Tegan Tallullah

Aug 18, 2022

Try this 4-step narrative for climate communications

How do you talk about climate change so that people actually listen and take action?

It's the million-dollar question. (Or million tonnes of CO2e question you could say 😄).

Opening with climate hell makes people freeze up

It's common for climate communications to open with hard-hitting facts about what is happening to the climate and the horrors that await us if we don't take action to stop it. Then segue into the actions we can take to stop it, and maybe end on a hopeful note.

Sound familiar?

We assume that the threat of disaster will grab attention and motivate people to act. And of course some audiences respond to that.

But what if many are freezing up, glazing over, scrolling right past and never getting to the action part of your message?

Futerra's 4-step narrative

The communications and behaviour change agency Futerra was commissioned by the UK government to research what messages land with the public and drive action. They conducted a research study based on focus groups.

Their finding? A particular 4-step narrative was the clear winner:

  1. Vision: Start with your vision of what the beautiful post-carbon future will look and feel like. It needs to be as descriptive and vivid as possible. Connect to what the audience already wants and values.

  2. Choice: You've shown them climate 'heaven', now give them hell. Vividly lay out everything we have to lose, the impacts already happening, the risks. Make it clear we have a choice.

  3. Plan: Introduce a high-level plan for what we, collectively, need to do to make the positive vision a reality and avoid climate hell.

  4. Action: Finally end with a specific action the audience can take now, that ties clearly and intuitively into the plan and the vision.

What do you think, have you tried this?

Read Futerra's fascinating report Sell The Sizzle for more on their research.

Tegan Tallullah

Writing about climate, sustainability, social justice & how they're communicated. 7+ years doing comms at sustainability nonprofits/SMEs. Words are magic.