Over the last 2-3 years, we’ve worked more and more in the climate and sustainability space. And during this time I’ve had a feeling that’s been nagging at me – are we preaching to the choir?

This was the opening line from our director Zack, at the recent launch event for our new report – Re-thinking Climate Communications – held in partnership with The Conduit. Here’s a bit more detail around what we’ve been up to.

Engaging the sceptics

Are we preaching to the choir? With fake news and misinformation rife, what can we as an industry do to make sure that progress doesn’t stall? How can PR and comms work harder to cut through and drive impact? We wanted to get some answers to these questions and explore the role that communications has in fighting the climate crisis.

So we decided to get outside of the echo chamber and we held a focus group with six climate sceptics. We wanted to find out what they thought about climate change (and why), what kind of messages they responded to and what we as communicators could do (if anything) to engage them more on this topic. It was a fascinating discussion to observe and, combined with some additional quant data, it formed the basis of the report.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • 25% of UK adults are either climate deniers or delayers – those that acknowledge the issue but downplay its urgency and importance. That’s 17 million people.
  • 56% of people can’t confidently explain what Net Zero means. People find the topic overwhelming, confusing and complex – especially when it comes to the science
  • There’s a strong sense of climate fatigue. 42% of the public said they feel like they’re being lectured about climate change and our focus group agreed. There were calls for more positive, constructive messaging around the climate crisis and a sense that too much doom and gloom is contributing to people feeling exhausted, powerless and disengaged.
  • “Green”, “Net Zero”, “global warming” – many words and phrases are triggering people to switch off
  • Energy prices, the cost of living crisis, Brexit – these were all issues cited by our panel that they felt were more important than climate change, proving the issue is very much ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

“It has to be a two-way conversation”

The launch event was a brilliant opportunity to discuss some of the findings – and the subsequent recommendations – in more detail. We were joined by BBC presenter Ade Adepitan, environmental psychologist Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, climate activist Clover Hogan and Carbon Brief journalist Dr Simon Evans, with Zack leading a brilliant and lively panel discussion.

From the power of the algorithm to the problems with complex terminology and the need for hope – we covered a lot of ground and were inundated with questions. You can watch the full event here or read the highlights on Twitter if you’re pressed for time.

From PR Week to Marketing Week, to Edie, firstlight was also busy hitting the headlines (rather than just sitting behind them).

Thanks to everyone that came along to the event or read the report. We hope you found it insightful and that it provided some food for thought.

Questions or comments? We’d love to chat: hello@firstlightgroup.io.

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