*This article is part of Insider Insights’ Sustainable Summer series, in which we dedicate half of our monthly output to guidance on decreasing the environmental impact of festivals.
Joss Ford is the Founder of Enviral, an ethical brand marketing agency that works with brands to create and communicate their environmental and social purpose.
Picture yourself sitting in a lush green field, surrounded by your closest friends. The music is pumping, you’re dressed from head to toe in sequins and glitter (biodegradable of course!), and you’re putting the world to rights over some semi-warm ciders. You’re talking climate change, fast fashion, the gender pay gap and the problems of plastic. We’ve all been there, right?
We know we certainly have. Long-lasting, impactful ideations come when you’re relaxed and in a highly creative space. This is why we’re firm believers that festivals are one of the best opportunities to genuinely inspire people to take action and change their personal lives for the better. The one weekend they’re wrapped in glow-in-the-dark disco balls is the perfect time to encourage them to make changes for the 363 days they’re not!
As consumers and leaders become increasingly eco-conscious, and as we begin to see progressive global strides in environmental sustainability, we’re seeing more and more festivals starting to tackle their own purpose and footprint head-on. And rightly so! We need an industry like the festival world to continually pioneer and push these boundaries.
Yet, even with this shift in attitude, it can be hard to effectively communicate your environmental messages to your festival audience without it getting confusing. Nobody wants a Fyre Fest backlash right? So, here are some tips for getting your audience engaged.
Firstly, we cannot express enough the importance of genuine messaging. A disingenuous purpose or ‘green-washing’ will only work to damage your brand, so if you’re going to talk the sustainability talk, then you’re festival better walk the walk. Sounds scary, but it doesn’t have to be.
If your festival is already tackling sustainability then it’s important your audience knows it. With 49.8% of audiences saying they would pay an increased ticket price to reduce the festival’s environmental impact (Powerful Thinking), festival organisers are in an incredible position of being able to positively influence their attendees outside the boundaries of their event. In fact, 43.1% of audiences said that they had changed their behaviour as a result of green initiatives or ideas they had discovered at festivals (Powerful Thinking), and with the ever-growing Gen Z rising through the ranks, these facts will only become more important.
So how do you get the messaging right?
Make sustainability fun
Doom and gloom messaging won’t work – you need to make sustainability something people can positively relate to. Keep your messaging optimistic. We all know change needs to be done quickly, after all the latest IPCC report shows we have just 12 years to turn this climate situation around, but scaremongering messaging can turn people away. People go to festivals for a sense of escape, a break from the real world into a world of adventure and music. Hitting them with serious messaging won’t go down well – you need to make sustainability part of the magic. Showcase why people should support your festival initiatives in a fun way, and not just over a long weekend of musical fun, but outside the festival gates.
Show off the potential of solar panels through solar cinemas or make attendees dance for their lighting, or how about introducing pedal-power phone charging stalls or cycle for your smoothie vendors. Even basketball hoops above bins to encourage recycling. These are all great ways of enabling people to be positively and creatively part of the change, whilst showcasing elements of your sustainability policy.
Choose the most effective channels
With so many different ways to communicate with your festival audience, it’s important you find out which platform will resonate with them best. This means you need to truly understand your audience to have the most impact on them with the most limited resources. Sustainability focused social media content and competitions are a great way to showcase your efforts and get your audience onboard, as well as incentivising them to act more sustainably. Litter bonds or carsharing initiatives are a great way to get people engaged, but it’s important you communicate these early and effectively on your chosen channel.
Having dedicated, informative sustainability sections on your website helps break down these initiatives and offers advice, whilst creating short, engaging video content for your YouTube channel or social media can reach thousands of people instantly and get people to really understand why this extra effort is being done. With 100 million hours of video being watched on Facebook each day, it’s vital your festival is using video as a way to communicate your sustainability policies to your audience. However, remember this content stays forever, so be transparent and avoid shouting about your sustainability unless you’re truly taking steps to make a difference.
Get attendees involved
Getting attendees involved with your initiatives will help them feel like they’re part of this positive change. For example, have you thought about implementing an opt-in option on ticket prices offering attendees the option to pay a few extra pounds for renewable power at the event? Initiatives such as this will help festivalgoers feel like they’re contributing to positive change. However, if you’re going to implement these then you must ensure you’ve communicated the what and the why effectively.
Think creatively about communicating your sustainability policy, whether this is through documentary-style videos on your sustainable food traders, to real behind the scenes footage of your journey to becoming a more sustainable event. The most effective brands are those with a great story to tell, and your eco-mission offers just that.
Your festival isn’t anything without the attendees, so once you’ve got them onboard with your message it’s important to show them thanks. Whether this is a positive, inspiring video before the headline act, to thank you videos on your social media channels after the event, this is a great way to let your attendees know you care. Let your audience know the benefits of your sustainable initiatives. How many plastic bottles did you save, how much waste was saved from landfill or how much of your energy came from renewables? These are all things your audience should be aware of, because it wouldn’t be possible without them.
The most important thing to remember is that your messages must be genuine; don’t push sustainable messages if you’re not going to practice what you preach. But if you are making positive changes, getting your festivalgoers on board early will help them understand these initiatives and help you in your mission to safeguard the planet!
Two Quick Enviral tips:
1.) Make sure you have done some scenario planning for comments on social media. You’ll always have negative posts looking to test your efforts. If you’re doing what you say you are then this is great news for you – responding to negative comments gives you the opportunity to explain the actions you’re taking. Social media users can spot greenwashing a mile off, however. Our tip is to create behind the scenes content of your efforts, create videos of your energy efficiency initiatives at a specific event, make public your sustainability roadmap for this year’s festival and demonstrate visually what you, your suppliers, and your traders do within a sustainability hub on your website. Finally, invite post-event feedback from attendees on how your event can be more sustainable next year – you’ll be surprised how simple the suggestions can be!
2.) Make sure your content is social ready! With 85% of Facebook videos being watched with the sound off, you need to make sure your content is social-first. Video is the primary form of modern communication, and it’s a great way to easily educate and inspire.