6. Craft basic communications strategy


As an emerging regional adaptation collaborative charged with addressing an issue most people and organizations have not even begun to consider, crafting your message and value proposition to a variety of constituent audiences is critical. Whether to sustain engagement of participant members, or to engage funders, or to inform the public at large, definition of a communications strategy focused on regional climate adaptation collaboration is crucial for ongoing success.

There are a number of factors to consider in developing a communications strategy for adaptation; identifying key messengers who can connect adaptation to more present issues; helping decision makers deal with uncertainty; making adaptation action compelling to diverse audiences; and of course managing resource constraints while still being effective in communications.

Messenger development

Messenger development is perhaps the most important component of a strong communications strategy. Messengers – trusted stakeholders that can carry the story – must be identified, cultivated, and supported. These messengers can help to open new doors through which your story can enter and be heard, and through which additional feedback can be received.

“San Diego, 2050 Is Calling. HOW WILL WE ANSWER?” is part of an effort by Climate Education Partners (CEP) to develop and implement a climate change education plan for the San Diego region, by working with community leaders to help San Diegans learn more about, prepare for and respond to the impacts of a changing climate. CEP and its partner organization, The San Diego Foundation, released this novel report in the summer of 2014. More than 40 scientists and technical experts worked together with CEP to assemble a summary of the latest climate science, which was presented in an executive summary in a format that was based on regional polling, interviews and focus groups of well-recognized leaders in the region. Rather than the ‘doom and gloom’ often coupled with messaging about climate change, the report provides a practical, solutions-oriented approach to the issue. The report is meant to provide those who live, do business and govern in our region with up-to-date scientific understanding of how the impacts of climate change are likely to affect our region and how regional leaders from a wide diversity of perspectives – healthcare, fire preparedness and public safety, water, transportation and the economy – are already responding to those impacts. The project is one of six projects being funded as part of the National Science Foundation’s Climate Change Education Partnership (CCEP) program.

Helping decision makers deal with uncertainty
Create a plan for translating uncertainty to stakeholders, in particular stakeholders responsible for making policy decisions in the face of uncertainty. Andrew J. Gunther advises in his paper, “What’s Going to Happen and What Can We Do About it? Getting Scientific Information to Support Climate Smart Decision-Making in the Bay Area”, that scientific results published in peer-reviewed literature might need to be translated into a more accessible form to nonscientists. If data is used in communications, provide clarity around what that data is, what it attempts to do, and what its foundations and assumptions are.

Developing a compelling story that crosses boundaries within your region

This story might focus on one broad outcome, such as drought awareness or cool roofs, in order to be clear and effective. A campaign with high visibility and high impact should be grounded in regional context and importance. A compelling message will respond to the needs and concerns of an audience. Highlight the connections between climate change and real world issues that people care about in their day-to-day lives, such as health and jobs. (SOURCE: The Bay Area Climate & Energy Resilience Project’s Report: Nine County-Level Snapshots – Projects Plans Structures & Needs)

Visual tools can reach a broad audience and have a powerful impact. For example, Cal-Adapt’s Sea Level Rise: Threatened Areas Map, provides access to sea-level rise flooding scenarios generated by the Pacific Institute, environmental science and planning firm ESA PWA, and the US Geological Survey as part of the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research Program (PIER). This powerful tool shows the threat of inundation due to flooding over three depths based on a 100-year flood scenario.

Resource Management

In order to keep costs low, collaboratives can leverage existing marketing resources. For example, a regional adaptation collaborative might work with existing partners, piggy back on other projects, find pro-bon services, or use existing outlets, such as newsletters.

Tools and Resources

Cal-Adapt Visualization Tools
Mapping Our Future: A Work Plan for Public Engagement and Equity in Climate Adaptation Planning in the San Francisco Bay Area
Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication
Cal-Adapt Visualization Tools

Cal-Adapt has been designed to provide access to the wealth of data and information that has been, and continues to be, produced by the State’s scientific and research community. The data available in this site offer a view of how climate change might affect California at the local level. Users can work with visualization tools, access data, and participate in community sharing to contribute your own knowledge. Powerful visualization tools available on the site show changes over time in temperature, snowpack, precipitation, sea level, and wildfires.

Mapping Our Future: A Work Plan for Public Engagement and Equity in Climate Adaptation Planning in the San Francisco Bay Area

In 2012, the Joint Policy Commission hired Bay Localize to prepare a regional work plan for community engagement and social equity in Bay Area climate adaptation planning. The work plan was designed to provide information and consultation to key Bay Area adaptation stakeholders—including local governments, regional agencies, and community groups—to help fully integrate social equity and environmental justice issues into Bay Area adaptation planning. The report presents a work plan for regional agencies to partner with community groups on climate adaptation, and support local governments in doing so, as well. It also presents parallel recommendations for funders and community groups. The work plan outlines three stages: Conceptualizing and Funding Regional Adaptation Planning, Climate Adaptation Planning, and Implementation.


The C-CHANGE.LA website is a project of Community Partners, hosted by LARC, and developed and maintained by Climate Resolve. C-CHANGE.LA features the latest, local science while highlighting local solutions to ensure that Los Angeles thrives in the face of climate change.

Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication

EcoAmerica – a non-profit building awareness, understanding, and action for climate and environmental solutions – is releasing a new communications guide, produced in collaboration with the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University. Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication explains how anyone, from religious leaders, to healthcare professionals, businesspeople, community leaders, journalists, scientists, educators, policymakers, and other interested parties, can better communicate with and engage the American public on climate change. The guide includes research from a range of social science fields including psychology, anthropology, communications, and behavioral economics and is designed to be useful for experienced and novice communicators alike.