What I’ve Learned Doing Climate Communications: A One Year Reflection

Coming into this position a year ago, I thought that to do this job well I would need to have extensive knowledge about social media hacks and how to quickly build a Facebook following. Today, I’m less focused on the analytics and numbers – and more interested in diversifying the Roundtable’s follower base by finding fun and creative ways to connect with people online.

Who currently does climate communication – and who should be doing it? I guess before we even get to that point, we should start with this question: What is the goal of climate communication? What are we trying to achieve? Well I think that answer might look differently to everyone who partakes. For the Roundtable, my goal has been, more broadly, to build and strengthen a progressive climate movement in Connecticut by connecting with diverse groups and finding ways that everyone can participate. Maybe someone else wants to educate their peers on a college campus by writing a column in their campus paper, maybe a different person wants to educate their union on ways they can support sustainable work practices, and maybe you just want to find new ways to talk to your parents about the science behind the realities of climate change. The possibilities are endless, but the point here is that everyone has some capacity to take part.

Currently there is a lot of discourse around how to craft the perfect post on social media that will run numbers.

But something I’m continually practicing with myself is focusing on these three main things when crafting a message: Is the post authentic, is it relevant, and is it meaningful?

  • Authentic to your voice or your organization’s voice
  • Relevant to your audience – meet them where they’re at
  • Meaningful to the cause – it should connect back to your goals

Once you have crafted some quality content, or the meat of your message, there are a few tips I’ve learned to intrigue or reach more people with your post. To start, and this tip specifically applies to social media, your post should validate people’s social sense of self. For example, people want to be perceived as funny, witty, smart, inspirational, conscious, justice oriented, etc. Think about liking a post on Facebook as being a mini endorsement that people want to publicly share with their own following.

  • Consider making your posts “snackable” or short and easily digestible
  • Use a captivating graphic or video
  • Tag your location, people, or catchy hashtags
  • Add links that connect people to more actionable tasks like visiting your website

A lot of these tips I learned thanks to Climate Advocacy Lab – a wonderful climate communications resource – so a huge shout out to them!

Here’s an example of a post I did, in promotion of the Connecticut Climate Crisis Mobilization Strike that incorporated many of these tips:

This post is authentic to our organization’s voice because it encouraged our followers to take action for climate justice. It’s relevant because we highlighted Ned Lamont’s most recent mandate of 100% renewable energy by 2040. And it’s meaningful in the way that it integrates labor justice and the fight for a healthier planet, an integral part of our organizations mission! I also kept it fairly short and sweet, incorporating relevant action links, a geotag (the CT State Capitol where the Rally was held) and a hashtag: #StrikeWithUs. One tip that probably would have helped my post to reach even more people that I failed to do, would have been tagging people: tagging the Roundtable’s affiliates, allies, or other groups that participated in or helped plan the strike.

Connecting this knowledge about communications back to the original theme of my blog posts, which are centered around who has access to dialog about these issues and how can we push to embed issues of environmental justice into the mainstream environmental movement: How do we make sure that our advocacy work / communications is accessible to and connects with environmental justice groups missions and initiatives? Often times we become so caught up in this work that our discourse about climate change reaches high levels without us even realizing it. It can go over people’s heads who aren’t as familiar with the topic. To bring in racially diverse constituencies, we will have to do more work to reach them. It might involve one on one calls, direct messaging, or in person meetings first. Simply forwarding them a newsletter or tagging them in a social blast will not be enough.

The truth is that social media is not a substitute for organizing, it has to include intentional engagement and two-way dialogue.

Aisha K. Staggers
Author: Aisha K. Staggers

Provider of "proactive and strategic communications" with a solid background in print and digital journalism. Communications Director of Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs.