Thursday, May 7, 2015

Sightline: 3 Climate Messages That Win

3 Climate Messages That Win

A message triangle to engage and win on climate change and clean energy.

This post is part of the research project: Flashcards
Poll after poll tells us that majorities of Americans support climate and energy solutions. But neither the talking heads on TV nor our elected officials have kept pace with public opinion—or with scientific urgency.

Why? One major factor is that the fossil fuel industry is actively stalling our progress, spending millions to influence elections, lobby decision-makers, and hammer Americans with messages designed to mislead, cast doubt, distract, and polarize.

Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions (along with Sightline and a team of messaging experts) has retested and updated the powerful climate change narrative first developed in 2012 that informed high-profile climate communications from the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency to and state and local leaders across the US.

It’s a clear, compelling narrative that cuts through these coal and oil industry tactics and frames global warming and energy solutions on our terms, not theirs. (Climate blogger Joe Romm hailed it a “must-read” for climate communicators.)

With a national survey, we identified three top-performing messages—persuasive among progressive voters and key swing and Independent segments of the electorate. Together they form a compelling message “triangle” anchored in shared values—responsibility, accountability, and empowerment. The narrative strikes an important balance between:
  • The Threat: Pointing to strange and severe weather and our responsibility to protect our kids makes an emotional connection and grounds the issue in personal experience, underscoring the urgency of the climate challenge;
  • The Villain: Holding oil and coal companies accountable for rigging the system against clean energy counters apathy and guilt by explaining why progress has stalled and showing that overcoming the roadblocks the fossil fuel industry has created is a way forward; and
  • The Solutions: Demonstrating the benefits of shifting off dirty fuels to clean energy, especially in our neighborhoods, cities, and states helps transcend partisanship and shows that local, practical solutions are available, affordable, effective—and empowering.
These three messages are most powerful together, supported by key facts and local examples. Here is your quick reference for effective words to use:
Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions: 3 Climate and Energy Messages that Win
Click here for the full messaging guide (pdf), including methodology, tested supporting facts, tips and talking points, and strategies for responding to common opposition attacks. Let us know if you’re interested in print copies of the guide and pocket guide or if you’d like to learn more about coaching and training opportunities.

Sightline Flashcards are messaging memos designed as short, scannable tools for sharing effective communications strategies. Our strategic communications team digests piles of public opinion research, transcripts from speeches, expert advice, and academic studies—from cognitive linguistics and neuroscience to political science, sociology, and psychology—distilling best practices in messaging. Flashcards often focus on values-based communication: strategies for talking about important policies or issue solutions in terms of shared values.

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