Putting Strategic Communication into Practice

The following sections outline broadly applicable principles of strategic communications and highlight their application to climate communications. The subsequent section offers detailed insights about the use of language and framing when it comes to communicating climate change and adaptation.

Put together, these sections provide a way of thinking about one of the central questions in climate communications: What is the right ‘balance’ of hope and fear, optimistic scenarios and scientifically grounded projections, good news and bad news? While there is no simple answer, the practices described in the rest of this module, along with perspectives from Module Two, offer an approach that enables honest communication, delivered in both strategic and psychologically supportive ways, which facilitate engagement and action.

Develop a Communication Goal

Developing a communication goal benefits from a perspective that can look simultaneously at both the short term (what do I want those who receive this message to do right now) and at the longer-term (how does this contribute to mid and long-term goals and fit into a theory of change for this project).

In this case, a theory of change is simply a way of thinking about where you want to go, what you think the likely steps are to reach that destination and reflection on the assumptions you’re making about why those steps are likely to lead to that outcome. It can and should be updated as you go forward and understand more about the context and dynamics in which you’re working. It is not a prediction so much as a way to understand and refine the thinking that underpins your communication choices

In practice, this might look like:

A presentation to community partners about a proposed sea level rise study, with a short-term goal that those partners commit to attending a follow-up meeting and share the presentation with colleagues in their respective organizations.

  • This might support your mid-term goal that they allocate staff time to participate in the planning process so that the strategy includes priorities and perspectives which might otherwise be missed.
  • And this, in turn, might support a longer-term goal to gather broad-based support for the plan’s recommendations and implementation.
  • A more distant goal might be to build regional capacity and relationships to address ongoing adaptation challenges that are likely to emerge in the coming decades.

Some of the kinds of questions that can help identify a communication goal include:

  • What do I hope to be different as a result of this (presentation, newsletter, email, etc.…)?
  • Who will do what? (Do you want a project to be funded? Someone to join a coalition or working group? Increased commitment from a decision-maker?)
  • What is the specific ask of my audience? What action do I hope they will take? How explicit or direct can I be about this ask?
  • What change do I hope will occur, and how will I know if it has happened?
  • How does this specific effort fit into my longer-term goals? Why do I think these actions are likely to lead to that outcome?


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Strategic Dialogue and Engagement for Climate Adaptation Copyright © by Simon Fraser University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book