Comparing communication of CO2 charging

It is interesting to note the number of press releases issued on the topic of the Greater London CO2 charging scheme yesterday.  Transport for London‘s release is rather formal stating:

On 12 February 2008, following public and stakeholder consultation, the Mayor of London confirmed the Variation and Transitional Provisions Order 2007.

Writing initially in the 3rd person, it oddly then switches to stating “we” (as an organisation, Transport for London should actually be singular not plural).  Also rather confusing is the claim that the changes to the scheme aim to encourage drivers to opt for low carbon emission vehicles, whilst stating that around 80 per cent of cars will not be affected.  This point is picked up in the RMI release.

The RAC Foundation release picks up on another confusing aspect of the changes – in that what was originally a means to reduce congestion is now being used to influence vehicle choice entirely on the basis that “small is beautiful.”

SMMT writes that the changes will “clobber” families and do not “present a consistent signal to consumers”.  An interesting statistic is included stating the change will amount to a maximum possible CO2 reduction of just 0.084 per cent.

The response from a number of manufacturers towards the news is marketing-oriented.  Fiat, BMW/MINI, Renault, Lexus, Toyota, Citroen, VW, Hyundai, Peugeot and SEAT each issued press releases selectively focusing on models that would not face the increased charge. 

Selective use of language is apparent in the media coverage, which not surprisingly doesn’t focus on vehicles that fall within the new regulations but the “Chelsea tractors” and “gas guzzlers” that do not. 

In terms of behaviour change, it is not clear that the charge increase for vehicles that are deemed to be “high polluting” will be effective.  For many, having a larger vehicle is a necessity (eg families with many children), whilst those for whom it is a status statement, are unlikely to be influenced by the financial impact of the change. 

Overall, it feels like there are too many messages trying to be conveyed by the Mayor’s strategy (or these have changed to suit the political need).  Regardless of the reality, it is not surprising therefore to see the media reduced to clichés whilst retailers simplify communications with a “buy me” message.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

3 thoughts on “Comparing communication of CO2 charging”

  1. There’s one other point about the TfL release. In the body of the text said the 100% discount applied to sub-120g/km cars and in the editors’ notes it said less than 121g/km.
    Just thought I’d mention the inconsistency.

  2. Tristan – good point. Is this again a lack of numeracy on the part of the PR team not understanding the important difference between “sub-120 g/km” and “less than 121 g/km”?

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