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Archive for the ‘Communication Strategies’ Category

It started with a tweet:

tweet_lamarguerite05

Twitter is great that way. I know of no better forum for validating one’s seemingly universal thoughts and feelings. Yesterday, I got seized with a severe case of eco² panic. Eco like green. Eco like economic. Images of CO2 going nuts, and us still not getting our act together, despite almost daily global warming alerts. And the specter of another Great Depression, only worse this time around.

Thank God, Franke was there to tweet back prompto to shake me up good:

tweet_lamarguerite04I must say, I felt a bit ashamed for having given into “defeatism”.  Imagine if all the citizens voiced out their secret despair as I did. That would be the end of it. Even Bill’s chiming in and lecturing Barack, telling him he’s not hopeful enough. Yes, we can. And we shall. Still, I could not let go completely of the reality of my malaise.

tweet_lamarguerite03That was a pretty wishy-washy tweet. I wasn’t even sure where I was going with it. Until Franke’s response:

tweet_lamarguerite01

Thank you, Franke for gifting me, us with your such a wonderful image. Now, whenever I start feeling blue, I will imagine a green window, opening to a new landscape of windmills, and solar farms, and electric cars, and workers going about their green jobs . . .

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I can’t quite remember what the ad was about – but I was struck by the images, and mostly what I felt watching. The outdoors, a person reaching out for a fruit, in a tree. My reaction was, sweet! . . . and boredom. It failed to grab me. I stopped to think, and wondered, is that how I feel, genuinely, with nature imbued narrative, usually? And my response was, yes . . . and maybe others are too?

Contrast this with the excitement from my friend, after he had just come from watching the Waste=Food documentary:

When I heard him talk about the Chinese story, and also Nike’s revolutionary process for making eco-friendly shoes, I wanted to learn more.

In the search for a more sustainable world, we humans may be more impressed by stories of  our own ingeniosity, than nature’s goodness. Technology, creativity, and news seem like a potent recipe for effective green communication, worth using over, and over again. Not so, bucolic scenes, and the romanticization of our natural world.

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McKinsey just released a must read for green marketers. ‘Helping Green Products Grow‘ outlines five steps businesses need to take to sell green products successfully. Most of it is common sense. Still there were a few surprises, most notably in the area of consumers’ awareness of most concrete actions to reduce global warming:

These findings present enormous educational opportunities, not just for green marketers, but also for environmental educators, hoping to make a difference in greenhouse gas emissions. Bloggers, journalists, teachers, environmentalists need to turn up the volume on eating less beef, improving home insulation, and driving more fuel-efficient car, less often. These are all concrete actions that citizens can understand, and that also can help them save money, particularly during these hard economic times.  

Here are the five steps, with selected some highlights:

1. Educate consumers:

Because consumers are largely unaware of green products, a business that sells them must see itself first as an educator, not a sales machine. Our study shows that more than one-third of the consumers who want to help mitigate climate change don’t really know how . . .

2. Build better products:  

Consumers will not think better of green products until companies make them equal to, or better than, their conventional alternatives. It’s no surprise: most people value performance, reliability, and durability much more than ecological soundness. . . .

3. Be honest:

To rebuild public trust, companies must come clean about the true environmental impact of their products and their attempts to reduce it, and many will need to address historical concerns about specific products or operations . . .

4. Offer more:

Companies must ensure that consumers understand the financial and environmental returns on their investment in green products, for they are more willing to try new ones-especially those that cost more-when they find it easy to track the savings . . .

5. Bring products to the people:

Having decided to buy green products, many consumers encounter a last hurdle-finding them-either because manufacturers don’t keep up with demand or advertise where they can be bought, or because wholesalers and retailers don’t stock them or display them prominently. Biofuel enthusiasts, for example, must often drive out of their way to fill up . . .

I will end with my usual rant. Buying green stuff is good as long as it translates in net carbon reduction. Otherwise, we are all better off following the old conservation adage of, ‘reduce, re-use, recycle‘. 

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I have been thinking, a lot, lately, about the difficulties surrounding green communication. And wondering why it has been so hard to engage citizens persuasively on critical issues such as climate change, or biodiversity loss, or deforestation, or the looming water crisis. It is a no brainer that the happy survival of our species depends on a timely resolution of those issues. Yet, we are taking action at snail pace, collectively. It occurred to me that we may be dealing with a problem of confusion of levels. Let’s take climate change for instance. 

While we are all concerned by climate change, the locus of action for that broad problem, does not lie in the individual citizen’s hands, but rather with executive entities that deal with global issues: international organizations such as the U.N., legislative and policy making agencies such as the Senate, and Congress, and the Presidential Cabinet, and environmental watchdogs such as NRDC, or the Sierra Club. 

As a citizen, I cannot control climate change, hence appeals to my conscience, and admonitions to take action, do little other than make me feel guilty, powerless, and frustrated. Instead, I want to be talked to in terms that I can relate to my normal, everyday life. Exercising my rights as a citizen and voting yes on new laws to mitigate climate change, yes. Participating in a New Deal on climate and energy, and joining the green work force, yes. Buying green products at no extra costs, why not? Reducing my energy consumption, to stretch my shrinking budget, absolutely. 

Of course, there are always exceptions. Individuals with a highly developed conscience, who are willing to take on the challenges of the world, and act as beacons of consciousness for the whole. These are a minority, however.  

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I am learning lots from email exchanges amongst our green mom bloggers’ group. This week, the question was raised of how to cast the greening of Thanksgiving under a fresh new way? I latched on to the ‘fresh’ part of the question and voiced that we were past the “10 Tips to a Greener Thanksgiving”. One of the moms disagreed. 

I agree that it’s boring, but I think people still need to hear the basics sometimes.  Repetition might be the only way to help people realize they are capable of making small changes.  It may take years of hearing this stuff for my husband’s family to realize that buying “local” doesn’t mean running out to the nearest Harris Teeter for their prepared turkey and fixings all packaged up in nice little plastic containers!!!

Our exchange highlights a much bigger issue. Three years since the release of “An Inconvenient Truth”, what are the most effective strategies to spread the green message? As green communicators, are we to continue as usual, with our various how-to bits, or are we to adopt radically different approaches?

The advertising people tell us we are to pay attention to the following factors for effective communication:

  1. First is recall, or the ability for people to remember the message
  2. Second is persuasion, or the effectiveness of the message in persuading people to change their behaviors
  3. Third is repetition, the number of time a message is impressed upon people’s minds; we know repetition contributes to recall
At stake in our green discussion, is the issue of persuasion. If we are going to drill a green message into the reluctant citizen’s mind, what should it be? Realizing that the same citizen is currently up to here with worries about his or her financial future. This is why I no longer advocate green admonitions. The way to go in my book, is through the connection with economic concerns. In other words, do not talk green. Instead, explore ways to save, and to survive in our dicey economy.

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Maybe I will change my mind about the “we” campaign?

Their latest “Oil and Coal” ad is getting at the main issue, at last:

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When I wrote about the opportunity to align desired green behaviors with individual needs and wants, this is what I had in mind:

Different people will rank these needs and wants differently. Using myself as an example, the primary motivators for me to bike more, are fun and convenience. If I was in a lower-socio-economic group, where making ends meet was the primary issue, I would probably pick money. If I was a mother of young children, the bonding potential would work best. Etc. 

Seems like a no brainer to me! The question is how come so few green marketers and environmental communicators think along those lines? The last time I read something that made really sense to me, was in Steve Bishop’s article, “Don’t Bother With the Green Consumer“. He uses a bike example as well! :) (I also refer to Steve’s article in a recent post I wrote for the Huffington Post)

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