Be ruthlessly simple or fail: 4 tips for sustainability communications

By Ieva Vilimaviciute, Marketing Communications Coordinator at Sedex

In the age of communication overload and an increasingly complex range of sustainability challenges, how can we communicate effectively to a wide range of stakeholders – from an internal audience, to shareholders, to suppliers, to your customers and consumers? Thomas Kolster, Founder of Goodvertising and an expert in communication for good, shared his advice at the Sedex Conference 2016 in March.

1. Make your story engaging and actionable

Ainformationalccording to Thomas Kolster, simplicity is not an easy thing to get right, but brands that are able to take complex stories and tell them in a simple way have the opportunity to “hold peoples’ hands and build loyal followers. People are willing to pay more for sustainable products, and they care about ethics, but the real challenge is that most of the time we are not able to tell a story that is engaging, actionable and simple,” he said. Before starting any new initiative, Kolster suggests asking yourself a question: “can this be said or done more simply?”. People want help to choose the right products, that reflect their values, and you can help them with that if you manage to tell the story in a simple and engaging way.”

2. Build the bridge between sustainability and marketing

160303_SED_EVE_425Sustainability and marketing represent completely different departments and can often clash. So it is important to build a bridge between sustainability – which is very complex, rational, logical and numerical – and marketing – which can help to engage, excite and move people.

According to Kolster, the way we buy products and connect with brands does not necessarily follow logic – we often might be convinced just because something is presented in a fun, visual way. When you think about crafting your sustainability message, too often you depend on logic and you forget the art and magic of storytelling. He suggests adding an emotional side when possible and translating numbers into emotions to stimulate engagement.

Sustainability comms3. Know and engage with your audience

“We live in an age where we don’t own our brands anymore – a brand is created by what people tell each other, not in a good old fashioned way where we thought we could tell people what our brand is,” says Kolster. Therefore, it is important to first understand your own message very well before thinking about how to simplify it for your audience.

Spend enough time to find that one important message that you want to communicate. Peel away any unnecessary layers of communication – the good thing about simple messages is that they are also shareable.

In this ultra-transparent world that we live in, being social is very important, says Kolster. “Before communicating to your audience, ask yourself what rocks their world, what makes them excited, and craft your communications keeping this in mind.” He suggests thinking about the most opportunistic moment – time, events and places when your audience would likely be most engaged – to create meaningful conversations.  Use different marketing tools to tell your story in a simple, visual way, and use humour when appropriate.

4. Keep it simple, but don’t oversimplify

The language of sustainability needs to be kept simple, but there is a danger of going too far by overusing the words “green” and “sustainability” in everything. It is important to remember that actions speak louder than words. Tell people a new, exciting story – avoiding clichés and communicating the most important message that you want to convey in a simple way.

All the footage from the Sedex Conference is now available on the Sedex YouTube page. You can watch the full spotlight talk with Thomas Kolster below:

Watch the live interview from the Sedex Conference 2016:

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