Telum caught up with Tristan Tremschnig who recently joined New Energy Nexus after two years of leading global comms and advocacy for WWF's global Tigers Alive Initiative. He told us about his experience in the non-profit and environmental sectors, comms trends that he is watching out for and his take on what makes a good social change campaign.
You’ve led communications at Greenpeace and WWF. What is special about the non-profit you work at now?
The science is clear: we need to de-carbonise our economy. New Energy Nexus
exists because there simply are not enough clean energy entrepreneurs to match the scale of action needed to clean our economy.
What we do is find people with incredible ideas - from emerging hard tech, through to increasing clean energy access in rural communities - and support them with funds, training and networks. We’re uniquely positioned as a non-profit to invest in ideas that may not make it through the start-up “valley of death”.
What we need is more philanthropic money going towards climate solutions. We need to better support grassroots solutions. If you’re an investor, or a company working in this space, we encourage you to get in touch.
Does renewable energy and ESG being such hot topics bring about new opportunities for doing comms about clean energy?
Yes, definitely! It’s less about screaming the house is on fire, and now more about how we put the fire out. But with less than two percent of global philanthropic spending in 2019 dedicated to climate change mitigation, let’s not forget that we still aren’t investing enough in climate solutions. Private and public investment needs to rapidly flow out of fossil fuels and into new ideas that will power a clean economy.
What is the most important element in communicating an environment comms campaign to the public?
Urgency, hope and solutions. These are the three ingredients in any good social change campaign, but getting the balance right is tricky. Talk about the problem too much and people tune out, spin too much hope, and you look naive. Our aim should be to communicate hope and urgency through stories people can relate to, and then provide a frictionless pathway for them to take action.
You started out as a journalist in Australia but your comms career has seen you in different areas across Asia. How do you transition between audience needs in different markets?
Most of my career has been rooted in Asia, but typically working at a global level. I don’t pretend to understand the nuances of each national audience, but I do try to create strategies and tactics that can work globally. For instance, in leading communications for the Greenpeace palm oil campaign in 2016, we understood the economic and social value of the industry for many poor smallholder farmers in Indonesia, but also the legitimate concerns in Europe about the impact of deforestation on climate and biodiversity. Balancing these narratives required extreme sensitivity, as well as empathy. Nothing is ever black and white.
What is the one message you’d like to bring to public awareness?
Develop your “bullsh*t detector”. Don’t mistake the promises of governments or companies for actual action on climate change. We know what’s causing climate change, and we know how to solve it, so if you see companies not being specific about the “how”, “who” and “when”, then speak up, shop, or vote elsewhere, and make yourself heard.
What are the trends communicators need to watch out for in 2022?
Three things that are getting me excited this year are:
- The Metaverse. I’m really curious to see how non-profits will fundraise in this new space, and what it means for new forms of collaboration. Running a startup accelerator in the Metaverse sounds like all sorts of fun.
- Cleaning up the PR sector. From Clean Creatives to DeSmog, more PR professionals are wising up to the role their industry has played in seeding doubt and undermining climate action. This is going to accelerate in 2022 and I can’t wait!
- The days of fly-in-fly-out foreign correspondents from largely Western media are thankfully numbered. I’m looking forward to richer and more multidimensional reporting from regions such as Asia thanks to more locally immersed journalists.