Tug Hill Tomorrow – Communication Product Analysis

The example below highlights some best practices in climate communications. Recommendations are posted in the side-bar for easy reference. Click here to view the full PDF. You can read additional analysis below the displayed product.

Product Analysis

How this product showcases the recommendations:

1. Leading with politically neutral messages about conserving resources people already care about.

The “What You Can Do” page immediately makes climate change relevant and accessible for readers by identifying known impacts in New York state — stress to communities, wildlife, agriculture, and forests — and providing an existing target as a starting place for shared action: New York State has established a goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. Individuals can contribute to that goal by taking action on their own property, or by supporting Tug Hill, which we learn on the complementary “What We Are Doing” page structures its conservation agreements to allow for renewable energy installation where appropriate.

2. Finding trusted spokespeople to deliver your messages.

While no individuals are quoted in the text, the “What You Can Do” page offers readers credible touchstones for information and resources, such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency, and ends with a list of “reliable sources” curated to appeal to different audiences. Number one is Cornell University, a respected New York institution, followed by Katharine Hayhoe, a respected climate scientist whose evangelical Christian roots may garner more trust for local faith communities.

Throughout the page, there is a consistent message: This is what credible sources are saying, and this is how it applies in your community.

3. Focusing on local climate-change impacts and responses, rather than on the causes.

The “What You Can Do” page brings climate change home by providing information and local context for a list of six different ways individuals can help address climate change. This list is organized with clear headings, illustrated with high-quality images, and offers a low-stakes point of entry, beginning with a measure anyone can take in their own home – composting and reducing food waste — and ending by making the case for supporting local land conservation.

On the complementary “What We Are Doing” page, the land trust leads by example, showing steps it is already taking to help address climate change in the region through a suite of initiatives designed to resonate with different audiences: long-term land protection, working with landowners, protecting wildlife corridors, creating trails, and more.

4. Avoiding technical jargon, instead using language that can be understood by anyone.

The “What You Can Do” page offers bite-sized chunks of climate change science in each section, and breaks them down into digestible takeaways for readers. For example, the section on composting begins by explaining why methane is a “climate polluter”, and connects the dots between methane, food waste, and composting.

In addition to introducing each topic clearly and concisely, the authors provide readers with opportunities to access more in-depth information by hyperlinking to credible sources.                       

5. Selecting photos that bring your messages to life.

Faces: The “What You Can Do” page adds urgency to concerns about how climate is impacting the landscape by depicting those who will pay the greatest price: future generations. The first photo on the page shows a young girl perched in a kayak peering into the water, and the last photo shows a toddler with a net in a field of wildflowers.  Although we can’t see the face of the child in the second photo, it elicits an emotional response. The “What We Are Doing” page also shows faces of real people — a pair of partners from another conservation organization, and a landowner with his cow — who would likely be recognizable to some viewers of the site.

Actions: The photo of a technician installing windows on the “What You Can Do” page illustrates something an individual could feasibly do in his or her home to conserve energy in response to climate change.

What could be improved? The “What We Are Doing” page might benefit from an opening narrative to set the scene for Tug Hill’s work, perhaps including a quotation from a local landowner or stakeholder who can speak to the land trust’s efforts to address climate change. While the “What You Can Do” page nicely pairs imagery with each topic, they could really bring the messages home with photos of recognizable local places. For example, a vendor at a local farmers market.

Read more about the context of this product in an interview with Linda Garrett, Executive Director of the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust here.