Hot weather comms

The Met Office has issued a rare Red Weather Warning for extreme heat as temperatures are expected to reach 40 degrees in parts of the UK on Monday and Tuesday. Matt Taylor on Twitter explained why this is not normal and that it can impact on health, travel and power. This is dangerous weather. Our country and communities are not set up for this kind of heat.

In the run up to the hot days, I’ve seen lots of charities sharing useful advice about staying safe in a heatwave. Advice for older people, families, pet owners as well as how to watch out for people sleeping rough. See some examples in this thread.

Most use infographics to illustrate the advice to make it easy to understand (and add alt text so the information is available to all) like this example from British Red Cross.

Others use images showing positive action, like this example from Hackney Council.

But I have also seen lots sharing messages along the lines of ‘it’s going to be hot, enjoy the sun, but be safe’ using positive, happy images of sunny days and friendly emojis.

An extreme change in temperature like this may not be something to be celebrated or normalised.

Léane de Laigue, communications lead at Climate Outreach, speaking at the Charity Comms climate conference in May talked about the importance of framing comms around this issue with images. She talked about how the standard image of a stranded polar bear makes us feel distant from the climate crisis. It is something happening to an animal we’ll never see. She also showed examples of heatwaves which showed people jumping into water to cool down. A heatwave doesn’t mean ‘fun times in the heat’.

Images of people on beaches indicate that hot weather at home is to be enjoyed like going on holiday somewhere hot. It doesn’t show difficulties sleeping, working, moving around or health conditions that people might suffer with during a hot spell. It also doesn’t show us what a future of continued high temperatures looks like either.

If you are searching for inspiration for your own comms around a heatwave or the climate, take a look at the free picture library, Climate Visuals.

We have entered a period of climate crisis which our comms needs to reflect. This weather is not normal.

Your views

Have you seen any good or bad examples? I’ve been collecting some examples in this Twitter thread. Charity Comms made a thread of coping with the heat tweets too.

Have a look through some of the hashtags. What tone is being set by different types of accounts or across different platforms? As well as #Scorchio and #FunInTheSun, take a look at #Heatwave #UKHeatwave #BeWeatherAware #BeatTheHeat.

Newspaper front pages set the tone too. Here are some headlines from across the world over the weekend.

Has your organisation done any thinking about the climate crisis and how you talk about it in your comms or fundraising?


News this week has been dominated by the extreme weather. Social media and newspapers have been full of images. The before and afters are quite different. For example, the Daily Mirror chose this image of sunbathers for their front cover on the day of record breaking temperatures. And then this of burning houses the next day. Will this week have been a climate crisis wake up call?

#GlobalClimateStrike 2020

Last year I asked why more charities weren’t joining in with the global day of action about the climate. Today is the annual strike day and it is very quiet. Obviously, there’s lots else going on but the climate crisis is not going away. What’s moved on in a year?

Chalk board at the farmer's market - actions for a climate emergency

After the global day last year, there seemed to be a flurry of organisations writing and sharing their green pledges which was encouraging. Here’s a set of pledges, useful links and resources which I have shared in the last 12 months (NB I stopped doing round-ups during lockdown so there is a big gap when I will have missed things).

January 2020

November 2019

October 2019

What’s moved on?

The need for urgent and drastic action seems more obvious now as there have been so many reports of extreme weather. The world hasn’t waited while we have been dealing with covid.

So, what has moved on in the sector? Has covid stopped or been a catalyst for change? For example, will lockdown lead to long-term changes in policy to do with travel or wastefulness? Are funders investing in projects which tackle inequalities in relation to access to food, shelter and healthcare? Are organisations now actively sharing tips for staff about WFH during the winter and especially the implications on energy use? [NB Buy a heatpad and heat yourself not your room / home – it’s cheaper and greener!]

What’s happening in your organisation? Are conversations about internal polices and external campaigns still going? What has moved on in a year? I’d love to know.

See also