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More is definitely more

Everyone likes to quote that old adage, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” But we’d also be the first to admit that it isn’t just what or how you say it; it’s also how often you say it.

Though poll after poll shows that more Americans are worried about climate change, our movement still faces a salience issue — both globally and within the US. In 2019, fewer than 15% of Americans talked about climate change often.

Search Trends

Google Trends shows us the periodical impact of major events like the Paris Accord or Global Climate Strike. But, there’s little evidence of long-term growth in saliency.

The data says…

Frequency of exposure strongly predicts growth in climate supporters. When we put our best foot forward — that is, when we put in the messages that we know from pre-testing to be persuasive, we find media investment levels to be the best predictor of higher impact.

Across 14 campaigns, we see the following relationship between spend and movement growth:

It’s been by far a stronger indicator than any other easily accessible engagement metric, like click-through or conversion rates, which we know can be misleading.

Higher frequency per person is also much more cost-effective. From the 1 billion ads we’ve served and analysis of monthly large-scale, in-market measurements, we’ve found that if we talk to people 5–10 times a month, our money goes half as far compared to 40 times a month.

More is, in fact, cheaper. People are simply not hearing about climate enough, and we have yet to broach any “tap-out” point.

Correlation

That’s interesting…

Based on the data, our best guess is that the average person needs to see and hear about climate at least 80 times a month — potentially even more — to become an active supporter of significant climate action.

It’s also true that climate communications are currently overshadowed by the volume of oppositional messages. So, how does David defeat Goliath? By being smarter, yes… and, in our case, by enlisting every resource we’ve got.

What to do about it…

What we need is a massive, sustained injection of climate into culture and community — fast. It can’t just come from “climate journalists” and “environmental organizations.” We need brands, media companies, movie and film producers, social media influencers, community leaders and organizations — everyone! — to reach this level of frequency.

In our advisory work, we encourage these organizations to answer these three questions, in order of easy to hard. Whether you’re creating short ads or a feature film, writing a social post or a novel, hosting a talk show or a podcast, an A-list celebrity or YouTube-TikTok-Instagram influencer, but really, if you’re at all interested in helping to create the “climate surround sound,” are you …

  • Seeding, consistently, the desire for a clean economy, even when the primary topic isn’t about climate? Does all of your content highlight clean energy as well as climate-friendly products and behaviors?
  • Modeling productive conversations? Do you include climate conversations as both “big” focus points as well as part of the mundane, background dialogue?
  • Talking about pollution? This is one of the most powerful ways to change how people conceptualize climate. We’re here to fight pollution and polluters, not “climate change.”

Until next time,
John & Jessica

P.S.If you’re looking to dig deeper on exactly “what to do,” we’d love to connect! We also wanted to highlight resources for writers from NRDC’s Rewrite the Future and a soon-to-be launched playbook from The Good Energy Project.