Step 6: Develop a Tailored Communication Strategy

Step 6

What communication tools should you use?

Tailor your messages, communication tools and approach to the specific target audience identified in Step 1.  The background and baseline data you collect in Step 3 will help inform your communication strategy in terms of knowing your audience’s:

  • Knowledge/information gaps;
  • Perceived barriers to reducing idling; and,
  • Communication media or mechanisms that will be most effective at reaching them.

If you have more than one target audience, design separate communication tools and approaches for each.

The following are steps to help you design your communication strategy:

  • Determine your campaign message – choose a focused, catchy message that will mean something to your target audience.  It is important to link idling to local concerns such as air quality, health, and climate change and to use positive and empowering messages.

Idling Reduction Campaign Messages from Across Canada

“Healthy Communities Don’t Idle!” – Climate Change Connection, Manitoba
“Idling Stinks!” – Green Venture, City of Hamilton, Ontario
“Be Idle Free and Ski” – My Sustainable Canada and Ontario Snow Resorts Association
“Be Air Aware – Idle With Care” – Sustainable Calgary
“Spare the Air” – Niagara Parks Commission, bus/fleet campaign
“All it Takes is the Turn of a Key” – GTA Clean Air Council, Greater Toronto Area
“Idling Gets you Nowhere” – GTA Clean Air Council, Greater Toronto Area
“Think Idling is Harmless? Think Again” – Climate Change Central, Alberta
“Stop Idling. It’s Not Complicated” – Citizen’s Advisory Committee on Air Quality, Region of Waterloo

  • Select communication methods – choose methods that you think will best reach your target audience.  Your communication strategy could include multiple components, such as those listed below.  Be as creative as possible, to ensure your message reaches your target audience (see case study box for some innovative examples).
Communication Methods
Broad Public Campaign On-Site at Idling Hotspots:
  • Media releases
  • Media event with high profile community leaders
  • Advertising (e.g. newspapers, billboards, radio, buses, bus shelters)
  • Metal “Idle-Free Zone” street signs
  • Window decals
General Localized Campaigns (e.g. schools, workplaces)
  • Dedicated website
  • Information cards with graphic logos
  • Posters
  • Brochures/Information cards
  • T-shirts
  • Newsletters (employers, schools)
  • Design communication materials – ensure that they are 1) vivid; 2) easily recognizable by your target audience; and 3) engaging.  The Idle-Free Zone has a collection of free graphic materials that can be downloaded and adapted to your campaign – in most cases all you have to do is add your own logo.  This material includes “idle-free” licence plate logos, posters, bus tail advertisements, information cards, and stickers.
  • Implement your communication strategy.

When including metal “Idle Free Zone” signs as part of your communications campaign:

  • Be sure to contact and get approval from the appropriate authorities before putting up signs – in the case of schools, contact school boards first then school principals, for example;
  • Ensure good communication with facility personnel who will be installing the signs, to get their advice on issues relating to sign placement and installation;
  • Place the street signs as close as possible to the areas where idling is occurring;
  • Make sure not to contradict signs already posted, or to contravene any municipal by-laws;
  • Ensure the signs are made to be reflective, so that they continue to be visible after dark; and,
  • Assume metal street signs will be placed permanently at your chosen locations and plan for their installation accordingly – partners may decide they want the signs to stay after the campaign. 

The following case studies illustrate two approaches to tailored communication strategies as part of an idling reduction campaign.  These and other case studies showcased in this guide can help generate ideas as you work through Step 6 (Develop a Tailored Communication Strategy) of your campaign.

Captain Oxygen and Dirty ‘Airy in Ottawa Schools
Target Audience & Location: Parents and Broader Community; Schools
Communication Tool: Comic Book Characters

Comic book characters Captain Oxygen and Dirty ‘Airy are just two of the many features of a truly unique school-based idling reduction program developed by the City of Ottawa and Friends of the Earth (FOE) to target elementary school-aged children.  The Ottawa partnership produced a kit full of fun and educational activities that can be easily implemented at schools.  The tool-kit contents included:

  • Chester the Car: Adventure in the Idle-Free Zone and Captain Oxygen: the Battle for Clean Air comic books;
  • An “Idling Gets You Nowhere” poster featuring Captain Oxygen;
  • Ideas for outreach to parents of elementary school-aged children and the broader community;
  • Tools such as brochures, fast facts, newsletters, radio-spots, and a “how to” on throwing a fair;
  • Curriculum Connections containing activities appropriate for classroom and club use with projects in arts, language, drama, social studies, mathematics, and science and technology;
  • Games that promote the idling reduction message, including a maze, word searches, crosswords, matching games, and colouring pages; and
  • Tips on how to monitor the success of implementing the activities, including a reporting and measuring form.

For additional information about the Ottawa campaign, see the Service Ottawa News Release Website

Canadian Petroleum Products Institute (CPPI) Campaign in Mississauga
Target Location: Gasoline Stations
Target Audience: Motorists/Gasoline Consumers
Communication Tools: Posters, Air Fresheners, Information Cards, Window Decals, Signs, Sandwich Boards, Bedia campaign, T-shirts.

A joint project of the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute (CPPI) and Natural Resources Canada, the campaign was designed to target drivers at gasoline stations in Mississauga, and remind them to turn off their vehicles if stopped for more than 10 seconds. More than 50 Esso, Petro-Canada, Shell, Sunoco, and Canadian Tire stations were involved in the project. The central message communicated to motorists highlighted that reduced idling can save fuel and money. During the two-week campaign, over 11,000 drivers were approached, and the response was overwhelmingly positive, with 86% of drivers willing to discuss idling issues, and over 80% making a commitment to reduce idling.
As part of their campaign, CPPI recognized that the communication platform must consider a holistic approach, honing in on the importance of engaging consumers in a dialogue that makes a link between their fuel consumption practices, personal transportation spending and effects on the environment. The following communication and outreach tools were used:

  • Posters and banners were hung in areas of the gas station that were highly visible to passing motorists and those entering the station;
  • Distributing “Idling Gets You Nowhere” air fresheners to drivers;
  • Distributing “Idling Gets You Nowhere ” information cards, which included five simple steps individuals can take to reduce unnecessary idling, as well as a link to NRCan’s Idle-Free Zone Web site;
  • Providing vinyl window decals to motorists who made a public commitment to turn off their engine when parked;
  • Placing “Idle-Free Zone” signs in gas station parking areas;
  • Setting up “Meet the Idle-Free Crew” sandwich boards at gas station entrances;
  • Running newspaper, transit shelter and radio advertisements;
  • Using student “ambassadors” to engage drivers; and,
  • Ensuring campaign ambassadors were all wearing “Idling Gets You Nowhere” hats and T-shirts to give the campaign a uniform appearance.

Step 6 Planning Worksheet and Resources

The Idle-Free Zone website has several pre-prepared messages and communication tools that you can use and adapt to your campaign, including:

Step 6 Communications Planning Worksheet [PDF 17 KB] [DOC 32 KB]

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