Updated: Aug 2
COP26 might be a distant memory for some, but for higher education comms and social media professionals it’s no doubt etched on their minds. Planning (for some) began up to 12 months prior to the gathering in Glasgow, particularly those keen to champion their institution’s research outputs.
November 2022 sees COP27 take place in Egypt and this time around UK universities don’t have the luxury of the event being on our doorstep. That said, I’m certain many universities are busy planning content campaigns as I type this blog while hiding from a UK heatwave (oh the irony).
In this blog, I delve into some of the headlines emerging from our analysis of online conversations about universities and COP26.
How we found the insights
The Neon Caffeine ‘data scientists’ ran Brandwatch queries to collect mentions of universities and COP26 during the period 1 October 2021 to 1 March 2022. Having identified the top 10 institutions by volume of mentions on Twitter, it was time to dig deeper into relevant keywords associated with their content. Additional Brandwatch searches were set up using a range of brand keywords and Twitter handles for each university.
COP26 High Achievers
The universities with the most COP26 mentions on social were (in no particular order)
University of Cambridge
University of East Anglia
University of Exeter
University of Hull
University of Leeds
Imperial College London
London School of Economics
University of Manchester
University of Newcastle
University College London
Between them they generated ~8,000 tweets from 3,674 unique authors, with most of the conversations happening during the peak period of the event in Glasgow.
The build up
The pre-event conversations were generated by the universities, academics, and organisations involved in COP26 which comes as no surprise. Following the typical broadcast mode you’d expect.
There are huge opportunities before, during and after the event which can be applied to the COP27 Conference, which I'll cover later in the blog.
Content creating conversations
If you’re curious about what helped the high performing universities to attract a larger volume of mentions during COP26, I’ve picked four examples to share with you.
1. Pandemic rebound and fossil fuels - University of Exeter
The University of Exeter found its research in the spotlight as its climate modelling discovered that we are almost back to emission levels as pre-pandemic - an unexpected bounce back, and not a good one - coal being one of the biggest contributors. This led to articles being posted by some of the largest media networks globally.
2. Net zero - University of Cambridge
Cambridge successfully communicated their carbon reduction research including a blockchain initiative to help with reforestation. A well known brand such as the University of Cambridge is of course going to have its detractors, and in the case of COP26 this came in the form of content from Extinction Rebellion.
The environment is a topic many are passionate about, preparing for that passion (in whatever form it comes) is imperative for your comms plan. I’ll share some tips later in the blog about how you can prepare for such eventualities.
3. Politicians hyping higher ed - University of Hull
John Prescott (Baron Prescott) helped Hull achieve 2.8m reach after sharing two posts about the University’s participation in COP26. He shared a news article about low carbon fish and chips, and a photo of himself and Hull staff at the conference.
Your local politicians have the potential to be fantastic influencers for your brand.
4. Creative sustainability - University of East Anglia
East Anglia’s collaboration with an eco-artist seeking to simplify the “complicated language” of science into art proved popular online. It was an appealing story for news organisations and social media audiences (existing and new).
A creative hook is a good way to help your content stand out about the crowd, especially when overall volume of mentions around an event will be high.
After the moment
Similar to pre COP26, the volume of conversation was lower than the event itself. For universities it was back to being an echo chamber of institutions and their staff sharing each other's posts. The highest number of retweets only hit 30.
A question universities might need to ask in the lead up to COP27 is how can they prolong both the conversation and their brand visibility.
What can COP26 teach COP27?
Forget measuring standalone metrics such as sentiment or impressions, here’s 5 ways to utilise social listening to maximise your marketing and communications plan for COP27:
Boost the build-up - whether you’re monitoring hashtags or running boolean searches in your social listening tool, tapping into the pre-event conversation is a must. It’s the perfect space to search for influencers and subject experts to share your story with. Work with them to spread your brand message beyond the typical higher education echo chamber.
Discover the detractors - knowing who might be critical of your brand or simply the subject area you’re going to be talking about is good comms planning. Understand their point of view and what could trigger criticism of your content. In some circumstances you might be able to adjust your content to reduce the risk of negative reactions.
Political partnerships - if your university has someone leading on public affairs, involving them at the planning stage could help to secure the involvement of local political influencers, with the potential of expanding your message to a wider audience. Do your homework online first, researching what their interests are and how you can tie in your content to their work.
Creative content collaborators - it is highly likely you will not know everything happening at your institution. Simple and advanced social listening methods are a great way to learn more about the institution and what is being shared online. This also acts as a good way to seek out new collaborators to work on content campaigns with.
Extend the exchange - the data showed a marked drop off in social conversations after COP26. Use a combination of your channel data and from social listening to identify conversations to continue after the event. You can create new content, engage in the conversations, or put paid budget behind successful organic posts; just three ideas to keep your brand front of mind.
Are you planning your COP27 content? Are you keen to understand what your audience expects from you? Have you tuned into the COP27 conversation so far? Do you know how social listening can support your COP27 planning?
Chat to us about how to make your content work harder and live longer to maximise your brand impact at COP27.