Living and breathing in the sustainability communications space for the last eight years sometimes feels like listening to a broken record. We’re constantly encountering like-minded, passionate environmentalists and social change agents that have the best intentions, but the worst execution when it comes to telling their story. Their organizations are working on real life, purpose-fueled change that is making a positive impact on the planet and people that they touch. So if they are actually making a positive impact, then why aren’t we hearing and remembering these stories instead of the Doritos commercial we saw during the Super Bowl?Here are seven tips to make your sustainability story stick:
1. Lead with values.
When a commitment to sustainability is rooted in an organization’s values, the entire company will communicate based on their purpose, not the fluff they think people are buying. People look to support brands that share their values. Uber had to learn this lesson the hard way.
2. Right audience. Right tactic.
When creating your communications plan, be clear about to whom you are communicating and what they want to hear. Your NGOs don’t want to look at Instagram content from your volunteer days, and a 22-year-old new hire probably isn’t combing through your GRI content index in search of GHG reductions data.
3. Leave out the technical jargon.
Other than a handful of sustainability practitioners, most people find technical jargon pretentious and unrelatable. Leave it for your GRI Index. Keep it simple.
4. Know when to appeal to emotion.
Leveraging the power of emotion and storytelling (in the form of videos, websites, etc.) can help your sustainability story resonate with a wide audience. However, make sure to only employ this tactic in the appropriate places. (Hint: not in a formal report.) And no matter what you do, make sure you can always back up your stories with hard data.
5. Make it timely.
Think about coinciding company events, holidays, community initiatives — areas that align with your story and will potentially get additional traction and greater visibility. And don’t wait if the info is pertinent. No one wants to hear about your employee travel program from last year.
6. Dialogue, not monologue.
Just as you have access to tweet with Kim Kardashian, so too should your audience have immediate access to interactions with you. Make sure to keep it a two-way conversation, even when you are pushing out your GRI-based report.
7. Your vision should be visual.
Leave the 12pt, Times New Roman for the DMV. Bring your story to life with real photography, design, video, interactive, and experiences that fit with your brand and story.
We know that implementing these changes can be difficult and take time. But in our experience, they pay huge dividends. Even if you can only implement a few of these steps, they will help your once-dry sustainability story become the engaging story of how your organization is changing the world.