What do I tell?

What impression do you want to create with your sustainability text and images?

a red apple on a tree in the glowing sunshineContents

  1. Fun and participation – what can I do?
  2. Better service – make me feel special
  3. Tradition – share nostalgia
  4. Empathy – we think alike


Fun and participation - What can I do?

Make sustainability entertaining and participatory to create meaningful memories

Help your customers to enjoy themselves and to experience ‘hands on’ what makes you unique.

Simple, fun words are more likely to sell.

Invite your customers to participate in things they can relate to.

Doing is more fun than observing. If you give your customer the chance to pick their own lunch it will taste better to them in their mind and they will appreciate it more.

Develop a family quiz to help your customers to explore the places they visit and learn more about them. Offer a nature, town or city trail that leaves from your front door.

Invite them to participate in things they can relate to - in historic homes, the kitchens attract as much attention as the stately rooms for just this reason. Likewise, allow the children to use the dressing-up box in the servants’ hall and see how much fun they will have!

The same action must be told differently depending on your audience - fresh farm eggs mean traditions and nostalgia to the older market, but they mean a chance for children to learn where food comes from to young families. Call them “sustainable eggs” and they have no meaning for anybody.

Always remember to use the right words and messages for your chosen target audience. This will mean changing the way you describe things, according to who is listening.

Case study: honestly real…

Through our communication, customers relate to our ethos and trail experiences.

Alison Howell is the Founder and Managing Director of Foot Trails, tailor-made, independent, hiking tours in South West England.

What we do: We take care of every detail so that our customers can discover the authentic, rural English counties. This includes visits to a selection of historic places and rural businesses to support the local economies. We encourage our customers to take an interest and pride in the ‘real’ England.

How we tell: We are honest about our ethos and that’s why everything we do, including our communication, is a reflection of our values and principles. Instead of saying we are ‘green’, we tell customers our story - how and why we started this business. This way, people get to know the ‘real us’.

We use simple messages that people can easily remember and relate their experiences to. Three words describe our trails: ‘real’, ‘journey’ and ‘crafted’. Real refers to a genuine experience avoiding crowded hot spots. Journey is about them actively enjoying every moment. 

view of The Lizard on the Cornish coastline

Crafted reflects the fact that we have carefully chosen outstanding country paths, inns and pubs to ensure our customers experience what the authentic village is all about.

After booking, we send ‘walk boxes’ with their perfect itinerary and tailored maps. We thank them for sharing our ethos. Our boxes have messages explaining they are made of recycled materials and filled with wood wool, a natural waste product.

Our top tip: communicate with honesty and consistency about your ethos, who you are and the uniqueness of your products. This makes customers trust you and relate to the experiences you offer.

Better service - make me feel special

Holidays are times to put yourself first, while business travellers will want you to get things right quickly

Put the customer at the centre of the experience - what’s in it for them? Word your information thinking about how you want your customers to feel, instead of listing your product’s features or attributes.

Write about sustainability as pampering, as having something unique, about looking after your customer. Find a way of showing that the business is looked after, to provide a “feel good factor.”

It’s both what you say and how you say it that matters.

What will sell more?

  • fresh, unadulterated, honest food that makes holidaying memorable, or
  • food miles and supporting the local economy

Most customers will prefer the first option because they feel personally involved.

Tradition - share nostalgia

In leisure and tourism, nostalgia sells because it is comforting.

In times of crisis, people get nostalgic and value tradition. This is your opportunity to show you share their worries about the future and explain the uniqueness of your business’s authenticity.

Financial crises have an impact on our views of the world and on our behaviours. This can lead to negative emotions such as feeling depressed, or positive actions such as finding new ways of saving money.

But, for most people, one thing that tends to happen consistently in a crisis is a feeling of nostalgia and valuing tradition. Sustainability plays an important role because of its core principle to preserve resources for future generations.

