#CNU17 Selling the Green Urban Advantage - Hard Truths About Getting the Word Out
New Urbanists are going to have to be part of the effort to shrink America's carbon footprint, reduce VMT, and hold the line on climate change. But they're going to have to do it without talking about carbon, VMT, or climate change. And it's probably smart not to talk about New Urbanism, either, for that matter.
At the Friday morning session on "Selling the Green Urban Advantage," CNUers faced some hard truths about the need to learn to communicate the New Urbanist message to those who don't know, or care, what the transect is.
Robin Rather, CEO of Collective Strengths, said that New Urbanism isn't going to be communicated to the people who need to know about it by showing PowerPoint presentations to rooms full of middle-aged people.
The good news is that "sustainability" has caught on as a core value for a huge majority of the population, Rather said. But for most people, it's about nature, about clean air and water. "It's not about living downtown – yet."
Carol Coletta of CEOs for Cities reminded her listeners, "Climate change isn't the big narrative for most people….and people don't care about your story; they carry about their story." She urged the group to strive to connect memorably – that means visually and interactively. She reminded people that audiences remember more when they see and hear, and that they remember what still more when they get involved talking about something themselves, or better yet, taking action on that something.
What's needed is a World's Fair to show off New Urbanism the way the 1939 World's Fair in New York showed off Raymond Loewy's "Automobile of the Future." People didn't know quite what it was, but they wanted it, Coletta said. People need to be given something they can project themselves into.
A strong example of how to do it right, though, was the short film "Built to Last," winner of the Congress for the New Urbanism YouTube video contest. It was shown during the session. And Chris Elisara, executive producer and John Paget, producer/director, were on hand to take a bow. The film casts the New Urbanist message in terms of choice and opportunity, and it connects people with things they already know they want, rather than what New Urbanists think they should want. See for yourself at http://www.firstandmain.tv/.
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