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    by Gail S. Bower

What you can learn from my new superhero

Greta Thunberg at 2019 U.N. Climate Summit. Screenshot from video of her speech on YouTube.Greta Thunberg is my new superhero. Here’s what you can learn about marketing communications from this Swedish 16-year-old.

First, in case you’re unfamiliar with Miss Thunberg, she is the reason millions of youth and grown-ups went on school and workplace strikes on Friday, September 20, 2019, to protest global leadership inertia around climate change, environmental equity, and the sixth mass extinction we’re experiencing.

In a TEDx talk, she tells her story about learning about climate change as an 8-year-old, being astounded that humans created this change and that we humans aren’t talking about it as if it’s a world war.

“If burning fossil fuels was so bad that it threatened our very existence,” she asks, “how could we just continue like before?”

None of this makes sense to her. 

“If the emissions have to stop,” she says, explaining the black and white logic that drives her, “then we must stop the emissions.”

Eventually she decided to do something about it. 

She began a one-person strike. She decided learning facts at school meant nothing if her future was in jeopardy. So she went to the Swedish Parliament building one Friday and went on strike. 

The next week, others joined her. The movement continued to other parts of Sweden, to Germany, Belgium, the U.K., and other locations. By last Friday, young people all around the world joined her in their cities on the eve of the U.N. Climate Summit 2019, to which she arrived by crossing the Atlantic on a solar-powered sailboat.

Spend time on YouTube listening to Miss Thunberg and if you aren’t moved to do something, if only for Greta Thunberg and her contemporaries, then please read a different blog post. Nothing I’ll say next will matter.

Lessons from a 16-year-old

You can learn a lot from this young person, a gifted orator on a mission. 

First, she is on a mission. This is worth emphasizing. Is your organization on a mission?

If you’re on a mission, you have the fire in your belly to withstand criticism, sarcasm, and ad homonym attack. And even roll with it.

And to repeat yourself.

Greta Thunberg uses a simple messaging framework. She is declarative and consistent and repeats her message over and over so politicians and other leaders hear.

She speaks and acts with urgency, by example, with emotion, and she is not afraid to pull out her trump-card (pun intended): shame. (Check out her September 23, 2019, U.N. speech, and you’ll know what I mean.)

It all begins with one action you can take in your organization. Know your audience.

Greta Thunberg is quite clear that her audience is politicians who move slowly and require a groundswell of public pressure to take action.

Who is your audience? What drives them to take action? To move away from the status quo? What types of messages and frequency do you need to drive behavior change?

To be clear, I’m not suggesting you communicate the way Miss Thunberg does. I’m suggesting you learn from her strategy and process.

Keep an eye on her. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you. Are you clear about your audiences? Do you know what drives them? 

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