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Translating ESG Complexity into Clarity: Tips for PR Practitioners

By: Layla Chen

ESG stands for Environment, Social, and Governance, representing a framework for assessing the sustainability of businesses. It aims to measure a company's performance in these three areas to promote more responsible and sustainable business practices, which is a crucial component for the long-term success and societal value of a business.

As public relations practitioners, we need to understand the fundamental role of ESG in contemporary business operations. It is our responsibility to communicate clients’ ESG efforts effectively to advance reputation, engage stakeholders, mitigate risks, provide a competitive edge, and contribute to a sustainable business. In this blog, I will share a few tips for translating ESG complexity into clarity.

1. Minimize Jargon

Scientists often employ jargon to showcase their research prowess, but in the realm of PR, it's a communication barrier with your audience. This is especially true for topics like ESG, which isn't a casual, everyday conversation for most people. To bridge the gap and connect with a broader audience, PR professionals should prioritize clear, plain language.

Mastering this tip can be challenging. Picture yourself as an ESG expert, where terms like "greenhouse gas emissions" seem commonplace. However, these terms might be perplexing to those unfamiliar with environmental issues. Instead of showcasing your expertise, aim for simplicity. Insert the idea of minimizing jargon into your mindset, then invite coworkers, friends, or even parents to proofread and identify unfamiliar terms. Through these discussions, you can discover more accessible alternatives. For instance, replacing "greenhouse gas emissions" with "climate-damaging gases" enhances clarity. Often, if we struggle to come up with alternative terms, a concise and clear explanation can be quite helpful in such situations

2. Guiding Narratives

At heart, we are storytellers. Whether delving into technical subjects like ESG, the key is transforming them into compelling narratives that captivate our audience. Here are two approaches to crafting stories that might spark fresh ideas for you.

  • Draw from real-life experiences: Remember, you're not just representing a brand; you're engaging with real people. As a message creator, you have to empathize with your audience, fostering an emotional connection. By creating this genuine bond, your readers will feel compelled to stay engaged with an ESG-focused piece. Consider incorporating personal anecdotes, whether from your own experiences or those of your colleagues, while respecting privacy, to captivate readers from the beginning of your article.

  • Fiction stories: myths and folktales, being brief yet insightful, offer a great connection with diverse audiences if they are well-known fiction. When employing this tip, ensure a strong link between the chosen story and the emphasized ESG effort to avoid confusion. Also, be mindful of cultural backgrounds to prevent unintended repercussions, such as sharing an ancient Greek myth in the context of African audiences. For instance, In the tale called The Three Little Pigs, each pig builds a house using different materials - straw, sticks, and bricks, which can be linked to ESG by highlighting sustainable resource use.

3. Clear Data Interpretation

To showcase our clients' ESG impact convincingly, narratives alone won't cut it. We must support our claims with data. Clear explanations of the numbers are crucial, and effective data visualization, such as charts and tables, can help convey essential information without burdening the audience with lengthy paragraphs.

Unlocking the secrets of effective communication, especially regarding complex topics like ESG, involves PR professionals adapting storytelling techniques for diverse situations. Despite the ever-changing dynamics of the real world, the golden rule remains constant: prioritize accessibility and engagement. Creating content that's both easily comprehensible and emotionally resonant may be challenging, but it ensures the efficacy of your communication.


About the Author:

Layla Chen is a grad student studying Public Relations. She is from Guangzhou, China. Currently, she is an Account Supervisor for PRLab. She has experience in agency and nonprofit organizations; in the near future, she is interested in working in a think tank.

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