Below is a selection of examples of effective media work, social media use and engagement with policymakers by LIFE projects.
Providing media with clear, concise information is a critical part of successful media relations – it makes a journalist’s job easier and enhances the likelihood of gaining positive coverage of project activities. LIFE Activa Red Natura 2000 (LIFE11 INF/ES/000665) was designed to inform and inspire Spanish citizens about the 14.7 m hectares in Spain – almost a third of the country’s territory – within the Natura 2000 network of protected sites. The project produced a handbook for journalists to promote reporting on the country’s natural heritage, and it worked with radio and TV stations to produce an innovative series of vignettes highlighting the diversity and beauty of Natura 2000 sites in Spain.
Securing the endorsement and support of public figures and celebrities can transform a project’s profile in the media. It can also spur politicians and policymakers to develop a stronger interest in the project’s activities, thereby ensuring sustainability and a long-term perspective. The LIFE Northern Bald Ibis project (LIFE12 BIO/AT/000143) benefited from the patronage of Jane Goodall, a world-renowned expert on primates and a UN Goodwill Ambassador. Her personal involvement was crucial to ensuring an agreement by hunting associations in Italy to cease targeting the northern bald ibis and other critically endangered migratory species.
The PIP GB - Pearls in peril project (LIFE11 NAT/UK/000383) was designed to safeguard the native freshwater pearl mussel in the United Kingdom, both by highlighting the threats to this species from declining water quality and habitat degradation and by encouraging public awareness of conservation issues. The project created the imaginary character ‘Mo the Mussel’ as a base for the project’s outreach activities. This technique was used most notably in social media with an adapted photograph, which helped to bring the project’s goals closer to stakeholders. Creating Mo the Mussel’ was also useful in engaging schoolchildren as part of the project’s information efforts.
The Return of the Neophron project (LIFE10 NAT/BG/000152) aims to safeguard the habitats and ensure the survival of the critically endangered Egyptian vulture in Bulgaria and Greece. The project has used social media in a creative way to enable Twitter users to follow the movement of individual birds tagged by project staff. Monitoring these magnificent creatures through the medium of Twitter has deepened public understanding of the dangers facing the Egyptian vulture in its natural environment. Additionally, the project deployed a ‘nest cam’ to allow stakeholders to see in real time the growth and nurture of a new generation of birds.
Informing policymakers and engaging at EU level
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have an important role in scrutinising the funding of programmes like LIFE, and they like to champion EU-funded initiatives taking place in their countries and regions. Recyship (LIFE07 ENV/E/000787) developed guidelines and practices to promote the efficient and environmentally safe dismantling and recycling of ships. As part of the project’s outreach, technical experts arranged a series of meetings with Spanish MEPs to inform them about the initiative, solicit their interest and ensure their support for ongoing and follow-up activities. This was vital to developing the project’s political viability.
The goal of the LIFE AgriClimateChange project (LIFE09 ENV/ES/000441) was to develop strategies in the agricultural sector to mitigate its contribution to global warming. The project’s success led to the drafting of policy proposals for new EU environmental legislation. Project experts held meetings with MEPs in the European Parliament and briefed officials in the European Commission, who welcomed the project’s integrated approach to devising new measures. A project report distributed in the European Parliament pinpointed how the project’s findings could contribute to EU policy goals in agriculture and rural development. The project team also lobbied national and regional governments in the four countries where project activities took place.
The LIFE OZON project (LIFE12 NAT/BE/000166) is about restoration of natural habitats for critically endangered species. It is reconnecting fragmented areas of Belgium’s iconic Sonian Forest, an area managed by Belgium’s three regional partners Flanders (56% of the territory), Brussels-Capital (38%) and Wallonia (6%).
The project showed how a kickoff event can be a good opportunity to engage at EU level. The project was launched by the (then) President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, at an event in October 2013. Mr Van Rompuy said he was very pleased to launch the project, not only in his official capacity, but also as a resident of Sint-Genesius Rode (Rhode-Saint-Genèse), a town located within the forest.
Noting that the aim of the project is to reconnect fragmented patches of flora and fauna through green infrastructure such as eco-tunnels and eco-ducts, Mr Van Rompuy highlighted the fact that LIFE OZON is above all about connecting things and that, "connection is the key word for the European Union. Connection between people, between cultures, between languages. That is what this project will do with forests.
Examples of good communication