With a better understanding of the types of target audiences best positioned to influence the environmental changes desired, the next step is to identify the ideas to be conveyed to the target group(s), and the messages you would like to deliver. At this stage, content and conclusions from the assessment will be transformed into shorter and more specific messages. These short messages must be supported by the main body of knowledge generated by the IEA, like the main report where all the knowledge is brought together, and which has to provide the credibility to all “supplementary” products. This approach can be applied to reports on many scales, from local to global. It is important to maintain the connections between both the processes and messages, as well as the products of these assessments (e.g., formats, content and timing). Questions to keep in mind may include whether these messages form a coherent story and whether there are any conflicts or ambiguities? If so, resolve these first by re-examining your starting point.
Scientific uncertainty is also a significant point. Uncertainty is a core part of science, but that is rarely well understood by the public or decision-makers. Communicating uncertainty needs special consideration. It must not be confusing, but it cannot be hidden either. The relevance of uncertainty with regard to the range of possible future outcomes has been brought to light particularly through the international climate change negotiations.
To formulate a set of messages best suited for a target group, consider the characteristics of the audience. For example, how much background information will they have? What are their priorities? Do they view the environment as a necessity or a luxury? What motivates this group to act?
Box 2: Target groups and content
Decision-makers. Content should be short, specific, fact based and consist of the latest information
Media. Content should be short, and consist of findings relevant for media use, messages that can easily be linked to other issues in the news. You will have a better chance of media coverage if you provide supporting visuals such as graphs or photographs.
Students. Content should be well explained, and your language should be simple.
Scientists. Content should be fact-based, and rely on the latest data. Your language can be scientific, and include technical terms.
The European Environmental Agency (EEA) provides indicator-based reports targeting policy-makers. By developing the transport and environment reporting mechanism (TERM), they aim to monitor progress in integrating environmental concerns into transport policy throughout Europe. About 40 indicators cover the most relevant aspects of transport and the environment. Each indicator is supported by a key message and the main body of knowledge. TERM 2004: Indicators tracking transport and environment integration in the European Union, contains 10 key transport and environment issues for policy-makers.
van Asselt, M.B.A., Beusen, A.H.W. and Hilderink, H.B.M. (1996). “Uncertainty in integrated assessment: A social scientific perspective.” Environmental Modelling and Assessment 1: 71-90.
EEA (2004). Ten key transport and environment issues for policy-makers. http://reports.eea.