YPCCC Partnerships: Interview with Greenpeace’s Danielle Holland

Greenpeace is a global network of independent campaigning organizations that use peaceful protest and creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions. Greenpeace USA is committed to transforming the country’s unjust social, environmental, and economic systems from the ground up to address the climate crisis, safeguard our planet for future generations, advance racial justice, and build an economy that puts people over profits.

Aqsa Mengal from YPCCC’s Partnerships Program had the opportunity to recently sit down with Danielle Holland, Brand and Insights Director at Greenpeace, to learn more about Greenpeace’s climate communications work and partnership with YPCCC.

Aqsa: Thank you for speaking with us Danni. To start off, could you tell me a bit about yourself and your role at Greenpeace?

Danielle: I’m Danni Holland and I serve as the Director of Brand, Insights & Influencers at Greenpeace USA. There are three facets to the work I do. The first is focusing specifically on the Greenpeace USA brand. My goal here lies in helping the organization improve its visibility and reach for key priority audiences in the United States. For Greenpeace USA, those target audiences are BIPOC, labor, and youth. These are the demographics we would like to take greater care in cultivating and for whom we have an opportunity to refine our messaging. We also have a long-established, strong commitment to our Indigenous allies that we continue to prioritize. The brand facet also includes cross-channels messaging and visuals alignment throughout the organization. So looking at it holistically, the brand work is both internal and external facing. 

The insights part of my role is rooted in data; any brand strategy work has to be rooted in and driven by data and research. For instance, we did a large audience research project last year with Radiant MR which was highly insightful and illustrated to us how our audiences, particularly those who are “Alarmed and Concerned” about climate change, view us. We have used that research to fuel our brand and Key Influencer (KI) strategy. 

The KI component refers to our key influencer relationships. We have a large base of talent composed of celebrities and influencers. My role in that space is to develop, refine, and drive the KI strategy and KI goals forward in alignment with key organizational priorities.

Aqsa: It’s really great to hear about the different components of your work and how it all fits into Greenpeace’s approach! What led you to where you are now? How did you get involved in climate work?  

Danielle: As a communications expert, I would say my journey started in college. I attended George Mason University where I majored in communications and minored in journalism. After graduation, I worked in various communications-centric roles that included a strong focus on marketing. I have also freelanced and consulted for a number of years. A few years ago, I started working with Johns Hopkins University, specifically within the Bloomberg Center for Public Innovation and their Centers for Civic Impact. After this I was brought on by Greenpeace USA. I loved the prospect of working for Greenpeace USA because I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older, my desire to do impactful and fulfilling work has been the driving force for me. I work best when I’m in environments where the work is meaningful, and where it has a direct impact on lives and communities. This role also allows me to balance dual sides of my personality as a very creative spirit who values art, while simultaneously being a highly analytical individual who likes to break things down and get at the granular level through data and numbers. So, being able to work in a position where I can balance those two sides—this is where I thrive.

Aqsa: Thank you for sharing! Next, what are Greenpeace’s broad goals for climate action with your audience? 

Danielle: Greenpeace USA’s overall goal is to help bring about transformative change so that we can achieve a green, just, joyful future that enables life in all of its diversity to thrive. This means transitioning off of fossil fuels, supporting impacted communities, and protecting our oceans and forests—as well as our democratic right to do this work in the first place. These are the ways we show up in the world to bring about the change that we want to create. Our Communications department naturally plays a vital role in this—as does maintaining close partnership with our Programs and Development departments. All of us work in unison to achieve Greenpeace USA’s goals. 

Aqsa: Who is Greenpeace USA’s target audience?