“Nostalgia tourism – driven by consumers’ uncertainty about the future – will play a role in choosing leisure and tourism activities due to its wider links to authenticity and meaning”, according to VisitEngland.

Nostalgic tourists look for real experiences where nostalgia is not a reason to be sad, but rather, to appreciate local history, tradition, and customs with people that care about preserving them.

This nostalgia can be helpful when promoting ‘staycations’ and domestic holidays, and it can also attract international tourists to mature destinations like England.

Directly or indirectly, use messages that will attract customers by showing that you share the same worries and values as them. Make them feel your business values tradition and has something comforting to offer.

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Case study: there’s no place like home

We provide new leisure activities for staycations.

Judith Paris is the founder of Thrifty Couture, a social enterprise in London that offers workshops on making up-cycled clothing and accessories, and natural beauty products.

What we do: We take unloved goods and natural ingredients and use them to teach people how to create and make their own stylish products, while appreciating the traditional and nostalgic past.

Nostalgic, ‘staycation’ holidays are on the rise and this means trying new leisure activities in your local area. Our enterprise has become THE place for fashion-conscious and green shoppers. Entertainment that costs less and gives you a finished, useful product (as well as a skill) is very popular.

How we tell: We use direct informative messages that people can relate to with nostalgic-style photos on our website and workshops to make them feel good about reusing and saving as the fashion-conscious choice.

Indirectly, we then talk about current problems such as harmful chemicals in clothing and beauty products and fashion waste, not only to raise awareness, but also to give practical solutions they can try at home.

In a world of uncertainty, with so many environmental problems, we show people that we share their worries and give them the opportunity to do something about it and to take control.

Our top tip: In a time of economic austerity, customers respond well to comforting messages that reassure them about spending less. Nostalgia achieves that- so combine direct and indirect messages, use retro photos showing that saving and reusing is now fashionable, and show the added value of your unique staycation workshops.

hikers walking on a rocky hilltopEmpathy - we think alike

Make a personal connection and show that you care

Globalisation means people are more likely to be treated like numbers, not people. This standardisation isn’t good customer service, and businesses find that a more human touch is welcome.

Find opportunities to show a personal connection between your guest and you, the ‘personal’ host (not a bland corporate entity). Say it in words and with a more informal tone. Use pictures to show the fun element of your place. Write in the first person and include a photo of yourself as host on your website or brochure. Explain about your surroundings and show that you care about it - this tells your customer that it matters - it’s all part of the welcome.

Every time a customer books a holiday or business trip, or chooses a day out, there’s an element of risk – what if I have made a mistake? Showing empathy reduces that perception of risk because you communicate trust.

You can use sustainability messages to assure customers that you are a quality business. Display your many awards and quality grading – but assure your customers that because you care about the environment and society, you also care about your customers and how they will enjoy their time with you.

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Case study: we belong together

Here, sustainability makes visitors feel comfortable and inspired.

Mark Woodward is the Owner of Green Directions in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

What we do: We provide the perfect combination of comfort and working facilities in our training, meeting venue and farm. We offer a real quality product for people to experience sustainability and even learn environmental practices. for example, our insulated systems in walls, floors and roofs to reduce heat consumption, rainwater re-cycling system and composted vegetable waste.

How we tell: We target people with similar values and those simply looking for different, creative, visionary environments. We talk about our practices and explain what our venue offers – a stimulating, brighter and fresher place than their office, but with home comforts.

When visitors come, we welcome them with a presentation about our achievements and show them our creative facilities and green inspiring solutions, which are not only good for the planet, but also for providing a warm, comfortable environment for everybody to enjoy at work or home.

Then, it’s all about visitors loving their stay, getting inspired and thinking out of the box, while experiencing sustainability everywhere. From our cosy and warm environment to savouring a meal made with our farm’s ingredients, from our bright and uplifting rooms decorated with local wood to refreshments made from our own drinking water.

Our top tip: for those customer groups with values similar to yours, emphasise that sense of belonging that comes from showing that you understand what’s important to them.