Use peer-to-peer communications

People are often not so engaged by advice that comes from ‘above’, such as the government. General advice needs to be adapted to particular contexts. It is easier to engage energy end-users when bringing the information very close to their everyday lives.

Marketing specialists know that in a world increasingly crowded with media messages, face-to-face communications gain genuine attention. You can benefit from the power of peer-to-peer communication by engaging people who are similar to your target group as ‘multipliers’ of the message you want to convey.

The key issue here is to identify the social networks of your target groups and to find communicators who are close to the end users. These communicators are likely to be able to customize your message so that it ‘fits’ the target groups’ context and makes sense to them.

What you need to do: 

Here are some examples of how to benefit from the power of peer-to-peer communications:

  • Use ‘train-the-trainers’ programmes or volunteer advice networks (see for instance Energy Expert programme)
  • Co-operate with local NGOs (see for instance Ilmari Climate Campaign for Schools)
  • Use social media (discussion sites, Facebook, etc.)
  • Use naturally occurring social contexts and events (at the workplace, in  neighbourhoods, etc.) for project communications
When does it work?: 

This tool is likely to work in most situations. It is particular useful:

  • for personalising the issues, connecting general advice to your target group’s particular circumstances
  • for moving to a dialogue-based form of communication (rather than just telling people what to do)
  • when the target group is fairly homogeneous
What do you need to look out for: 

► Managing messages that spread through peer-to-peer networks can be complicated.

► It may be difficult to identify the right peer communicators (ones who are known and trusted and have the necessary technical and communication skills).

► You need to find common interests with your peer communicators.

► You may need a budget for setting up the peer communicator network (it is cheap, but usually not free!)

► If the end-users need expert advice, you may need to be careful whom you choose as the message carrier.

► It might be difficult to monitor whether the message gets through.