Climate Communication Tips
“It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear”

Forgive me for quoting dark arts spinmeister Frank Luntz (above), but sadly there’s no wordsmith in the “reality-based community” who nails this point so thoroughly.

Perhaps that’s because so many of us are still wedded to the myths that either 1) “the science speaks for itself” (it does, but only to other scientists), or 2)  saying things clearly and concisely in plain English makes us sound dumb (what could be dumber than being indecipherable?).

Whatever the reason, speaking to general audiences in scientific jargon clearly elicits a response result similar to Ginger’s.    Or worse.

If you pepper your talk with j-bombs like “anthropogenic,” “anomaly,” “forcings,” “temporal,” and “positive feedback,” half your audience will fall asleep but the other half may just get mad.    Because you are making them feel dumb.

For lists of jargon to avoid — complete with”thought bubbles” of what your audience hears, just like in the cartoon — see these two excellent articles by Susan Hassol.

Personally, I try to remember to use the following “Eight C’s” of effective communication as a checklist.    Are the words I’ve chosen:

  • core                     (hit your main point)
  • clear                    (unmistakable to all)
  • correct               (100%)
  • concise               (practice “brutal editing”)
  • considerate      (inoffensive, especially to open-minded skeptics)
  • constructive    (“Come join this hopeless cause” won’t work)

as well as (ClimateBites specialities):

  • catchy (messaging that sticks; see Bites), and
  • compelling (appeals to not only minds, but hearts and guts too; see Stories)?

Because, “It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear”. . . and will remember a week later.





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“It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear”

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