Danielle: Our target audience is the Alarmed and Concerned, so essentially individuals and communities already aware and concerned about climate change. Historically, the voices that have been most amplified in the climate movement have largely not been communities of color. But in the past few decades there has been a shift to correct this. So, our focus is on continuing to take greater strides and place a stronger focus on cultivating meaningful partnerships and elevating the voices of communities of color and individuals who have been historically underrepresented in the climate movement. Black and Brown communities care about climate change just as much, if not more than white communities, particularly given that the impacts of climate change disproportionately fall on communities of color. Their lived experience and knowledge need to be a key component of taking the climate movement forward. So, we really want to support, uplift, and partner with communities that traditionally have not had that opportunity.

Aqsa: Absolutely, and data from our research supports this too – we know that Black and Latino Americans are more likely to be Alarmed about climate change than their White counterparts. I’d love to hear about how Greenpeace has utilized YPCCC resources or insights in strategic communication, organizing, or advocacy work? 

Danielle: YPCCC has been critical to our audience research work. We have used the Global Warming’s Six Americas research to hone in on our audiences and identify gaps and groups we want to engage. So, we essentially used the YPCCC model to guide our audience research. 

In addition to that, we had regular meetings with the YPCCC team as we were working on our brand strategy development. The insights that were shared in these meetings really helped us with our strategy development process. I also attended the “Methane Matters” panel discussion during Climate Week last year in New York City conducted by YPCCC which focused on the impact of gas stoves in inner city housing. It was fun, engaging, short, and snappy. I would gladly attend more events like that on a regular basis if possible! It was a great experience and a wonderful  way to network and engage with others working in the climate communications space. 

Aqsa: What does Greenpeace USA do well that other climate communicators could learn from? 

Danielle: I believe we’re very good at getting the public’s attention through powerful communications and non-violent direct action. A lot of the climate movement is about getting the word out. We are bold and are not afraid to call out bad actors or name them publicly. It’s important to grab attention because that’s how you create awareness and consequently drive change. Greenpeace’s boldness makes our communications strategy more effective, because so much of this work is about getting on people’s radars and getting them to stop, focus on, and think about climate issues and how they directly impact them, their loved ones, their communities, and their daily lives. I also think we’re great at learning and making an effort to do better. We have a voracious appetite for knowledge and are constantly seeking ways to refine and improve our messaging and cultivate stronger relationships with our supporters, partners, and communities on the ground.

Aqsa: What has been Greenpeace USA’s single most exciting or surprising discovery you made in communicating or organizing around climate?  

Danielle: I would say the most surprising takeaway that I have had during my time working in communications at Greenpeace USA is finding out that nearly 50 percent of youth between the ages of 18 to 24 have never heard of Greenpeace—which is shocking! But it’s helpful to know so we can work on fixing this. So we are now on a journey of developing tactics specifically to remedy this since we uncovered these findings last year. The audience research work that I previously spoke about placed a strong focus on the Alarmed and Concerned and how to best position ourselves and achieve our goals within the context of these particular segments. But the goal of that audience research work wasn’t to delve into a deeper understanding of youth. We have a broad understanding of youth trends, behaviors and sentiment, but we realize we need to do more targeted research on youth and consequently build a strategy based on those findings and insights. This will lead to diversification of our messaging, platforms, and tactics. For instance, expanding outreach via TikTok and other relevant channels and cultivating stronger, meaningful partnerships with key individuals within this segment.

Aqsa: How does Greenpeace USA remain hopeful and inspired to build public or political will in the climate movement?

Danielle: Our organization remains hopeful because it is fueled by incredibly passionate individuals; people for whom this is their life’s work. Doing this work and driving it forward for them means laying the ground for their children and grandchildren’s future. The people at Greenpeace USA believe firmly in that vision and our ability to achieve that vision together through partnerships with communities and other coalitions and organizations. This is not a ship we can steer on our own, and we recognize that we are part of a broader movement and very much embrace that. And every win that we make as an organization, as a community, as a movement—large or small—just continues to fuel that fire of passion within us.

Thank you to Danielle Holland and Greenpeace for their time, ongoing partnership with YPCCC, and important work in the climate space.