Monday, April 06, 2009

Environmental Messaging: New Challenges and Missed Opportunities

For the first time in 24 years, voters are prioritizing economic growth over the environment.

Voters were given two options

1) Protection of the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth.
2) Economic growth should be given priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent.

#2 beat number #1 by 51% to 42% (5% of respondents volunteered “equal” as their answer, but the poll was trying to push people into one camp or the other as a way to weed to measure the leanings of undecideds – a perfectly legitimate tool that does not diminish the results of the poll in any way).

These days, in the words of Bill Clinton, “it’s the economy, stupid.” More specifically, it’s the jobs, stupid.

Any policy proposal that does not have jobs front and center is going to be viewed as a low priority by the American voter.

The traditional environmental movement seems to be slow to adapting to these changes.

A recent email from the Sierra Club aimed at Floridians is a case in point. It is, in most ways, your basic email intended to drive traffic to a petition site and eventually to a request for contributions. But the language misses the mark in a number of fairly critical ways.

Help us bring clean cars, clean air and new jobs to Florida. Our Legislature is considering a bill Governor Charlie Crist supports that would require auto companies to sell clean cars in Florida.

But car manufacturers are lobbying our Representatives and Senators against this legislation that would help Florida slash global warming pollution. They would rather waste millions to stop this bill than work to make cleaner cars.

It is time for failing auto companies to get out of the way of clean cars for Florida. Click here to send a message to your State Representative and your State Senator asking them to support requirements for cleaner cars in Florida.
If enough of us take action, we can ensure that Florida will move forward with legislation that would cut car emissions 23% by 2012 and 30% by 2016. Vehicles will achieve greater fuel economy, reduce carbon emissions, and save business and consumers money at the fuel pump.
Click here to take action for clean cars and learn more:

Our state deserves clean air, cost savings at the pump and new jobs for Florida's clean energy future. Thanks for taking action to protect the planet.

Let’s take it from the top…

Paragraph 1: In the opening list of benefits, “new jobs” comes dead last. This is a criminally negligent misreading of what drives voters. Simply by putting new jobs first, the whole email would have taken on a different and more effective tone.

Paragraph 2: “Global warming” is so passé. I mean it. Listen closely and you’ll find that very few politicians or environmental groups use that phrase anymore. Why? Because global warming has ceased to be a statement of science and become a statement of ideology. The lines have hardened and either you’re already for it or your against. “Climate change,” on the other hand, is a more neutral term and voters who might currently tense up at “global warming,” are more open to learning about climate change.

Paragraph 3: If they had only written “…out of the way of creating jobs and clean cars…” or something similar.

Paragraph 4: The only other issue that moves the dial a little (besides jobs) is price points – saving voters money. Yet “save business and consumers money at the fuel pump” comes dead last in the list.

Paragraph 5: Just a link.

Paragraph 6: Once again, an opportunity missed to put jobs front and center. Which sort of sums up the whole email.

P.S. Thank you, Bob, for forwarding this email onto me! See you next time I'm in San Francisco!


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