How Do You Talk to An Environmentalist?

The most powerful, most truthful writing speaks to just one person.

If you’re not a copywriter or marketing manager, that might not make sense. But writers have a trick up their sleeve when it comes to picking their audience.

Instead of appealing to the masses, instead of trying to reach the hearts of a large variety of people, writers, especially persuasive writers like copywriters, choose one person to focus on.

For communicators with a green message, whether it’s about sustainable businesses, nonprofits, legislation, economics, or nature, how do you just write to one person when today’s environmentalist never fits into just one caricature?

Before we delve into the different mindsets of people who habitually donate to environmental causes, let’s pause a moment and take note of your objective.

If you are the marketing manager for an environmental organization, this should be easy peasy. Likely, it goes something like this:

  • Do good for the environment (your organizations’ efforts)
  • Raise awareness (education)
  • Raise money (fundraising)

Any interaction with the public is probably in the form of either education or fundraising, all aimed at supporting the noble efforts of your company.

But in the end… you’re still selling them something. 

Let’s admit—just between us friends—that the goal of your interaction with the public is to sell them on those noble efforts your company specializes in.

Because although your mission is not for the primary benefit of lining your pockets, you still need to pay your employees, hand over the rent check, keep your kids fed, and keep yourself in Patagonia puffy jackets.

It’s time to pick a personality trait. 

People who identify themselves as environmentalists are not all wired the same, and it will benefit you to figure out how your organization might line up with different mindsets.

I tend to see two main types of marketing coming out of environmental organizations.

If your organization runs primarily on urgency… gaining signatures to lobby Congress, organizing demonstrations, or trying to meet a hard deadline of some sort, than it’s likely the best person to market your messages to are the one’s that run on FEAR.

As an environmental copywriter, I receive loads of email correspondence every day that play on fear.

“Act now, or there won’t be any clean water left for your children!” “Join our cause, before it’s too late to save the polar bear!” “President X is out to strip all our lands of trees!”

These headlines and fear mongering scenarios work well for a lot of people and a lot of serious causes.

There is a certain amount of truth to the idea that if we don’t act now, all the good stuff will be gone, and we’ll be known as the generation that blew it.

Alternatively, there are the INSPIRATIONAL messages.

These work well for organizations that foster community involvement at a deeper level, are aiming at longer-term solutions, or have education as a primary goal.

These organizations believe that the work we do now will bring concrete positive change, versus the fear organizations that are often simply trying to stop the bad guys. The inspirational messages tend to have headlines like “Our work today brings a safer tomorrow”, “Nature is a gift worth giving”, and “Plant a tree, save a life.”

As an engaged reader and a potential donor, I have a preferred type of message that I respond more positively to.

But I’m not trying to take sides.

We aren’t all divided into the-glass-is-half-full or the-glass-is-half-empty people. 

Fear and inspiration don’t have to work in opposition.

They could be looked at as simply two sides of the same coin. And many organizations have used both with success.

In deciding to highlight either fear or inspiration, return to your original objective and the particular medium of your message. Streamline further by choosing one of those minds to write to.

Different people will respond to different tactics, and it’s probably in your best interest to seek them all.

You may like to stick to one or the other, but throwing in a little fear among all the inspiration might draw a new crowd of donors.

After all, would you really turn away a prospective donor simply because he is fueled on the fear of tomorrow as a dark, bare place? His money is the same color as someone who believes tomorrow is bright and shiny.

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