Being a fan of all things DIY PR, as part of my work with my PR consultancy the Hai Media Group, when I got to meet the father of cli-fi via email, I was amazed at his story.
I’ve gotten to know Dan Bloom who is an American climate activist and journalist living in Taiwan. He’s best known as being the inventor of a new literary genre called cli-fi, a kind of sub-genre of sci-fi that defines literature and film that includes climate change in the storyline.
The self-confessed “envisionary futurist” graduated from Tufts University in 1971, where he went on to serve as the acting editor of the non-profit Polar Cities Research Institute. He has no formal training in PR, nor does he claim to be any kind of PR genius, but somehow he is making the world pay attention to cli-fi.
Even though Dan has no computer in his home, he has managed to win headline’s in the world’s leading media outlets about cli-fi. A guest article he did was recently featured in the Washington Post. Cli-fi has also been featured in US Wired, NPR, The Guardian, The Huffington Post and many more outlets since Dan first coined the phrase cli-fi back in 2007. Just this week he was included in a cli-fi story in The New York Times.
So how does he do it? Well, along with my intern Miamii Mansour, we caught up with Dan by email, where he was writing to us from a smoke-filled café in Taiwan. Here’s our conversation with him:
Firstly, for those who don’t know, what is cli-fi, and how did it come about?
DB: Cli-fi is a new literary genre term first of all, and secondly a new literary genre, too. So it is both a term and a genre. It came about after I spent many months trying to find a way to get past the daily political debates about climate change and global warming, all statistics and scientists and leftwing rightwing people screaming at each other. I thought that maybe a better way to convey the dangers future generations will face in terms of the coming Climapocalyopse — not now but in 500 years or so — would be to create a platform for writers and screenwriters to use for novels and movies. So I set it up.
You were featured in an article published in Washington Post, that’s a pretty big deal! How did that happen?
DB: I read that the Post had a new section online called PostEverything where writers could submit commentaries on just about anything, so I queried the editors there and they said I could send my piece in on spec. And they used it.
You’ve also secured coverage for cli-fi in Wired US, NPR, The Huffington Post and many other outlets. These are amazing wins for any PR professional, what are tips you can share with those doing their own PR?
DB: Just as in retail the key to success lies in three words “location, location, location” so too does PR have an important rule which is this: “never give up, never give up, never give up.” And don’t take no for an answer.
Every genius has a strategy, what’s yours?
DB: I am not a genius. I am not even a professional PR person. I practice what I call guerrilla PR, street PR, sidewalk PR, never give up PR. I also had Lady Luck in my corner. Without Lady Luck egging me on, we wouldn’t be talking here. I owe everything to three things on this cli-fi PR campaign: Lady Luck, friends in the right places and an Internet that connects us all. In the old world pre-internet, I would still be at the starting line. The Internet made this possible.
Can you tell us more about your DIY PR tactics and strategy and how you are making this all happen with no computer, and just working out of a smoke filled café in Taiwan?
DB: I don’t really have an office or a game plan. I just wake up every morning and start emailing anyone I think might be able to help cli-fi find the right media placement. And I get up the next day and repeat the process. Because this work is important to me and for future generations, I have been doing this PR work daily Monday to Sunday, without one day off in 8 years. No vacations or anything. I just feel strongly about the emergence of the cli-fi genre, and this is not “work“ for me. This daily crusade is my vacation. It is relaxing and rewarding beyond words or payment. I don’t get paid for this. That is another reason I have been successful. This has never been about me or fame or money. This is about the most crucial existential time period we humans have ever faced. I am just a foot soldier in a large army of climate fighters. I feel honored to be part of something much larger than myself, and much bigger than a mere brand or product placement campaign. This is the fight of our lives now, and for our descendants in the future, if there are to be any.
Aside from creating literary genres, what other jobs do you do?
DB: This is all I do now, 24/7/365. I wake up every morning energized and ready to go. I am never tired. I have not taken one day off in 8 years. There is nothing else I want to do.
Is there anything more you’d like to share with us about cli-fi, DIY PR, life in Taiwan, the future of our planet Earth, or anything else that readers of this piece might find of interest?
DB: Fighting climate change problems and global warming impact events is now the job of every human being on Earth. But I am not a preacher, and everyone has to find his or her own way to joining the fight, either in small ways or large ways. And the last thing I’d like to add is this: the word Earth should have a capital E every tine it appears in a British or American newspaper or website. Many news outlets still write it in lowercase as “earth” but it is our Earth and it is home planet and deserves a capital E, even in The Guardian and New York Times. I recently asked Diane Ackerman the nature writer in New York about this and she emailed me in reply: Yes, we should always capitalize Earth in our newspapers and magazines.”
Are you working on any new PR campaigns connected to your cli-fi work?
DB: Yes, I am currently setting up a YouTube campaign called “Tell Your Climate Fears at #CLIFI YouTube hashtag videos.” I am asking teens and college students and of course adults worldwide, both cli-fi writers and cli-fi readers and also just young people who are concerned about the climate issues we face to post a short 1 to 3 minute video with the #CLIFI hashtag in the title of the video and to post it on YouTube or send it to me for me to post on my channel ”MrDanBloom”..and to tell their personal feelings about the possible Climapocalypse we face in the future, not now, but in the coming next 30 generations or so. So this is a chance for young people to make their feelings and voices heard about climate issues even if they never heard of cli-fi before.
Thanks Dan, and yes we love our Earth! And if you want to follow the conversation about cli-fi look for the hashtag #clifi.