UNEP’s communication strategy supports UNEP’s work in six main areas: climate change; disasters and conflicts; harmful substances and hazardous waste; environmental governance; ecosystems management; and resource efficiency.
UNEP’s main priority within the wider UN system is the whole issue of climate change. In 2009 the international community will be looking for the agreement to be reached in Copenhagen. On the road to Copenhagen the entire UN agencies are working on a strategy to bring the message of uniting to fight climate change out to governments and politicians.
UNite to fight climate change is the message between now and December 2009.
Satinder’s presentation focused on four pillars that guide UNEP’s communication strategy.
1. Reaching out to the masses
A good communication strategy should inform, educate and inspire people. Once the masses get the information and have the knowledge, they feel empowered and become part of the process that feeds into political decision making.
A good communication strategy should be innovative and creative. The products and services that UNEP and GRID-Arendal offer should be different from the rest and must create an “Aha” feeling. Satinder highlighted the Hove festival as an excellent example of an environmental green package that “walks the talk” and aims at reaching out to a wide audience with an environmental message. In collaboration with GRID-Arendal and with UNEP’s support, the organizers of the Hove Festival were keen to take a leadership role to be climate neutral, to educate and to reduce CO2 emissions of the entire music festivals around Europe. Finding stories like the Hove Festival that would inspire others is important in a communication strategy.
Over the years, UNEP’s been successful in reaching out to the youth via sports. UNEP sees music festivals as another important arena to focus its outreach work. UNEP is interested in making it a wider initiative to include culture and the arts and sees GRID-Arendal’s role in this.
Stories that have emotional appeal tend to make a difference and get the most response. The International Children’s Painting Competition had produced 180,000 paintings that have never been exhibited. UNEP plans to exhibit and to auction some of them to build further awareness. Children’s art are very expressive and powerful in delivering the message that we must unite to reverse climate change. The first of such exhibitions will be organized in New York (possibly in October this year) and then followed by similar events in Europe and elsewhere. UNEP sees GRID-Arendal as playing a big role in supporting this outreach activity.
UNEP’s website receives several million visitors a month. Satinder is confident that website will double its visitors if it will make the best possible use of modern technology. Doubling the visits implies doubling the influence and the chance to make a difference.
UNEP’s in the process of revamping its website into a mini-channel that can stream live as well as show videos and other multi-media materials. This will open up new avenues of cooperation with GRID-Arendal, which has one of the finest collections of graphic packages. UNEP will be invigorating a new section on its website on environmental news using graphics produced by GRID-Arendal. This news section will also link to Earthwire.
UNEP has also started featuring videos on its website. It has several mini-documentaries looking at the human impact of climate change. UNEP is looking onto the possibility of putting these mini-documentaries on Google Earth. “Content is King, but Distribution is God”! UNEP would like GRID-Arendal to continue disseminating UNEP’s messages through the GRID-Arendal website and other dissemination channels. Satinder does not see any copyright issues involved.
UNEP acknowledges GRID-Arendal’s support to the CN Network, a web-based project that is designed to organize the small but growing wave of nations, local authorities and companies who are pledging to significantly reduce emissions en route to zero emission economies, communities and businesses. The aim is a global information exchange network open to all sectors of society. GRID-Arendal has facilitated the participation of partners from Norway.
Another initiative that UNEP would like to pursue in partnership with GRID-Arendal is getting companies in Norway to join the competition on environmental leadership. In collaboration with Discovery Channel, UNEP will award leading environmental projects that will also be featured in a new green planet channel to inspire others
4. Measuring Impact
UNEP measures the impact of its work on the basis of web site visits, media exposure, anecdotes, phone calls, requests for partnerships, etc. The major test would be the outcome of Copenhagen 2009.
To have purely understandable core message is critical. We must adapt to new ways of thinking and must have a new system of measuring impact. If not going right, every strategy must have course of action built into it. A good communication strategy must have the ability to course correct.