Need for sustained climate change awareness

guest column:Peter Makwanya

CONSIDERING that climate change is not a juicy subject, which people need and may not want, it is prone to divided or split attention. Climate change may not be as attractive and marketable as adverts for beverages, fast foods or other upmarket accessories, which the companies continue to remind people about, through various forms of channels like radio, television, online, posters, bill boards or regalia.

In this regard, climate change may be topical or popular as a brand product, so in this view, people also need to know, quite often about the subject that is dominating their livelihoods.

Climate change may not be in the mould of Nike or Coca-Cola, but in its own right is also appealing and attention-seeking too. While climate change, through its related impacts such as natural disasters, does not offer happiness or pleasure, it needs to be communicated regularly, all the time and everywhere.

While popular brand companies and organisations invest in wide-ranging research to maintain and transform their brand images, climate change also requires the same, not to maintain its image, but for checks and balances, otherwise the earth would be torn apart.

Just like all these other brands, climate change has target audiences and situations that need to be managed. While many other brands need to be sold and bought, climate change requires interactive and participatory engagements as well as immersion into its nature, to sufficiently understand it.

Climate change requires reaching out to target situations and audiences through appropriate and relevant communication approaches and messages. Above all, target audiences should be able to have knowledge of what is being communicated to them. They must be able to relate what is being communicated about what is unfolding in their communities.

While brand companies invest billions into advertising, green funders channel forms of funding to developing countries for adaptation purposes, although not much is known for advertising purposes. In this regard, development practitioners need to compete for the target audiences’ attention for climate change education, training and awareness in order to change their mindsets, with limited resources though.

While many people around the world love such popular brands as Coca Cola, Nike, Mercedes Benz, Sprite and many others, they may not be necessarily in need of them, but climate change adaptation is what people actually need and not necessarily want. Climate change requires partnerships and multi-sectorial approaches. Development partners need to compete with governments, non-governmental organisations and the private sector in order to get the target audiences’ attention and acceptance.

In this climate change discourse, development practitioners should consider employing communication experts, who can communicate across the board and they know that target audiences have crucial needs and choices to be respected.

In this climate change discourse, people need to be networked and connected so that communication approaches effectively and meaningfully function. In this regard, communication can be used to bind people together and enhance public engagement. The aim in this regard is to provide accurate and continuous information flows to all stakeholders, not just a few, making the whole process open and transparent.

Just as brand advertising is cross-cutting and aimed at breaking language barriers, video-story telling in climate change advertising can also do the same, reaching out to target audiences in ways traditional development approaches cannot do.

Furthermore, video is a sufficiently empowering tool for stimulating dialogues and discussions just in the same manner an advert would do in probing people to discuss. In this regard, community radios, popular radios, community-video, posters and print materials can still be used in the same ways as in advertising to reach out to large numbers of stakeholders or target audiences.

The need for communities to have continuous access to climate change information for adaptation in the changing climate is also the same way advertisers of brand products use to keep in touch with their customers and clients.

Although it is critical that local communities and stakeholders should be interested in climate change issues, advertising — through the use and integration of multimedia tools and visuals, can save the required purpose in climate change engagements.

All in all, stakeholders in the advertising industry, should also include climate change in their communities of practice and make it relevant as a critical pillar of adaptation, awareness, education and training tool to compete for target audiences.

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