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Executive Strategic Communication Alumna Trisha Bauman Reflects on Strategic Communication for Sustainability

Before she founded her New York-based strategic communications firm, Trisha Bauman launched her career in urban economic development and forged public-private partnerships in sustainability. Then, in her mid-twenties, she made a "radical pivot" to a lifelong passion and started working full-time as a professional dancer, touring the world with French contemporary dance companies. When the time came to transition from the stage, she returned to working in sustainable development. Her diverse professional experiences inform her approach to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impact communications. A Course Associate and alumna of Columbia’s Executive M.S. in Strategic Communication, Bauman recently spoke with the Minneapolis College of Art and Design's M.A. in Sustainable Design. She discussed the role of strategic communications and stakeholder relations in scaling sustainability initiatives. 

How to drive momentum? Not just building the “absolutely clear” business case for sustainability but connecting through people’s values and emotions — conveying the why behind the facts.

“Is there empathy in strategic communication? User experience design — UX in a web-based medium — is implicit in any kind of communication, and certainly in strategic communication. There’s an interaction. You have to think about who you are seeking to reach, and what they care about.  Why would they care about what you want to bring to them? When you can get a sense of why they might care, because of who they are — not because of who you want them to be — that’s where you can start to get some common terrain to be able to move forward,” Bauman said.

Is there empathy in strategic communication? User experience design — UX in a web-based medium — is implicit in any kind of communication, and certainly in strategic communication. There’s an interaction. You have to think about who you are seeking to reach, and what they care about.  Why would they care about what you want to bring to them? When you can get a sense of why they might care, because of who they are — not because of who you want them to be — that’s where you can start to get some common terrain to be able to move forward."

One of the communication challenges she sees in sustainability is who and what to consider in a situation. "In sustainability, you need to widen your view and see that this is about interrelationships and that you’re always addressing a systemic issue."

Communicating a sustainability problem needs to be balanced with showing the solution. "Research indicates that messaging that shows the positive impact of taking an action is more effective in changing behavior than just pointing out the problem or showing the negative impacts of not taking action." She continues, "I think it has to be both....It needs to be communication that empowers your audience. They need to know that they can make a difference, and all together we can make a difference."

This article contains excerpts from Strategic Communications for Sustainability in the Minneapolis College of Art and Design’s blog.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any other person or entity.