Home Forums Circularity LIZ FOOTE: Notes From Liz on Session 4

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      There were a lot of thoughtful and insightful questions and comments in the chatbox today! I’d like to follow up on one of the questions/discussions about doom and gloom messaging for environmental organizations. I see this come up again and again, and I know there are a bunch of studies out there as well as some good and not-so-good Twitter hot takes, but a couple of my go-to publications are put out by the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia (“Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication” and “The Psychology of Climate Change Communication”) which integrate a nice array of solid empirical research that is applicable beyond the issue of climate change. Randy referenced Daniel Kahneman in an earlier session; there’s a lot of cognitive psychological principles in these guidebooks. The takeaway is that if you do have to invoke what is considered “doom & gloom” messaging (and let’s face it, that IS the reality and a big part of our “ordinary world”), you need to follow up with some specific “what you can do” messaging, to keep your audience from checking out due to hopelessness. There’s your “therefore.” This is where Jeremy Jackson & Nancy Knowlton landed as Randy noted during the session; they went from a depressing fixation on the “doom & gloom” to forming the ocean optimism summit. Another great communicator who balances the “despair and hope” thing really well is Katharine Hayhoe. Check out her YouTube series “Global Weirding” for starters.

      I also brought up New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo in the chatbox as I have been following his coronavirus briefings and paying attention through the lens of not just communication principles, but some of these behavioral science concepts as well. Check out this opinion piece from the Guardian that outlines “best practices” for leaders during this global crisis. You’ll see the alignment with behavioral science concepts, and you have heard Randy make reference to a lot of these themes as well during the past four sessions. Cuomo is one example of a leader skillfully and intuitively checking many of these boxes. So next time you hear his, or another one of these leaders’ speeches (for instance New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern), watch for these principles in action.

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