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The Herald, Age break down COP26 content to engage, educate readers

By Sophia Phan

The Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


The COP26 summit has been called a “last chance saloon” — the final opportunity the world has to reach a collective response to global warming and halt the catastrophic effects of climate change.

Plans were put into place to best showcase and present news leading up to and from the climate talks. The Herald and The Age’s product team built a special index page for the topic so editors could curate the key articles. A daily COP26 newsletter was launched, written by our national climate editor on the ground in Glasgow. Also, a documentary-style video was commissioned and produced for all platforms, showing how the world got to the state it’s in.

Special templates were mocked up for Instagram, similar to the ones we created for the Olympics. Climate is often a difficult topic to navigate, especially with younger readers and readers off-platform, so we made sure we had a strategy to best engage with these audiences.

The first iteration of COP26 social media templates.
The first iteration of COP26 social media templates.

We knew we wanted to make our summit coverage visually distinct from our regular news posts, and we ended up taking cues from the visuals for the summit itself and our on-site coverage.

When creating designs, we were thinking about certain story commissions: explainers, a glossary of key climate terminology, reader Q&As, and a climate quiz.

The glossary, in particular, was written with the social rollout in mind. Technical stats and figures and jargon were removed; we wanted to make sure people had an understanding of certain climate concepts before the two-week summit began.

The climate quiz served as both an interactive element within our climate coverage but also summarised key facts ahead of the summit. Special templates were also created for Instagram stories to exhibit this.


Content was created to engage audiences.
Content was created to engage audiences.

Quote card templates for both short and long sentences, as well as deep etches of world leaders in attendance were also prepared. This allowed us to turn around content much quicker.

We had a callout box in all our climate stories in the lead-up to the summit, asking readers what they would like to read or have clarified. This helped inform our decision-making over which stories to prioritise and what order to roll them out in. We wanted to write stories that best served our audience.

Graphics are essential when reporting on climate change, so we made sure we had a wide selection at our disposal and that we featured them as much as possible in each article. A “charticle” of sorts was compiled to group together all the relevant graphs, serving as an “at a glance” article.

Graphics were a big part of the content strategy.
Graphics were a big part of the content strategy.

The concept of “at a glance” content or article summaries came up often in our Why Not Pay research. Readers wanted different formats for articles, especially if the content was long or complicated or both.

The capability already exists within our CMS, so we just had to make sure it was front-of-mind for both reporters and editors when producing copy.

Talking points were used to make a dense subject more accessible.
Talking points were used to make a dense subject more accessible.

These talking points also made it easier for us to create the social card equivalent as all copy was readily available. They served as a good entry point for readers into both our COP26 coverage and our journalism more broadly.

Talking points included links to in-depth articles.
Talking points included links to in-depth articles.

These learnings from COP26 can definitely be applied to upcoming events and special coverage. It’s not about making more content but making the content work for our goals.

About Sophia Phan

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