How to Get People to Trust Your Environmental Message

Environmental prospects of today fall into two categories: you have your believers and your non-believers.

Many environmental organizations say they want to get their message out to the masses. But… it’s very easy to preach to the converted.

It’s not just the non-believers who don’t always believe you, either. Getting prospects to trust every single thing that comes out of your communications department is a monumental effort.

Prospects’ defenses against your environmental message are sky high. The reason for this?

They just don’t believe you.

Your challenge, clearly, is to make us believe you. With truth… and proof.

This isn’t about lying. I know not a single one of you who do that.  (Right?)

But I do know it’s time consuming and difficult to provide solid, easy to understand, incontrovertible proof… and then take the time to use it in a variety of methods, mediums, and messages.

But it’s worth it.

Offering up proof is often the logic a donor needs to make it to the finish line.

“Proof, sure, we’ve got that!” Simple?

Not always. The same graphs and charts that prove the climate is burning up for one person won’t work on another. (Obviously…)

Like with your other environmental messages, proof must speak to your particular prospect. What would impress Donor A more: testimonials from scientists or an endorsement from a politician?

And what about Donor B? Graphs showing the declining number or polar bears or heartfelt stories from people who can demonstrate concrete benefits from your environmental work?

The choices are endless. The obvious solution is to choose a variety of methods, and sprinkle them throughout every single environmental message you send.

Use both track record and credibility

While these may sound like the same thing, they’re not. They work together beautifully, but are a little different, and both play a huge role in influencing your prospects.

In a nutshell, credibility is offered as the hard evidence. It is often built over time, and provides your reader concrete evidence that you do what you say you’re going to do and that you know what you’re talking about.

Track record allows a prospect to see the impact your claims about the environment (and your cause in particular) can actually have an effect on his life.

Credibility demands specifics 

It only takes a minute to lose your credibility, and once it’s lost, it’s really difficult to gain back. Losing your credibility with your prospects is just about the worst thing you can do.

So, use some of these tricks… in every single message.

  • Offer real names and numbers. These can be people on your staff, outside sources, scientists, journalists, people affected by your projects or policies. Just make sure you get to the source. This is not the place to craft beautifully written fiction.
  • Cite scientific evidence. Offer links to reports that validate your claims. Show graphs. Don’t underestimate the power of the non-rounded number.
  • Cite social evidence. Press releases, news clippings, photos of before and after.
  • Show documentation. Send your intern down to your local government office and acquire public records. Use them to back up your claims.
  • Relate success stories or case studies.  These are real life anecdotes and work tremendously well for people who are drawn to stories. Get your best copywriter to take your evidence and documentation and turn it into beautifully written nonfiction.
  • Provide credentials of the people involved. While not everyone will care how educated your staff is, you can bet they’ll care if they find out your “top scientist” is not actually a scientist at all.
  • Consider admitting a mistake or two… and not what “society” has done to get us to this bad situation… but what you’ve done, either as an individual or an organization. It makes you more personal, and miraculously, more dedicated.

Track record extends your proof  

Track record, which is a sort of extension of your credibility, gets prospects more personally involved in your proof. Everyone wants to know how what you’re saying will impact their own life.

Here, stick with the classic, “show, don’t tell.”

Don’t tell your prospect how great you are. Show them what you’re doing, allow them to engage with what you’ve done.

This can be a challenge, but showing engages both the senses and the intellectual mind, and is more powerful for it.

  • The most effective way is to demonstrate with good writing and excellent visuals your successes… and your mistakes.
  • Search for the statistic that will pull at both her heart and her mind.
  • Allow her to experience what you’re selling. Then, when you make your claim about your project, organization, or the horrible state of the world, she’s more likely to believe you, and even better, understand the impact it can have on her life.


For most of your prospects, you’re in luck.

The believers in your audience already want to believe you. You’re more than half way there.

But you still have to do the legwork and provide solid proof so that their intellect can justify their emotions. This makes them feel smart and secure, and, reminds them just how right they were in the first place to place their trust in you.

Often you can find out where you’re weak on proof if you can nail down what it would take you to be convinced. Imagine never hearing this particular message before. What would work for you?

Providing proof, demonstrating your track record and proving your credibility is difficult and time consuming.

But just imagine where your organization-and worse, your mission-would be without it?

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