The increasing importance of the Internet means that LIFE projects are looking at new ways to communicate their work. Websites have been a common tool of LIFE projects for a number of years, but web-based communication can go further. The Portuguese project Safe Islands for Seabirds (LIFE07 NAT/P/000649) has been using an online blog – the common term for a web log – to inform interested people, wherever they may be, about the latest developments in their project in a lively and exciting way. A blog is a type of online diary, typically made up of text, photos and links to other sources of information. Furthermore, it costs next to nothing to set up and maintain.
The Safe Islands for Seabirds blog allows the project team to provide regular commentaries, descriptions, news and updates to engage a wide audience in their project. As well as providing a wealth of photos and information on the project since August 2009, the blog has included videos of the release of birds into their natural environment, the construction of artificial nests and anti-predator devices.
The blog is a highly dynamic communications tool which brings the activities of the project to life and makes them more easily understandable to experts and non-experts alike than is possible through more static media, such as brochures or reports. It provides a clear timeline of the development of the project since all entries can be viewed in chronological order.
The blog also provides a more informal and fun presentation of the serious work of the project, providing insights into the everyday activities of the project team. This helps to present the human side of the project and to demonstrate the dedication and commitment of the project team to their work in protecting the seabirds. Readers can see clearly the challenges they need to overcome and the satisfaction they gain from their successes.
For more information on the Safe Islands for Seabirds project, please see the project summary.
The final conference of Finland’s LIFE CHAMP project (LIFE07 ENV/FIN/000138) offers an interesting example of how social media can be used in practical ways to disseminate project information and stimulate stakeholder dialogue.
The conference was held during December 2011 and the entire event took place online using a coordinated combination of web 2.0 technologies. Presentations were streamed live on the internet, so anyone from anywhere with broadband access could find out about the project’s progress in identifying best practice solutions for integrating climate action into local municipal strategies.
A ‘real time’ chat facility operated to allow contributions from ‘virtual’ participants who posed questions and joined in the conference from the (relatively carbon footprint free) convenience of their own desks at home or in their offices.
Using this type of social media approach allowed interactive debates between the speakers and interested parties throughout the two day conference. A learning process was generated with people sharing experiences about practical climate action topics such as implementation challenges, integrated approaches, and motivational methods. The event also reduced transport costs and environmental impacts caused by delegates travelling to attend the event.
Details of the conference were hosted on a Climate Champions website and mainstream social media tools (including dedicated Twitter hashtags and LinkedIn groups) were used effectively for reaching out to a wider stakeholder group – before, during, and after the event.
The conference can be considered not only a success for its climate action agenda but its innovative use of smart, sustainable, and inclusive social media tools also aligned it well with the EU’s main strategy for growth, Europe 2020, which LIFE projects are required to complement.
Communicating LIFE's objectives, actions, achievments and developments is crucial for the Programme in order to help people understand LIFE's benefits, its potential and overall relevance to them.
A variety of different communication tools are used by the Programme and these include dedicated social media presences on Facebook and Twitter. LIFE's Twitter profile is used to communicate short news snippets and direct people to further information using weblinks. LIFE's Facebook Page is used to communicate a range of information in text and visual formats.
LIFE projects interested in setting up a presence on Facebook should be aware of the difference between the services that this social media site offers for individuals and organisations. For example, many people have a Facebook 'private profile' which they use for communicating with their friends and family. Organisations (including LIFE projects) are not permitted by Facebook to have a private profile and instead all businesses, NGOs and other bodies are able to have Facebook Pages.
These Pages are free of charge and can help LIFE projects to communicate, distribute information or content, engage their stakeholders in dialogue, and reach out to interact with new audiences from all parts of the EU (as well as the rest of the planet). Facebook Pages are designed to help organisations to build up a following of 'Fans'. Facebook Fans are people who click on the 'like' button of your Page to indicate that they want to receive the information you post on your Page. This has the same effect as being a 'Friend' to someone on a private profile.
However, becoming a Fan is easier and so helps organisations to build up bigger groups of followers faster. Examples of LIFE projects using Facebook Pages can be seen in the list of 'Likes' on the (left-hand column of the) LIFE Programme Facebook Page.