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It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

Right?

Take our planet’s climate crisis. Terrifying.

As in:

“Unless We Take Action On Climate Change, Future Generations Will Be Roasted, Toasted, Fried And Grilled”

(This from a banker, no less.)

On the bright side, the coming on of wind and solar energy, of smart grids and resilient planning, is exciting.

So how we talk about climate change, energy policy, and everything else in the sustainability conversation, really matters.

As a communications person, this is my job:

Help people understand. So they take action.

Surprisingly (or not, if you’ve been there), the first hurdle is getting everyone on the team working together. Muddled messaging wreaks major havoc.

A new article talks about this very issue.

Adam James at American Progress wrote a thoughtful piece about resolving differences of opinion and approach in the new energy community.

Via theenergycollective.com:

Energy Innovation vs. Deployment: Addressing Differences on Communications and Policy

He breaks the problem and solution down into three steps:

1. Get clear about messaging

What can be done? First, separate the communications debate from the policy debate, and try to have a real conversation about the merits of each messaging approach given the outcomes we are trying to achieve.

2. Get clear about messages

Second, discuss the policy agenda outside the context of this conversation about messaging, to isolate the items where there is substantial agreement.

3. Rally around agreement

Third, galvanize around the agenda items where there is significant agreement, and push for those policies based on whatever strategy can be salvaged out of the communications discussion.

As an illustration of the above in action, I’d probably swap the first two points (#1).  So the message drives messaging (#2). But that’s just a quibble (#3).

I firmly believe that when people know better, they do better. As a messenger, it’s my job to help that happen.

Civil, respectful, fast-based discussion. That’s the goal.

So if that’s what we want, why do so many online comment threads get completely out of hand?

Read this thoughtful, realistic article by Bora Zivkovic for some insights.

Via ScientificAmerican.com:

Commenting threads: good, bad, or not at all.

A couple of weeks ago, an article was published in Science about online science communication (nothing new there, really, that we have not known for a decade, but academia is slow to catch up). But what was interesting in it, and what everyone else jumped on, was a brief mention of a conference presentation that will be published soon in a journal. It is about the effect of the tone of comments on the response of other readers to the article on which the comments appear.

Instead of “silent” participation leading gradually to more active participation as one becomes more comfortable with the site, it seems the opposite is happening: mildly active users are now becoming silent users as it is easier to click “Share on Facebook” than to post a brief comment.

But there is another problem here – most of the good, nice, constructive commenters may have gone silent and taken their discussions of your blog elsewhere, but the remaining few commenters are essentially trolls.

 

Uncivil, aggressive comments resulted in quick polarization. Readers, although still not well informed about the topic, quickly adopted strong opinions about it.

So trolls not only stifle discusion, they can drive readers to form polarized opinions that they did not hold previously.

Not a good situation, in my opinion, for helping people come to important decisions.

More and more, I’m finding that this quote attributed to Danial Moynihan is a helpful compass.

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.