Schitt Creekrose through the ranks as one of the most popular TV shows of the past decade, reaching its peak at this year’s Emmy Awards,where the show swept the comedy category. A major part of the appeal of the Canadian sitcom lies in the utopian world thatwriter and producer Dan Levycreated – a world everyone belongs to and a world where, frankly, everything is better than the reality we all occupy. By reinventing the representation of weirdness on television,Schitt Creekinvites us to a history, a family and a city where homosexuality is not accompanied by struggle and where going out does not require conflicts.
The result remindsOscar Wilde essay,Decomposition of the lie, and its final revelation that “the narration of beautiful false things is the proper purpose of Art.” Simply put, we have to believe that we can live in a beautiful and welcoming world before that world comes to pass. CreatingSchitt Creek, Levy put pen to paper to let the world know what society could be like with less judgment and prejudice. How this alternative approach to societal challenges resonated with the public has been dubbed the “Schitt’s Creek Effect”.
Communicators should take note, as the effectiveness of this approach probably extends far beyond television to some of our world’s most pressing social issues.
Let’s lookclimate changethrough the lens of the Schitt’s Creek effect.
There is virtually universal agreement in the scientific community on the anthropogenic causes of our rapidly changing climate. Climate change shouldn’t be the subject of a debate, but all too often the conversation focuses solely on the veracity of claims about the climate crisis, hitting an immediate roadblock and inhibiting our ability to move the discussion forward on the issues. possible solutions.
As companies move forward on bold climate action, communicators need to create social impact messages that focus on the opportunities and benefits of customer climate initiatives. Doomsday’s posts may be specific about the seriousness of the problem, but they have little influence on an audience ravaged by empathy exhaustion.
Without a doubt, more severe hurricanes and raging forest fires are very real impacts of climate change that have already disrupted and even killed lives, with climate impacts disproportionately affecting communities of color. But especially in a year that has brought so much heartache, uncertainty and destruction, people don’t want to hear that they have to change their ways before their homes burn down or are washed away by rising seas.
We must recognize that fear tactics are not the only tool in our arsenal.
To create a better climate future, we will need to bring everyone to the table. Business leaders, policymakers and consumers – many of whom have different views – will all play a role in our collective response to climate change. But just as Levy approached the odditySchitt Creek, we will have to imagine and portray this ideal and collaborative climate response before it becomes our reality.
What unlikely allies might come together to advance meaningful climate action? What real benefits will Americans see from strong mitigation practices? How will our natural spaces be prettier, our food healthier and our water cleaner?
Our stories should encourage people to be creative. Imagine taking your families to their favorite campsite along the coast or hiking in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. In urban areas, consider cleaner air on your walk to work or in the neighborhood park where your kids play after school. Messages should show policymakers and business leaders the opportunities that will be created by a major investment in clean energy – more jobs, healthier workers and communities, more stability and greater energy independence. .
We need to take it upon ourselves to remind people that these benefits are directly linked to the decisions businesses are making now. The lag on climate action is not in the science; it is in the public’s reception of climate change and what a response will require of them as individuals. A little idealism will go a long way to soften the waters on a daunting question.
Too often we only tackle the big issues from where we are. It’s time to start working where we want to be. The public needs to see more of this ideal, and it’s our job as communicators to achieve that.
Lindsay Singleton is Managing Director and Sammie Yeager is Account Executive at ROKK Solutions, a two-party public affairs company in Washington, DC Singleton leads the recently launched Social Impact Communication practice by ROKK.
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