The societal and economic restrictions caused by the corona crisis lead to a positive change in environmental protection. Nevertheless, the communication of environmental protection should be further promoted. Among other communication measures, it is important to reach a younger target group and inspire young people to fight together against climate change because they are those who can change our world in future. This project deals with the question of how this younger target group can be reached optimally.
In order to reach the young people, a concept for environmental communication on TikTok using the example of the authority Umweltbundesamt has been created. Therefore we proceeded step by step:
Step 1: A look at existing literature about communication campaigns, TikTok and the youth’s interest towards the environment built the theoretical basis. This was supplemented by interviews with experts in environmental communication and TikTok. As the planned communication concept is using the example of Umweltbundesamt, the current online communication of this institution was also considered.
Step 2: In a structured content analysis the hashtag campaigns #forclimate and #cleansnap as well as the account of @wwf_deutschland were examined in order to get insights into current environmental communication on TikTok. The analysis was based on a mainly deductively created coding manual and evaluated descriptively.
Step 3: Based on the results of research and content analysis a communication concept was created to raise the awareness of environmental issues among young people.
The research and analysis have lead to several outcomes. In the following the most important are shown.
The expert interviews that were done within the project show for example that corporations with influencers not always are the right choice especially regarding environmental issues. Another result out of the interviews is that besides the strongly communicated environmental topics such as plastic waste also less communicated and difficult understandable topics must be communicated on TikTok if there is the wish and aim to educate young people in environmental issues and lead them, at best, to a behaviour change.
With content analysis commonalities and differences between the campaigns and the account can be identified. One result is for example that all videos are about equal or similar environmental topics which tips off likely important and well accepted issues that need to be communicated on TikTok to be successful. Furthermore, both hashtag campaigns, as another example for commonalities, are produced in cooperation between two organisations which shows that partnerships can be helpful for Hashtag campaigns on TikTok. As a third example for commonalities, all analysed videos awake emotions by conspicuous frightening or delighting content. As a conclusion of this in environmental videos strongly emotional messages should be sent. Though, all these results cannot be captioned as true without reckoning the context. Differences that appear due to the analysis are that the structure and intention of Hashtags campaigns and TikTok accounts are different. Campaigns are more focussed on changing behaviour while accounts like the one from WWF more pursue the goal of elucidation and knowledge transfer. It also becomes clear that as opposed to TikTok accounts hashtag campaigns are often less credible because the hashtags of campaigns can easily be misused by users who only want to get more range. Those users use the hashtag outboard their origin purpose.
In summary, the procedure of the project makes clear that a content analysis can be really helpful for the development of an communication concept. Contents that are used as the base of the concept and for orientation can be made easily and clearly comparable by listing important aspects tabularly. It is possible to get a better instinct for what is good for the communication and what likely does not fit in that well.
One fundamental result of our research is that firstly for the Umweltbundesamt a TikTok account is the better choice instead of an immediate campaign. The reason is that with the opening of an own TikTok account the Umweltbundesamt has a further contact point for environment-interested people. Furthermore, for the Umweltbundesamt as a department the communication via an account is more credible regarding the risk of misused hashtags and shady user-generated content that is more likely in hashtag campaigns.