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How to Make Sustainability Sexy

— Bella Foxwell, Digital Writer 

The PR industry, marketing and communications professionals and even politicians have a “responsibility to create meaningful dialogue on issues” – but where should they start?

How do you make the world sit up and listen to you and keep your target audience engaged with both your message of sustainability and your brand? Here, through the lens of a topical, global issue – the scale and seriousness of the world’s plastic waste problem – we look at how effective comms can really be on the topic of sustainability.


A Demand for Authentic Storytelling

The stories that become click-bait or grab the attention of passers-by with their front pages, are usually about people. From the success of newspaper fundraising campaigns like the Evening Standard’s Young and Homeless Helpline appeal to the now infamous Humans of New York viral social media series, putting a face to a name or campaign is powerful whether the call to action is awareness or investment.

When working with a product, service or cause like campaigning to reduce plastic waste, the challenge is how to make the consumer care. The solution – or one of them – is emotive storytelling.

In the UK, the fear of disappointing David is enough to spur some people into action to reduce their personal plastic consumption and waste. Further afield, in countries such as the Netherlands, young people like Boyon Slat are taking matters into their own hands and crowdfunding the designing and construction of new machinery and techniques.

Whatever the industry or message, add an element of emotion, combined with powerful language and a strong call to action – and you’re well on the way to capturing your customers’ attention.    


Putting pressure on brands to lead the way

Not only do brands and communications people need to create meaningful dialogue, they need to be the first to take action. There is pressure on big companies, as well as at government level, to make the first move when it comes to being more sustainable, and rightly so. Consumers are prepared to make small changes when it comes to reducing plastic use and waste, but they need guidance. This is especially apt when it comes to sustainability – a relatively new consideration but one that has quickly accelerated in terms of priority given recent discoveries.

This also applies across industries. When trying to tap into an audience or improve your brand position or perception in a space, you need to show consumers the how, when, where and why. Give them what they need to make an informed buying decision, whether that’s using the right type of influencer to endorse your product or service, or using high-quality visuals that are strong enough to make people listen, think and act.

The customer journey starts from the first connection a consumer has with your brand, to the moment they decide to either purchase from you again or switch allegiances.

When it comes to waste, the problem doesn’t end when you dispose of your plastic rubbish. Just because it’s not in your house or your bin doesn’t mean it isn’t continuing to cause damage to the environment.  So, what is the answer to keeping consumers engaged with this particular issue?

  • Reward participation and make sustainability efforts compulsory versus optional
  • Push businesses and legislative bodies to make the first move
  • Listen to the industry experts who are trying to educate us