Good sustainability communications can mean the difference between success and failure. Sustainability leaders must understand the art of effective communication both internally and externally.
There are a host of challenged companies face in communicating sustainability. First and foremost they must do the work to minimize their environmental footprint and social impact. Second they must contribute to environmental and social betterment. Then they must develop a communications strategy.
Companies must not only find innovative ways of genuinely engaging sustainability they have to contend with distrust. The best way to combat distrust is through trust. Rather than become defensive, open up, speak authentically and truthfully.
Surmounting skepticism can best be achieved through an authentic approach that resonates. To do this it is important to engage in a collaborative conversation rather than a one way monologue. The language used to communicate must be accessible. Communications that are riddled with jargon is often confusing and many will simply tune out.
Focus on common points of agreement without ignoring the facts. While the science of climate change may be clear, people are not. Consequently it is important to forge a common basis of understanding before segueing into more arcane realms that may not be known to your audience.
Listen to your audience and know who you are speaking to. Always look to your audience to get a sense for whether your message is hitting home. Rephrase your comments and refine your delivery to ensure that the message is received. However, make sure you do not belabor a point, be clear and concise.
Make sure that what you say is sufficiently specific to speak to the reality of your audience. A message that is too generic may not resonate. Being specific makes your audience feel like you are talking to them while being too general may sound impersonal.
Know when to use logic and when to use emotion. When talking one on one about a specific project your approach should be logical, but when you are talking trying to motivate a crowd emotion is better.
Sustainability continues to evolve consequently related communications is part of a life long learning process. Make sure that you are authentic and open. No one knows everything about sustainability be receptive to new information.
Failure to communicate effectively increases the likelihood that people will lose interest and your goals will not be achieved. Conversely good sustainability communications breeds loyalty with employees, customers and consumers.