Netflix, Climate Comms and Representation

Authors: Jece Shunmugam, Jack Maycock, Antoinette Lansana
  • Reading time: 5 mins min.
  • Posted on: September 28, 2020

Read on for a handpicked selection of the good, the bad and the one to watch in the world of social impact communications. This week, we’re highlighting Netflix’s latest promotional campaign, how to communicate about climate change and new exhibition aiming to scrutinise the way charities represent people.

Credit: Netflix

| NAILED IT: When publicity stunts both educate and advertise

Last week, Netflix launched a promotional campaign for their new movie, Enola Holmes. The movie shines a light on the fictional Sherlock Holmes’ lesser-known but much more impressive younger sister, played by the formidable Millie Bobby Brown. To promote the film, Netflix chose a sort-of guerilla campaign that places statues of other lesser-known sisters next to their famous brothers, who arguably overshadowed their success simply because they were men.

Examples include Frances Dickens, Charles Dickens’ sister, a talented pianist and singer who studied under Beethoven, and Princess Helena Victoria, sister of King Edward VII, who helped to found the British Red Cross and was a champion of healthcare workers rights.
We love the tactic of using temporary statues to highlight how too often women have been erased from our collective history, leaving so many stories untold. Whilst the stunt may primarily have been to get people talking about the movie, it’s still doing a great job of educating and informing a wider audience.

| ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: How to talk about climate change

This week, we’re highlighting how we can all improve when talking about Climate Change. The last 12 months have seen a marked and long-overdue increase in the volume of stories on the topic of climate change, but from a campaigning perspective, there is still much to improve. As we’ve seen following ill-fated campaigns from Extinction Rebellion, if we get our comms wrong, we risk hindering, rather than helping this extremely important cause. 

Now there’s no excuse to get it wrong after On Road Media created a handy resource pack offering guidance on how to communicate and change public opinion in this space. Six ways to change hearts and minds about climate change is grounded in research attempting to understand what climate stories most resonate with the general public. The findings offer a roadmap for any campaigners wishing to increase the engagements and tangible actions from their communications. In short, their recommendations are: 

  1. Make it do-able and show change is possible
  2. Focus on the big things and how we can change them
  3. Normalise action and change, not inaction
  4. Connect the planet’s health with our own health
  5. Emphasise our shared responsibility to future generations
  6. Keep it down to earth

The most striking thing from these recommendations is the positivity. Rather than focusing on the impending doom of inaction, the framing is all around demonstrating the positive effects of change, empowering people to take action by highlighting the difference that an individual can make, and linking the negatives, that are sometimes difficult to conceptualise, to our daily lives. 

Watch the film here, presented by Springwatch’s Gillian Burke, to see how changing the framing of our communications can inspire audiences to take action to tackle climate change.

| THE ONE TO SEE: Humans, not objects

The representation of human subjects in charities is being scrutinised in a new exhibition by Ekow Eshun, in partnership with the Fund for Global Human Rights. Eshun is tired of the toxic portrayals of the people in the Global South, and argues that charity imagery tends to represent ‘an important emphasis sometimes on crisis and instability, but there’s also this sense that we see the people caught up in those issues, as a group, as a collective, rather than individuals with agency or autonomy.” 

Using photography as a vessel to communicate these individual stories, he hopes to focus on the deeper meanings of life in Africa, South America, and South and south-east Asia. The images curated for his ‘Face to Face’ exhibition will showcase the work of photographers who have personal connections to the locations and participants affected by humanitarian crises. The work is intended to tell individual and intimate stories and avoid the exploitative ‘charity porn’ so common across the sector.

It’s important to recognise the impact of photography, not just on viewers but on the human subjects. It’s an issue of ethics as well as art that goes into this important storytelling, which is necessary to raise awareness and encourage social documentation for inciting change. 

The exhibition will take place from 7th October to 1st November 2020 at Kings Cross Tunnel, London, along with an accompanying online program. Find out more here.