Author of multiple best-selling books and speaker, Simon Sinek (well-known from his viral TED talk “Start with why”), posted a short video clip addressing the issues of “Global Warming” last year which flew under the radar for a lot of people, but we think his teachings on the importance of messaging are relevant now in 2021 more than ever. In the video, he highlights the huge mistakes made in the messaging of global warming and the catastrophic effect this bad choice of messaging has caused in the fight for climate change over the last 45 years.
In this article, we are going to take a look at how powerful messaging can be and how we must all learn from the mistakes made in the fight for climate change. Let’s dive into what was discussed.
The term “Global Warming” should have been called “Climate Cancer”
The term “Global Warming”, popularised by Wallace Smith Broecker in 1975, has been used now for at least 45 years. At first glance, it seems like an appropriate term, but on reflection, it has led to misunderstanding and confusion in regards to weather and climate. Many people don’t differentiate between the climate and the weather, they think they are the same thing. This leads to common questions such as “When the winter weather is getting colder, how can there be global warming? “
This creates a small amount of confusion, which leads to doubt.
We’ve witnessed the devastating ongoing effect reaped by ambiguity and vagueness in very recent history, with the UK governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic. People don’t only begin to question the truth of global warming, some people still believe it doesn’t even exist.
The concerns surrounding the environment and climate change have actually existed for hundreds of years, yet even today not everyone is on board with the idea of combating the causes of global warming and saving “the planet”. Sinek says that this is largely to do with the messaging of “Global Warming”, where he states it should have been called “Climate Cancer”.
Just let that sink in for a second… how does that feel when you read it and compare it to “Climate Change?” It’s hard to not take the word ‘cancer’ lightly, therefore it couldn’t have been easily ignored or misconstrued. Regardless of how you interpret the word cancer, all the connotations have the same effect, however, change can be interpreted in a plethora of ways. After all, isn’t change a good thing?
The word cancer itself brings up a turmoil of emotions because as a species we understand the ramifications of either a loved one or ourselves being diagnosed with cancer. They always say early detection is the key and turning a blind eye can have devastating consequences… the same could be said for the climate.
Unfortunately, when we hear the word “Global Warming” it doesn’t have the same emotional impact, which perhaps is part of the reason why people don’t feel the need to change their habits or behaviour to combat climate change. If a loved one was diagnosed with cancer, you’d do anything to help them, so why aren’t we doing it for our environment which allows you, me and your loved ones to live?
The messaging of “Global Warming” was supposed to make everyone aware that this is happening and that it’s a real thing. It was meant to create a sense of urgency so that people will act to prevent the further progression of climate change, however, it did not work like it was supposed to. Why? Because the messaging was wrong… and now here we are.
“We have to save our planet” is not true.
Once again, a major communication error has been made, confusing us and desensitising many from the reality at hand. We often hear people say “we have to save our planet”, but the notion is far fetched s it does not ignite strong emotion nor relatability, after all, “saving the planet is for the Avengers…not for me!” right?
Sinek once again points out the flaw in the message. He says “the planet will be fine” and that “life will continue with or without us”. The key message should have been “to save our species” to “save the human race”.
It’s crazy to think how much more of an impression this message would have left on our ancestors and maybe it would have urged them to make a change. It is only a slight change in the language but it’s more powerful, clear and relatable.
With any more delays, climate change will be irreversible. The environment we live in will no longer tolerate the ongoing abuse and pumping of toxins. It will lead to impossible living conditions for our species to survive, eradicating the cause of the issue, to begin with, humanity. Either way, the planet will go on with or without us.
Momentum…Are we moving in the right direction?
Sinek does not end the video without some action plan in place. Sinek states that measuring progress should be about “momentum” rather than “absolutes”.
What does this mean?
If we were to look at this in terms of business success, the gradual and consistent increase in cash flow, developing a larger client base or a larger network. All tangible indicators that signify that your momentum is building. However, when we hear, “in 50 years climate change will be irreversible”, people can not fathom what that is going to be like, yet again, making us doubt, confused and desensitised. 50 years sounds like a while away, even though this is an urgent matter to be dealt with.
Even though people may want to combat the issues of climate change, we all still have to work, pay the bills and keep going forward with our lives. When you are told “50 years” from now it doesn’t sound like a priority, compared to the immediate challenges we face on a daily basis. Today becomes tomorrow, tomorrow becomes someday, and someday becomes never. There’s a reason why we create short term goals, personally and professionally…if the goal was to lose 2 stone in 50 years, we’d join the gym in 49 years.
Momentum is crucial also in terms of messaging. Without crystal clear guidance, uniform language across the board and regular reminders, your message will not have the impact that you want. It will get swallowed into the void of countless messages that are being posted daily.
In order to make sure that “Climate Cancer” is at the forefront of our attention, the tangible difference that we can and are making needs to be displayed in more immediate terms. Of course, it is important to know the facts and the timeline but for people to be motivated we need palpable indicators, we want to see the results of our hard work paying off. We need transparent, uncomplicated guidance and a daily reminder so that people can understand how to flatten the curve of climate change and environmental destruction. We need to see the small wins to encourage further growth.
Today, we can easily see the devastating national consequences of ineffective messaging and poor communication in the COVID-19 pandemic. Not enough time had been spent on strategising, educating and re-thinking about how to ignite a sense of urgency. Instead, the constant change of direction and messaging has led to the UK having the largest fatality rate in Europe. For many people, the confusion has created a blasé, “it doesn’t affect me attitude”, which has led to a continual spread of the virus.
People need persuading, with clear and transparent messaging from the top-down, and a constant reminder of its momentum and not just absolutes which might be the only way that we can bring about effective change. This applies to climate change, it applies to covid, and it definitely applies to your business.
If you take away one thing from this, remember “Clarity is King”. If your messaging in anyway confuses your audience, even slightly, you’ve lost them. They will eventually gravitate towards a competitor who actually makes their life easier. Your audience doesn’t have the time to dig into your why, what and how and put it together like a puzzle. They need to know in as concise and powerful a message as possible, what you do and whats it’s in it for them. Then when you have their attention, you can begin reinforcing your message from other angles, but until that point, everything you share with them is just noise making it harder for them to think.
We appreciate you taking the time to read this far and we hope you found the article insightful and thought-provoking! If you wish to see the original video by Simon Sinek, we encourage you to go watch the full video here:
-A bit about us-
At Motion Manor we are passionate about creating seriously persuasive animation, helping your audience understand why they should buy from you.
We believe in leaving the world a better place than we found it. We will create a positive social impact, by creating animated content that focuses on the messages that matter.