Communicate effectively

People might not pay attention to the new programme or policy or simply not be aware of its existence.

Below you will find a number of strategies that you can use to communicate the desired action effectively to the public.

Identify appropriate channels

Identify what information channels your target group uses and relies on the most, and ensure that you inform the public about the new policy or programme through these channels.

Interviews, social listening, and focus groups are research methods that can help you identify which information channels people in your target group interact with the most. Your choice of communication channels should therefore always be informed by prior research and understanding of the target population. Without this understanding, the information is unlikely to reach the target audience.


Case Study
Generational Differences in Social Media Use Should Guide Climate Change Communication Strategy

A 2021 survey by PEW Research pointed out large generational differences in the frequency with which people engage with climate change issues via social media. Specifically, in the two youngest of the surveyed generations (born before 1996 and between 1981 and 1996, respectively), 40 - 45% reported to engage with climate-related content on social media in the past few weeks. On the contrary, only 21 - 27% of individuals from the older generations reported doing so. This study outlines the particular importance of social media channels in communicating climate change to younger adults.

Identify and leverage the right messengers

Carry out research to understand to whom your target group listens with respect to the promoted programme or policy. Once you identify appropriate messengers, think about how they can help in promoting the energy-efficient behaviour to the public.

Individuals tend to pay more attention to figures whom they trust and respect. Empower local community members to talk about your programme or policy. This can be further facilitated by providing the local leaders with community engagement training and materials that are easy to disseminate.


Case Study
The Pope's Endorsement Influenced American Catholics' Climate Change Beliefs

Pope Francis's public statements about the threat of climate change have significantly impacted many people's awareness of climate change.

A 2015 study found that 1 in 10 Americans and 2 in 10 Catholics reported being aware of the Pope's position regarding climate change; furthermore, many Americans indicate that the Pope's views have influenced their own perceptions and opinions of climate change.

Information delivered from a trusted public figure can increase the salience of the material and boost public belief.

Use timely prompts

Use notifications and reminders to prompt citizens who initially failed to engage with the new service or policy.

To maximise the effect of the reminder, send the notice in moments when citizens are likely to have an opportunity and mental resources to act on the information (e.g., outside of work hours).


Case Study
Increasing Engagement in a Tree Giveaway Programme with Phone Call Reminders

The Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department in the U.S. runs a tree give-away programme for city residents to increase the urban tree population. However, many people who express interest in the programme do not follow through with collecting their trees for planting.

A recent study assessed the effect of additional phone call reminders, in addition to standard paper or email reminders, on participant follow-through. The results indicated that phone call reminders increased attendance by 16 percentage points.

Providing opportunities for additional reminders can increase follow-through in sustainability-focused programmes.

Make your communications simple and brief

Avoid unnecessary information when introducing the programme or policy to the public.

Keep the communication brief and simple to understand, avoiding any unnecessary jargon and long paragraphs. Using accessible and clear language will increase trust in and understanding of the programme.


Case Study
Simple Language Increases Understanding of Scientific and Technological Information

A recent study assessed how jargon use affects non-experts' engagement with scientific material. Participants were randomised to either a jargon condition (10 terms per paragraph) or a no jargon condition (terms replaced with straightforward explanations).

The results demonstrated that the presence of jargon impeded processing fluency, in addition to negatively impacting participants' self-schemas as related to understanding science and technology information.

Eliminating jargon and making communication clear and straightforward can help increase people's understanding and positive engagement with the topic.

Personalise your communications

Include personalised elements in your message to increase the chances that your target group will perceive the message as relevant.

When designing communication, always try to include elements that will increase the message's relevance to the individual (e.g., individual's name, living area). This will boost recipients' attention to the communication and their likelihood of then engaging with the programme or policy.


Case Study
Local Weather Reporters Can Influence Viewer's Perception of Climate Change by Highlighting Relevant Environmental Effects

“Climate matters” is a resource program for TV Weathercasters in the US to help them report on the local implications of climate change, as opposed to simply providing a standardised weather report.

An experiment tested how reporting on the localised impacts of climate change by a prominent local forecaster affects TV viewers’ climate change perceptions. The results showed that, compared to standard weather reports, localised reporting increased viewers’ understanding that climate change is a real threat, that it is personally relevant to them, and that climate change affects their community, all of which are key factors that influence public acceptance of climate change policies.

Appeal to culturally-specific desires and values

Conduct research to understand what values matter most to your target population.

Identify and establish links between the key values held by your target group and the new programme or policy that aims to promote green behaviours. Tapping into these values can increase the likelihood that people will engage in the goal behaviour.


Case Study
Be Aware of Individuals' Moral Orientation when Writing Policy

A survey of people identifying as liberal versus conservative in the U.S. indicated that political identity is tied to individuals' moral intuitions: Harm/care, Fairness/reciprocity, Ingroup/loyalty, Authority/respect, and Purity/sanctity. Participants identifying as liberal were more likely to endorse Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity foundations, while conservatives endorse all five moral foundations equally.

Policymakers should be aware of the diversity of moral orientations within a population when developing policies that appeal to people's moral convictions.

Show that relevant people care about the information

Draw people's attention to those who are already participating in the programme to increase future uptake and engagement.

If a significant number of citizens are already engaging in the desired behaviour, highlight this fact in your communication to strengthen the positive social norm, and use relatable reference groups to create stronger motivation for others to comply with the new programme or policy.