication challenge

Text by Bilal Muftuoglu, Turkey/France


Raising awareness on the Internet is definitely not an easy task today when our social media accounts are constantly bombarded by copious amounts of posts and our attention span is shorter than ever. The task gets even harder when it involves an issue that is difficult to understand and contested in some parts of the world, such as the climate change. How does one make people care about environmental issues without sounding “too boring”?

“Green” issues were actually able to make the headlines when UN Conference on Climate Change (COP21) took place in Paris last December, only to be overshadowed few days later however, by the death of David Bowie. International media, and their followers for that matter, rejoiced indeed in celebrating the agreement signed by 177 countries that all committed to limit the global warming to well below 2°C. Where are we now, as citizens of Europe, when it comes to caring about environment?

“After the “COP 21-hype”, it was difficult to get as much attention again for climate issues”, admits Fabian Breuer, Head of Communication planning, evaluation and brand Unit at European Investment Bank. However, climate still matters regarding the questions of energy efficiency and innovation, “which is what people care about mostly when it comes to environmental and sustainability issues”, he adds.


Telling the real story

How do communicators and campaign managers make people care about environmental issues as a whole? “One needs to tell concrete stories: How do policies have concrete impact on peoples’ lives? This is what people want to know and what can be communicated easily”, suggests Breuer.

“Core message must also be this: Policies are not only about environment and saving the planet – it is fields where we want to move, lead and innovate, because it is one of core areas with biggest growth potential in future or because there are also manifold economic reasons to act in the field”, he details.

For Frederik Bordon, Team Assistant at United Nations Regional Information Centre (UNRIC), one has to lead by “setting a personal example”. Speaking at a screening of “Cowspiracy”, a documentary exploring the impact of industrial animal husbandry on environment, Bordon recognizes he made changes in his life regarding meat consumption after seeing the film.

Campaign managers should also pay attention to key dates to check “keep the momentum” on environmental issue, suggests Bordon. “COP21 was a good occasion for that but its signature by more than 150 countries on April 22 nd gave us a new occasion to attract the media attention”.


Using the right tools

Setting an example and checking the calendar aside, tools used to convey a message are also crucially important, according to the UN agent. “Movies like this offer an entertaining way to open a debate and ask people about their level of awareness,” he affirms.

Bordon also recognizes the role of infographics in catching attention and sending out a message, as they could be easily catered to users of social media who want to get their information in few seconds.

“With infographics, you can avoid acronyms and technical description and turn the information into something that is more understandable and accessible”, he says.

As for the audience, Bordon tells public reaction to communication campaigns varies depending on the age of focus groups. “People of the age of my parents grew up in a totally different environment than we do, they seem to be less open to change, they are simply too used to what they know”, he notes. “Young people are different, they do not want to leave behind what previous generations did”.

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