We saw in our media coverage analysis and in our qualitative conversations with experts just how much discussion there is around nearly every part of the climate transition. From what we’ve learned, here are six pointers that professionals should keep in mind when working on sustainable communications:
1. Match the quality of reporting – No one sets out to do bad work. But too often we see comms or marketing departments pushing out copy they know wouldn’t fly in a leading newsroom. Media are becoming smarter, and that means they will be quicker in dismissing faff. Demonstrate climate leadership through sophisticated, data driven analysis rather than cliché.
2. See the story – Imagine the headline at the end of a media campaign. Make sure it’s in line with what is actually published in the newspaper. The Financial Times doesn’t write “ABC Corp Saves the World with New Product.” It won’t make an exception for one company. Be ambitious but realistic with expectations.
3. Think about the road ahead – This year’s COP27 conference in Egypt is already receiving far greater attention than previous ‘interim meetings’ between major summits. It may be worth considering joining the fray virtually or in person. Look backwards at previous events that have made an impact – major reports, governmental announcements, and meetings – and see where these are likely to be repeated. Go beyond the next month or quarter in planning.
4. Be ready to demonstrate credentials – environmental credentials are becoming a critically important facet of business. Communications and marketing can create the story and present it in a compelling way for the business, so make sure you have your assets ready. See questions of proof as a chance to stand out rather than as reporters looking to catch someone out or gather fuel for an expose.
5. Understand the role of journalists – Reporters are employed not just to cover the news, but to start discussions. That may mean leading with a controversial opinion or emphasizing points of disagreement. This is part of the medium, not a sign of broad bias. Don’t let one hostile experience push an entire organization towards non- communication. Be realistic about the goals of engaging with journalists and find ways to continue conversation.
6. Map your audiences carefully – different important stakeholders, internal and external, need a differentiated and nuanced touch when it comes to messaging. Don’t try to apply a broad brush. Think regionally, think about what makes people tick, and apply a clear and effective strategy to reach them with the right message, via the right channel at the right time.
Charlie Morrow is a director in Cognito's London office