PR Practical Seminar in the Degree Programme Public Relations and Communication Studies at the FU Berlin
In 2016 REKLIM began collaborating with Dr Tong-Jin Smith, an instructor for the degree programme ’Public Relations and Communication Studies’ at the FU Berlin. The goal: by working together with external partners on a concrete project with real-world applicability, students gain valuable practical experience and the chance to put the theory they have learned into practice. As an example of this collaboration, the platform ‘meereisportal.de’ was selected: the first German-language information platform on sea ice, and a project jointly initiated by the Helmholtz Climate Initiative REKLIM and University of Bremen. The platform has been extremely well received. In the context of their final papers, the Journalism students explore which journalistic tools can be used to boost the portal’s appeal and get more people interested in its content and the topic of sea ice under climate change.
With this goal in mind, in the winter semester 2016/2017 the seminar ‘Methods and Structures of PR Practice’, taught by Dr Tong-Jin Smith, was a promising candidate. The seminar provides a theoretical introduction to the working area ’Public Relations’ and ’Content Marketing’. After the first few classes, which mostly dealt with the background theory, the spotlight shifted to the project ’meereisportal.de’. The input served to give the students a better grasp of the data platform’s roots, context, structure and content. At the end of the course, the students were also given a list of concrete tasks to work on. This ’briefing’ was oriented on the goal of finding new ways to make the portal more appealing and popular, and was intended to equip students with the fundamentals needed to continue working as groups on various themes for the remainder of the semester. The objective was to develop suggestions for improvement based on a range of perspectives, and to create a concept that could be fleshed out and implemented, by the end of the semester.
Once the semester was at an end, all groups met to present the outcomes of their work. Based on their previously conducted analysis of “meereisportal.de”, they identified topic areas that were subsequently explored in workshops: ’Storytelling’, ’Web Design’ and ’User Experience’, ’Content Marketing’, ’Social Media’ and ’Education’, the last of which included both online and offline elements. This yielded e.g. concrete ideas on how to improve the ’User Experience’ on ’meereisportal.de’, including different landing pages for different target groups. In similar vein, the groups made suggestions on how the language and look could be adjusted to make the portal’s content more accessible for a non-scientific audience. One group used the existing content to create a ’map story’ and shared their thoughts on how the portal could be made less abstract, promoting a more personal ‘User Experience’.
In addition, a storyline was developed for a second animated film – with a spotlight on the Antarctic, it was intended to build on the previous film ’How will Bert the polar bear find a new home?’, which focuses on the Arctic. The group of students working on Social Media submitted a draft editorial plan for a ‘meereisportal.de’ Facebook page, including detailed, practice-oriented suggestions. Two other groups tackled the topic of ’Education and Knowledge Transfer’ and not only created a game to illustrate the dilemma of climate change and the role of sea ice, but also provided ideas for various materials and project days that could be used in primary and secondary schools.
Based on the proposals and ideas gathered in the first instalment, in the summer semester of 2017 a second collaboration – once again in the seminar ’Methods and Structures of PR Practice’ – followed, with a shift in focus toward implementing the Social Media activities and refining the planned measures for improving the ’user experience’ on meereisportal.de. In addition, specific blocks of content were revised and received a visual facelift. The goal was to promote the portal, and to foster knowledge transfer by making it more readily accessible for various groups. In the process, the existing network was to be expanded and the popularity of meereisportal.de significantly boosted.
Excerpts from the students’ presentations