Thursday, 29 March 2007
Think global, talk local
Communicating sustainable development. The phrase itself makes it sound like you’re speaking Klingon. You can place it alongside ‘capacity building for community empowerment’ or ‘centres of excellence for best practice’ in the hideous jargon jamjar of obfuscation.
In short, the words don’t help.
The other challenge for those of us dealing with communications and sustainability is the fact that so many people can feel paralysed by the sheer scale of the issues and problems we’re seeking to tackle. Global warming? Quick, hide beneath the duvet! Species extinction? Heads in the sand, comrades! Deprivation and global poverty? Pass me the remote, it’s time for Dancing on Ice. This is territory that our colleagues at Futerra have explored really well in their ‘Rules of the Game’ for communicating climate change. Creating fear without agency is not a smart move.
If you’re planning a major campaign on something like climate change then one winning strategy for success is to root your creative work in something that the audience can strongly relate to: their own lives and the place where they live. You need to think global but talk local.
Another example of ‘think global, talk local’ in the Northwest of England is a campaign called ‘SMYLE’ run by Vale Royal Borough Council. I really like this campaign - which I hasten to add we had no part in professionally. SMYLE stands for ‘Supporting MY Local Environment’ and is strongly grounded in the idea that each and every one of us has the power to make a difference to our local environment, as part of our collective contribution to a better environmental future. Campaign highlights for me have to include the ‘Rubbish Heads’ street theatre (strangely terrifying, could be off Doctor Who) and a campaign video narrated by Derek Griffiths (TV presented and voice of SuperTed... holds a special place in many a thirtysomething’s heart).
SMYLE, alongside Manchester is my Planet, is a great example of a campaign that doesn’t use disconnected, global disaster imagery and unrooted, difficult to contextualise global statistics to try and appeal to someone who happens to be out shopping for spuds or who has just opened an email from a friend. Good campaigns connect to their audiences and take them on a journey; bad campaigns preach to the converted and leave the rest of us stone cold.