Families USA

Media Relations Assessment & Strategic Plan

Directed communications for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) International Climate Change Campaign during the two-year period leading up to the United Nations Protocol on Climate Change in Kyoto, Japan.


The Challenge
Create and implement an international communications effort to heighten public awareness and coalesce multi-national support for an international treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a key cause of climate change.



  • Since it was purely voluntary for WWF national offices to be involved (or not) with this campaign, a key communications strategy was to recruit, resource and train communications directors at WWF national offices around the world to promote the Climate Change Campaign internally among their colleagues, and externally to their members and the general public.

  • Develop and implement a strategic communications plan that supported an ongoing series of activities over two years designed to capture news media attention and influence public policymakers within and outside of the United States.

  • Create opportunities to regularly engage the news media and disseminate the key messages of the campaign to target audiences.


Key Tactics

  • Conducted a series of surveys and focus groups to (1) ascertain the understanding of climate change among target audiences and (2) develop key messages that resonate with target audiences.

  • Organized an informal group of WWF communications specialists using the Internet and telephone. First, the group was asked to brainstorm strategies and tactics for the international communications plan. Next, the resources and training needs of each communications specialist were determined. Conferences around the world were organized to facilitate networking among national communicators with the same region of the globe. The conferences also offered communications trainings and constructive debate.

  • Created and distributed to communications specialists at all WWF national offices a comprehensive “Climate Change Campaign” communications kit. The kit included all communications specialists would need to promote the climate change campaign within their country including: a strategic plan, key campaign messages, artwork for postcards and poster ads, copy radio news releases, pre-packaged video news releases, sample fundraising letters, ideas for special events to attract news media attention, and more.

  • Developed an international communications plan that offered strategies, key messages, and images that were consistent enough to adequately “brand” the initiative — and simultaneously flexible enough so they could successfully translated and utilized by any nation.

  • Planned, edited, designed, and disseminated a series of scientific “Climate Change Impacts” reports that were released to the news media during regular U.N. meetings leading up to the final conference in Kyoto.



  • In just over a year, volunteer WWF national office participation in the Climate Change Campaign grew from approximately four to 18 WWF offices.

  • At the U.N. Kyoto Climate Change Summit, a multi-lingual global publicity effort resulted in more news stories around the world than WWF previously had ever received as result of its participation in an international environmental conference.

  • Each “Climate Change Impacts” report generated large news media coverage in radio, print and television in the United States and other target nations over a two-year period. For example, the release of the “North American Parks — Climate Change Impacts” report resulted in news stories around the world and significantly helped to influence public policy. On the day the report was released, ABC TV “World News Tonight” covered it. The story immediately prompted a direct inquiry from the Clinton Administration for more information that was subsequently integrated into the President’s speech before the United Nations Earth Summit the following day.

  • Devised special events, such as the announcement of a WWF “Gift to the Earth” to combat climate change and the simultaneous release of the “State of the Climate Report.” The special event hosted at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, attracted some 50 journalists from news organizations worldwide to a “standing room only” news conference.

  • Over a two-year period, literally hundreds of news stories were published and broadcast by news media organizations in at least two-dozen nations.

  • In many targeted nations, significant progress was made in setting stricter emissions standards and promoting the utilization of more environmentally sound energy technologies.