IEA Training Manual - Module 7

2.4 Formats

At this point, you have clarified the messages and identified your target group(s). You have also had a closer look at your available resources, both financial and staff, and have spent time thinking through the complexity or sensitivity of the issue and your institutional credibility as the sender of the message. Now you need to choose the best format(s).

In many cases, formats like a paper report might be requested. However, considering additional or other alternative formats might help to broaden your reach to target group(s). Other formats can be synopses, executive summaries, periodic reports on critical issues, bulletins, newspapers, posters, calendars, atlases and vital graphics, just to name a few. More innovative ways of communication, like films might also be considered. Even though making films is a process demanding both economic and human resources, it has proven to be a very effective way of communicating a message, sometimes reaching much broader audiences than the more traditional means of communication. With the rapid expansion of internet services in many countries, using short video clips (e.g., interviews with affected stakeholders, senior experts, etc.) could be considered. Whatever your choice, note the importance of consistency of your message through all the formats.

Box 3: A sampling of formats and channels

Spoken options include visits, interviews, speeches, meetings, press conferences, training sessions, radio broadcasts, discussion groups and hearings.

Written options include reports, flyers, newsletters, posters and brochures.

Visual options include presentations, television, slide shows, films and videos.

Digital options include Internet, CD and DVD-ROMs, PC-demos, e-mail bulletins, discussion groups and online conferences.

See Table 2 for concrete examples.

Table 2: Advantages and disadvantages of the range of UNEP’s GEO products
(Large table - Click here to view)

Box 4: Examples of outputs for multipurpose and tailored reports.

Although there are alternative formats, the traditional assessment reports are printed in A4 format or close to this size, usually with soft cover. Examples of traditional assessment reports are the UNEP’s Global Environment Outlook and regional reports (, assessment reports of the European Environment Agency (, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports ( and many others. These global or regional assessment reports are multipurpose, capturing the latest findings for decision-makers and scientists.

At the country level, in most cases, SoE reports are the result of legal international and national mandates. These reports are multipurpose, providing access to environmental information. A range of examples of these reports is available for reference for good ideas and inspiration. For example, a collection of national and regional SoE reports from South Asia is available at SoE reports from Central and Easter Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia are available at The Compendium of Sustainable Development Indicator Initiatives provides an overview and links to national and sub-national SoE-type reports with a strong quantitative component.

If you choose tailored reports, the size and format should be adapted to your target groups. They can range from a small pocket book (e.g., The Environment in your Pocket, key facts and figures on the environment of the United Kingdom) to hardcover binders like Vital Climate Graphics on Africa www.
The South Asia Youth State of the Environment report was named Children of the monsoon by the youth of this sub-region. This publication was prepared by South Asian Youth, going through the process of design and the consultation workshop. Presentation of the graphics, outline and selection of the names of the chapters all were done by the youth considering the youth interest. For example, youth selected the term “Mission H2O” for the water issue; similarly the Air Issues the title was “Breath of Death.” The report has presented future scenarios in a simple way by selecting graphics the youth themselves have drawn.

Apart from printed materials, the trend over the several last years has been to focus on developing electronic products such as databases, portals, gateways, CD-ROMs and other electronic products.

Additional and supplementary formats for environmental information include:

  • Synthesis reports that are aimed at top political decision-makers.
  • Posters are widely used to visualize and extract key messages in a larger format. A poster can serve as advertisement for a publication or organization (e.g., the UNEP centre in South Asia (, to highlight key environmental messages (e.g., the poster on Environment and Security priority areas in the Southern Caucasus, or for a one-page presentation of key priority environmental issue as was used in the on National SoE of Nepal.
  • Calendars, such as Central Asia: Environment and Development, including a paper calendar and a CD-ROM.
  • A Vital Graphics presentation supported with a short assessment text. A series of vital graphics is available at
  • Newspapers dedicated to cross-sectoral issues (e.g., Environment and Poverty Times
  • Multimedia presentations, documentaries, pictures and other electronic products. The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has developed series of documentaries (e.g.,, and the World Resources Institute (WRI) provides material on a wide range of topics (



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- - 14 Nov 2013
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