Have you ever wanted to discuss the world’s problems with a friend, to talk about complex issues affecting millions of people, and after a couple of minutes noticed that their eyes have taken on a glazed look? You may have gone too big, too soon. On an individual and organisational level, we often find that we want to communicate messages which are too unwieldy for people to get to grips with. If the topic is too big or too complex, it won’t find it’s target audience.
Climate change is one such topic, an issue which struggles to find prominence among current affairs despite increasingly alarming evidence that rising temperatures are bringing with them very dire consequences. This has been described as ‘climate silence’, a term I first read in a report produced by Climate Outreach.
In the report, Jonathan Rowson, Director of the Social Brain Project at the Royal Society of Arts, neatly sums up the challenge of climate silence:
“A big part of the silence is the absence of a sense that the problem can be solved. Even getting people to disagree about solutions is a form of progress.”(p.11)
This is a crucial lesson for anyone that wants to promote discussion of environmental issues. You can’t just present problems and be the bearer of bad news. Environmental publications are dominated by natural disasters, temperature records and melting ice. People are right to publicise this, but we also need to show what action is being taken against climate change. This Friends of the Earth video documents a community led response to climate change which is of benefit to a school and its pupils, providing a piece of positive news which provides an example that others can realistically follow.
Of course, this is a broader issue of communications strategy and something we are well versed in here at Ember. For example my colleague, the journalist and investing blogger Robin Powell, helps investors by breaking down academic research into digestible animated series such as Six Steps to Successful Investing. When using content to tackle subjects which some people might find hard going, brevity is key, as is finding new angles on the same subject.
It’s an approach which has rubbed off on me. Recently, Staffordshire Police came to me with an idea for a video called Proud of our People, to celebrate the work of all their officers and staff. Unsurprisingly, the list of things to include was as long as my arm. So, to prevent it being one long video hopping from one subject to another, we divided the elements they wanted to include into neatly wrapped themes. They now have a six part series which is watchable and gives them a lot more content to share.
Breaking subjects down and identifying the messages which will impact the audience is a great pleasure for me in my job as a producer. It’s the most important part of producing content - people value their time, so unless you want them to look elsewhere, your content had better be concise.
For more tips and thoughts about content, try these: