How to Communicate Clearly – A Masterclass From Greenpeace (and Emma Thompson)

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We love this new Greenpeace ad about how clean and cheap offshore wind power is. Why? Because it ticks almost every clear communication box [see video below]!

It’s chatty and conversational

“Hello my fellow human beings on planet earth” draws you in from the start. It certainly beats “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to talk to you about the importance of offshore wind energy.”

It’s full of enthusiasm

‘Technical’ issues like offshore wind power generation usually make people’s eyes glaze over. Here actress Emma Thompson captures the magic of being below these giant clean energy-producing turbines. “It’s so exciting. I mean they are incredible. Beautiful, magnificent machines.”

There are some great lines

“Nobody’s ever fought a war over wind” makes you chuckle. It also makes you think. Likewise the news that the cost of wind power has halved in just two years is touted as being “Better than the Harrods sale.”

The visuals are great

Emma Thompson. On a boat. In a red life jacket. With a backdrop of wind turbines hovering between a deep blue sea and a deep blue sky. Holding up a billboard saying “50% OFF OFFSHORE WIND.” What more do you want?

Celebrities help

With all due respect to the European Wind Energy Association, if one of their lobbyists – or even the EU Energy Commissioner – had fronted a video extolling the benefits of wind power, the clip wouldn’t have had as much effect or as many viewers. Celebrities get eyeballs and tend to communicate clearly – even if their theatrics are occasionally over-the-top.

There’s strong messaging…

“…It’s creating jobs, it’s regenerating coastal areas and it’s producing beautiful clean energy for us, our children and our grandchildren.” How can anyone argue with that?

…And simple language

I once made a corporate film about the wonders of solar thermal power and the engineer I interviewed kept talking about how many gigawatts the plant would produce when finished. If, like, me you can’t picture a gigawatt of energy you need to translate it into something we can all understand and which stirs emotions not yawns. Something like “beautiful, clean energy”.

It’s personal

Describing the halving of the price of offshore wind as “the best news I’ve had in years” trumps any reference Thompson could have made to International Energy Association statistics. Why? Because it’s heartfelt and ever so slightly humorous (if that really is the best news Thompson’s had in years she’s hardly living the Hollywood dream!)

It’s about effects, not process

Nothing about how regulations or markets have helped push the price of offshore wind down. Just the positive effects of wind generation on prices (slashed), communities (“it’s creating thousands of jobs in regions where unemployment has, of late, been very high”) and Britain (“It’s a fantastic deal for the UK.”)

It ends with a call to action

“So if, like me, you love offshore wind energy share this with your friends and family.” The video – which is only 1.15 minutes long – ends with an on-screen plea to ‘Sign the petition for a clean powered UK.”

In short it’s everything most of the data-driven, jargon-infested corporate and institutional communication we deal with isn’t: fun, clear, informative, persuasive, passionate and down-to-earth. Bravo Greenpeace!

About Gareth Harding

Gareth is the Managing Director of Clear Europe and head of the Missouri School of Journalism's Brussels Programme. He is a former journalist, speechwriter and political advisor.

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