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  • Writer's pictureLarry Washington

Your sustainability message needs a great first impression.

Every relationship starts with a first impression. Conversation, simple body language or just your appearance can create everything from a long-term love fest to a confidence crushing memory. To fully realize the importance of this moment in your personal and professional life, just look at the number of books and websites dedicated to the subject.

First impressions in creative communications are just as important. If you don’t send the right message in the first face-to-face meeting between your communication and your audience you may not get a second chance. This moment is biggie-sized when you throw in the fact that you’re selling sustainability, because most consumers are already skeptical before you ever get face-to-face.

It’s helpful to look from a human level at first impressions. There are many parallels when looking at the social science of basic human interaction that will help make your sustainability messages stronger. This video from Dnews gives a great overview.

So how do you make a good first impression while holding up a sustainability message?

Here are four rules for success:

1. Keep it simple and single-minded.

Everyone in the sustainable communications world feels that they have three or four game changing messages that they just have to get out. Human beings, however, have a limited capacity to take in multiple messages in that first moment of communication. Too much information can confuse, especially when presenting a subject they may not understand anyway. Give them something simple and singular they can connect with in a positive way and then you can lead them down your messaging path.

2. Stir an emotion up front.

Sustainable messaging is ripe for an emotional play and nothing pulls an individual into the fold like a message that touches them personally. There are major pitfalls here, however, that don’t exist in traditional communication, and you can lose more than just your consumer if you’re not careful. (See #3 and #4)

3. Know the person you’re talking to.

Everyone has the capacity to accept and react positively to a sustainability message as long as the message is tailored to his or her interests. There are a lot of messages that fit under the sustainability umbrella, from saving energy to being a good community steward. Some of those messages work really well with certain people and others don’t. If you push out the message you think will have impact without really knowing the person on the receiving end, then you probably shouldn’t be shocked when you can’t get a second date.

4. Believe in what you’re talking about.

Welcome to the world of transparency where the consumer can tell instantly if you’re full of it. If you don’t deeply understand and believe your own sustainability story, including what it means to your products and people, then don’t bother. You’ll be sniffed out and rejected before you know what’s happened. Know your value system and stick to it. It’s your belief system that will give your message the authenticity needed to form a bond in that first moment with your audience. That initial bond will open the pathway to a long-lasting relationship.

Rejection, Inattention or Connection

There are three types of reactionary outcomes when delivering you sustainability story: rejection, inattention or connection. Your messaging will produce one of these outcomes so make sure you have the help in place to know which one it will be.

It’s not impossible to make a comeback from a bad first impression, but you’ll spend triple the time, money and effort to get to the same place you would have gotten to if it had been love at first sight.

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