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Tips From Messaging Experts
for Musicians and Green Event Producers

1.  Set Goals. As Alice in Wonderland's Cheshire Cat famously said, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there." Key goals that climate change musicians might choose to focus on include developing increased public awareness and activism among fans (e.g., participation in direct action); active citizenship (writing letters to politicians); and encouraging fans to support efforts to help make clean energy affordable.

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Partnering with Alice Radio festivals in San Francisco, Conservation Value Institute has adopted the suggestions of 2008 ROTHBURY Think Tank speaker, award-winning climate change photographer, Gary Braasch, to advise fans to strive for the following goals:

  • Inspire your community - work with local leaders to create more sustainable communities, from bike lanes to renewable energy incentives to better recycling.
  • Support policy makers who will drive New Green Economy solutions to create a future of stable and clean energy sources, vibrant domestic industries full of green jobs, and healthy families.
  • Challenge merchants and manufacturers - Vote with everyday purchasing choices, seek out options that help address climate change and conserve natural resources.

2.  Leverage peer influence. Researchers point to the power of seeing others doing things as a key driver of behavior change. It's not peer pressure, says influence researcher Robert Cialdini, but the more subtle factor of "peer information". Columbia University expert Elke Weber, of Columbia University's Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, CRED, makes the same point: "People are affected by what their neighbors drive, what a television (or music) personality says ..."

Bonnaroo graphic

It follows that musicians' greening efforts - both footprint-reducing and educational - should be influencing fans (in the case of Bonnaroo's victory garden, deliciously). Tactics such as viral photo and video contests can help fans get in on the action of influencing their peers by showcasing themselves involved in emissions-reducing activities.

3.  People respond to information about environmental and people benefits of their actions, especially when moralized. Studies find that emphasizing the people benefits (e.g., economic, health, etc.) of taking an action is important. However, some researchers point out that emphasizing people benefits alone can actually lead to weaker behavioral changes than emphasizing both environmental and people benefits. Others recommend encouraging fans to imagine themselves as climate change and clean energy trendsetters, and to base their choices on that mission and identity.

Presenting messages in moral terms helps strengthen their influence. For example, an advocate of legislation might argue: "With the incredible environmental, economic, health and security benefits of climate solutions, it's wrong to not support the bill. Taking action is the right thing to do, and you are a good person for doing it!"

Events should aim to develop innovative ways to reach fans with information about the benefits of their greening strategies. For example, provide fans waiting on line at food stands with visually-rich posters so they can view the multiple benefits of organic foods and recycled materials. Encourage green vendors to showcase colorful signage aimed at educating fans on their products' environmental and people benefits.

Outside Lands Festival Website

4.  People respond well to incentives - but the band must back them. It's certainly no surprise that fans respond positively to incentives, such as the rewards that San Francisco's Outside Lands Festival gives fans who complete green actions.

When bands partner with nonprofits to educate fans, providing the organization with a prize to raffle can help them grow their mailing lists to reach more fans with e-mail messaging. When it comes to such efforts, nonprofits emphasize that in order for the campaign to succeed, band members need to actively back it with stage announcements and other promotion.

5.  Language matters: use simple, concrete terms supported by visual aids. Fear can backfire. Author and marketing blogger Seth Godin famously criticized the term "global warming" as sounding benign, or even appealing. He suggested that a term like "atmosphere cancer" might more effectively reflect the seriousness of threats warming poses. Others suggest global "heating" or climate "disruption", caused by "heat-trapping pollutants."

Visual aids can help fans "get it." Godin says, "Humans like totems and icons, meters, fashion, stories, pictures." Carbon dioxide, of course, is odorless and invisible, but using images that help fans "see" both the problem and the solutions are important.

Specific, concrete language is also key - letting music fans know exactly what they can do to fix the problem. Messages should start with solutions and their benefits, talk impacts last, avoid engendering fear and despair, and emphasize easy-to-see and relevant (especially local) impacts connected to pocketbook/health concerns, rather than far-off things like polar bears. Asking people to commit to a pledge or promise strengthens their likelihood of taking the recommended action.

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