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Creating Conservation Messages that Stick

While learning about storytelling and communication, I read Dan and Chip Heath’s book, Made to Stick. 


One of the main ways to make something sticky, according to the book, is to follow the 6 SUCCES principles: Simple, Unexpected, Concise, Credible, Emotional, and Stories. 


If what you are trying to communicate incorporates those principles, it will likely be sticky. 


But while the book was written about the broad realm of communication, I read it through the lens of communication around conservation.


Historically, challenging subjects like climate change, biodiversity loss, fossil fuels, and plastic pollution have not recieved as much public and political awareness as biologists and experts had hoped.


No one enjoys hearing that driving their nice car or using plastic is destroying the world. Because people want to remain comfortable, these topics struggle to gain traction.


And without adequate awareness and support from the public, confronting these problems can seem impossible.


But what if conservation messages could go viral and become sticky?


Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis? That movement gained over $115M worldwide for the disease in just a couple of months.


If conservation messages could have that same sort of impact or gain similar traction, imagine how much progress could be made toward saving the world.


So, how can researchers, conservationists, and others create conservation messages that stick?


Below we are going to be exploring 3 excellent examples of sticky communication regarding conservation and what makes them sticky in the first place. 


WWF

Protect Our Wildlife Before It’s Too Late

WWF’s Twitter post is brilliant. 


Using the recent Twitter rebrand, from a blue bird logo for the last 15 or so years to the new logo of the letter X, WWF highlights the threat of animal extinction. 


Now, WWF probably did not expect it to become as viral as it did, but they prepared themselves well by embracing the ideas found in Made to Stick.


Out of the 6 SUCCES principles, their post excelled most at being simple, unexpected, and concise


This viral image circulated all across the internet for several months. And because it is so striking, unexpected, and, frankly speaking, humorous, it was able to bring a lot of attention to conservation subjects that matter, such as the various places and species that WWF is protecting.


Coral Reef Alliance

Life Is Better In Color

While not a specific post like WWF, Coral Reef Alliance’s campaign around the first-ever coral bleaching awareness month has also gained substantial traffic. 


November 2023, Coral Reef Alliance decided to use its platform to elevate awareness of the fate of reefs as ocean temperatures continue to increase.  


Additionally, they even rebranded their logo to black and white inviting other conservation companies to do the same and partake in the month of awareness.


From the phrase “Life Is Better In Color,” to vivid footage of bleached reefs compared with vibrant healthy reefs, the campaign was striking and incredibly compelling.


And because they tugged on our heartstrings and reminded us of how beautiful healthy corals can be, it is clear Coral Reef Alliance leaned into the 5th SUCCES principle: emotion.


Greta Thunberg

School Strike for Climate

Fridays for Future, better known as School Strike for Climate, is a youth-led global movement started by Greta Thunberg where students skip Friday classes to demand action from political leaders to prevent climate change. 


This movement started in 2018 and is still going strong. 


Why? Because it is ridiculously sticky. 


The phrase “School Strike for Climate” is simple and concise, making it easy to remember and easy to catch on.


The images of children skipping school to protest are dramatic.


And the messaging of children begging political leaders for a brighter, healthier future for themselves and the rest of the world also taps into the emotional and storytelling components of the SUCCES principles. 


Next Steps

If you work in conservation and you are curious to learn more about how to make your ideas and messages stick in order to boost awareness and inspire change, I encourage you to give Made to Stick a read.


While it is not written with conservation in mind, it still holds an abundance of strategies on how to improve the stickiness of your communication.


With that in mind, over the next several weeks and months, I intend to learn more about storytelling and communication around conservation topics and how to craft them in a way that inspires change.


Everything that I learn I will be documenting in LinkedIn posts or blogs like these so that you elevate your messaging.


But until then, if you want to make your conservation message sticky, make it simple, unexpected, concise, credible, emotional, or story-driven.


Hope this helps!

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