This content originally appeared on my former Chicagosphere online-media blog, hosted on the Chicago Tribune‘s ChicagoNow network.
A class of Depaul University students spent two weeks in December blogging the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (aka COP-15.) The students, under the tutelage of associate public policy professor Hugh Bartling, attempted to explore the dangers of a warming climate–and the politics behind finding a fix. Unfortunately, they spent much of the conference locked out of it.
Bartling and associated students deserve kudos for traveling to Denmark (I sincerely hope most of you know that’s where Copenhagen is, kids) and covering the event for the hometown Chicago audience. Given how far they traveled, the point of this post should be that conference organizers shrouded some of the proceedings in secrecy by instructing police to lockout all non-governmental organizations–including the students–near the end of the two-week event.
Unfortunately, the real story is the missed opportunity Bartling and the student bloggers had to publicize their effort. The student blog is vestigial at best, comprised of a single-page run-on with no date archives, no information about the genesis of the effort or any other backstory, and no way to contact the authors except for modestly followed Twitter and Facebook accounts which, themselves, simply served as headline drops with no community interaction.
What a shame. Students take note: the magic’s in the planning for projects like this. Strategizing the functionality of the website and engaging existing friends and allies in the social media sphere would have helped the cause greatly. Once you got going, keeping folks engaged on Twitter and Facebook by dialoguing with them regularly and answering questions from media sites (like Chicagosphere) in a timely fashion–or really, at all–after going out of your way to pitch them your story would have been pretty useful, too.
I’d love to tell readers how the student project came about, who proposed the blog, why this particular Depaul group felt it was important–heck, even who paid for the students to travel to Copenhagen. Sadly, that information is disclosed on the climate blog. Neither did Bartling provide answers to a detailed series of questions I sent him immediately after he pitched the project to Chicagosphere on December 12th.
Bartling did respond to an email this morning letting him know I was moving forward with this post. He apologized for the delay and asked me if I had any additional questions. I immediately sent them along. Neither they nor my earlier questions have as yet received a response. [Ed. Note: My second round of follow-up questions received a response after this post was written and published. The genesis of the student project and details surrounding the trip were not detailed.]
The moral here is twofold: advance planning is the best way to let people know about your cause. And responding to your target audience when you gain their ear helps a lot, too. Especially if that target audience waiting to hear–and amplify–your story is the media.
In this case, a timely response would have helped me tell you much more about a group of students who spent a lot of time and money to illuminate an issue that affects us all…
Lack of planning, apparently.