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Why we need to talk about the good stuff – and four tips to show you how

Recently, I watched Steve Howard, IKEA’s outgoing CSO, talk about transformational change at The Crowd – why it is necessary, and how to achieve it. He’s an inspiring leader, who encouraged the audience to be bold and to speak up for what they believe in.

He was asked to explain one thing he would change if he could do his time at IKEA again. His response left me, and many comms professionals, nodding fiercely in agreement. Steve wished that his team at IKEA had communicated their social and environmental achievements - to employees, consumers and other stakeholders.

Anyone that works in communications will appreciate the importance of a comment like this. Years ago, it just wasn’t the done thing, to talk about your sustainability ambitions and achievements – at best, it was felt audiences wouldn’t be interested, and at worst, organisations were often nervous of being accused of greenwash if the rest of the business wasn’t up to standard.

This triggered a long debate amongst peers at the event – we agreed we should talk about sustainability more, but it’s true the media is often more interested in bad news, than good. So how do we navigate our way around this, and create opportunities to talk about sustainable business? Here’s four tips to create communications that works: 


1.      Map your audiences

Different audiences will have totally different interests and motivations. Understanding who you want to communicate with, means you can deliver messaging that audiences want to hear and engage with.

2.      Find the angle

Sustainability is often laden with complex, technical details. It’s too easy to create seriously dry communications that fails to engage audiences. The best campaigns unpick all the jargon and rework it into a story that’s compelling and believable. And critically, they tap into themes that resonate with, and motivate individuals.

3.      Think laterally when it comes to content and channels

Businesses have a brilliant opportunity to talk directly with their audiences and build strong, personal connections. No longer are we reliant on traditional media to communicate messages, although they of course still have their place. Consider how you can create content that sings, in the channels that work best for your audiences.

4.      Do it right

Too often we see communications that misses the mark – that Pepsi ad, McDonald’s latest ad. It’s time for sustainability and marketing to work together and unearth the brilliant stories that exist around the business and deliver them to audiences in a way that’s compelling and authentic. Put aside the showmanship, and invest the time in finding the utterly amazing examples of good business, and talk about them in a way that resonates – simply and effectively with the consumer front and centre.