We are moving into a new era of awareness - an era of individuals wanting to see their social and environmental impact through their work and where they spend their money. Strong ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) credentials are now more important than ever; not just making the decisions that positively affect people and planet but also communicating the strategies we are actioning. This is especially vital for organisations that need to stay ahead of the game to keep attracting first-rate talent.
How do we communicate such a massive topic along with the sometimes-complex solutions without utterly overwhelming and disengaging our audience? Eco-anxiety is starting to affect employees, and this will only continue to become a bigger problem as younger people who will be more affected join the workforce. And people don't tend to think straight or work well with existential anxiety hanging over them.
What we definitely mustn't do, is stare straight into the camera and scream "we're all going to die!". 'Don't Look Up', the recent Netflix hit, is a great example of this technique categorically not being an effective method of communication. Spoiler alert: no one pays any attention to the person panicking and screaming at the camera. However, this film was a perfect parody of our inaction in the face of impending crisis. Studies have shown that humour helps us to think more laterally, make sense of vast problems and feel more positive and confident about finding solutions – which is vital if we want to promote active change and stave off eco-anxiety.
If you’re about to start your ESG journey and need help, you can always book a FREE discovery call with our founder Gihan Hyde.
Like the court jesters of previous ages, being funny and communicating effectively can be compatible. Humour doesn't barge in and demand attention. It relaxes your audience, prepares the brain for a dose of lateral thinking, and smuggles new ideas in whilst they're busy chuckling at your excellent witticisms.
An excellent example of this is the ads of life insurance provider "Dead Happy". Sure, they have been a little controversial at times, but they take a complex topic that people tend to try and avoid talking about and are so upfront about it, using words like 'deathwish' instead of 'legacy' that they become memorable because they shock us and make us laugh. And if you want another example that'll give you a giggle, have a look at Habito's Kamasutra mortgage advice. They're not taking their area of expertise too seriously and it's a welcome relief for customers who are likely stressed out and bogged down by the seemingly endless life admin that comes with moving house!
Our founder Gihan Hyde recently challenged herself to take a stand-up comedy course. This was partly a reminder that it is okay to be funny and silly, even when communicating a difficult topic like People and Planet. It also confirmed, officially: she is funny (according to her course-mates, anyway). It was a wonderful reminder of what humour can be used for: to ease nerves, differentiate our personal brands, and truly listen to our audience and what they need from us. All of this is vital to communicating effectively.
It can't be denied, though, that incorporating humour into topics like People and Planet doesn't always feel appropriate. And sometimes, it's not. If you are communicating a topic that will have or is having a real impact on individual life, it is worth thinking about whether it is the right time to be funny. Humour can help relax people and understand lateral solutions; however, if someone is already in the throes of panic about something that is happening, an attempt at humour is likely to exacerbate the issue.
Here are three ways you can safely bring humour into climate change and ESG communications:
Be absurd! Absurd humour pushes our boundaries and forces our brains to fire in new ways; the perfect recipe for letting those ideas smuggle themselves in.
Use good-natured, none-satirical humour where possible. In a world saturated in climate satire, it is expected and can make the audience feel overwhelmed.
Above all, keep the jokes authentic. The humour we use – whether in the written word or speaking to our colleagues, friends and families – must be ours. People sniff out disingenuous humour. It just doesn't land right.
To get ahead of the curve and be a leader in the fintech field, the time to put ESG into practice is now. And you must communicate the pivotal work your company is doing in a way that aligns with your audience and staff. Test your humour now - experiment with your sense of humour on People and Planet issues. Watch how your audience responds, listen to their feedback, pay attention to how your words make them feel. That is what people truly remember; and being remembered is the first step to loyalty.
This blog orginally appeared on our bi-monthly ESG communication column in Fintech Futures