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Introduction

Hello!

I’m excited to introduce “That’s Interesting,” the Potential Energy Coalition Knowledge Newsletter. (This first issue will contain a bit of a preamble, but we’ll aim to keep future newsletters short and concise!).

So, how do we get people to care about climate change?

Yes, people are growing in their concern, and yes, climate activism is at its strongest that we have ever seen.

Yet, the data also suggests that, of the 8 billion people currently living on this planet, most of us are still going about our daily lives with absolutely no sense of what’s happening or the true scale of the massive challenge that faces us.

It’s exasperating — to put it mildly — but it’s also no surprise: even without the decades of misinformation and opposition lobbying, climate change is a complicated product to sell. However, at Potential Energy we are finding more and more critical clues every day, making our “persuasion engine” smarter and more effective by the minute.

Before we get started: What do we aim to achieve with this newsletter?

It goes without saying that we could not have gotten to where we are today, without the tireless efforts of scientists, activists, policymakers, NGOs, researchers, and communications professionals who have learned and taught a significant amount. So what will our knowledge contribution be? Quite simply, we are amassing a massive amount of data on what works in the real world. After 18 months into our journey, we’ve served hundreds of millions of ads, run scores of randomized controlled message tests, and are conducting ongoing large-scale in-market persuasion studies. Our team regularly combs through a massive amount of measured behavior and attitudinal data from citizens who see our messages.

As a result, we’re sitting on a rich data asset that helps identify what works: who’s most persuadable, what messages connect with them, and how to get their attention. In short, we’ve learned — and continue to keep learning! — who, how, and what to message. Each time, we notice new things; some are mere optimization tweaks, others are revelatory enough to compel thorough scrutiny of our strategy. Each time, we are both invigorated and humbled by the findings.

Our belief is that the world needs to build an army of hundreds of millions of people who understand the challenge and are pushing to change the way the world works. Our goal with this newsletter is to systematically share what we are learning. In aggregate, we hope this tapestry of clues will help us all in the journey to awaken the world.

We’ll be sending out regular newsletters with observations centered around a singular idea and grounded in practical application on topics like, “Why ‘solutions’ messages fail to connect (and what we can do to improve them),” “Should climate communications be funnier?”,“How best to talk about climate change with conservatives,” and more. Largely, they will all fall within one of three subtopics:

  1. Messaging
  2. Audience
  3. Investment

Our leading principle is to be data-led, keeping this forum “hypothesis-rich, but opinion-free.” There are many views out there: “we have to sell optimism” and “too much doom and gloom, not enough solutions,” “it starts with individual behavior” versus “individual behavior doesn’t matter.” These conversations are useful and necessary, but our role isn’t to come with a perspective. We want to turn these ideas into real-life experiments, ruthlessly finding what works and why. We’re leaving our values out of this effort; we just want to share with you the data that, quite literally, had us think, “Well, that’s interesting.”

One last thing

When we say “forum,” we mean it. We want to hear your thoughts and reactions to the data we’re sharing, point out findings we may have missed, or suggestions for new ways to look at the data. We’re a curious team and hungry for thought partners. You can always reach us at info@potentialenergycoalition.org, with the subject: Knowledge Newsletter ##.

John