PR industry giants join forces with 16 universities to promote biodiversity conservation

Members of Panel of Judges for elimination rounds - Daniel Silberhorn of Fleishman-Hillard Germany, Melissa Arulappan of Quintiles India, Dr Kamala Vainy Pillai of Curtin Sarawak (second right) and Yanis Vafeas of Golin MENA.

Members of Panel of Judges for elimination rounds – Daniel Silberhorn of Fleishman-Hillard Germany, Melissa Arulappan of Quintiles India, Dr Kamala Vainy Pillai of Curtin Sarawak (second right) and Yanis Vafeas of Golin MENA.

MIRI: Public relations (PR) experts from some of the world’s leading PR agencies got together in Abu Dhabi with students from 16 universities in 16 countries across the world on International Biodiversity Day recently to work on global communication strategies for biodiversity conservation.

The students, all PR or media students of the universities and forming nine international PR teams for the fourteenth annual Global Communications Project or GlobCom 2016 Symposium being held in the United Arab Emirates capital, were coached by senior consultants from top PR agencies like Edelman, Weber Shandwick, Brunswick Group, Golin MENA, and Fleishman-Hillard.

18 undergraduate PR students of Curtin University, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) were part of the virtual international PR teams that collaborated online for three months prior to the Symposium and five of them proudly represented Malaysia and their university at the prestigious international event.

The other countries represented were the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Chile, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Russia, India, Thailand, South Africa, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

The student teams were required to act as ‘global PR agencies’ pitching PR communication strategies for the Dugong & Seagrass Conservation Project, a global biodiversity initiative executed by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund with financing from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implementation support by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Noura Al Sarraj of Weber & Shandwick (right) reviewing presentation strategies as Curtin Sarawak’s Dominic Liew (top right) and teammates watch intently during pitching workshop.

Noura Al Sarraj of Weber & Shandwick (right) reviewing presentation strategies as Curtin Sarawak’s Dominic Liew (top right) and teammates watch intently during pitching workshop.

The Conservation Project runs through 38 national projects located in Indonesia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu, as well as Malaysia (Lawas, Sarawak).

The consultants, meanwhile, provided expert insights into formulating effective PR strategies and conducted coaching workshops on cinching that winning PR pitch for biodiversity conservation.

Throughout the sessions, it was impressed on the students that as climate change pressures heighten due to unsustainable development and business practices, more dynamic and creative corporate communications and PR graduates are needed at management levels to stress its importance as well as build meaningful relationships with stakeholders.

Curtin Sarawak PR lecturer and organising chairperson of last year’s GlobCom in Malaysia, Dr. Kamala Vainy Pillai, who accompanied the Malaysian students to Abu Dhabi, commented that cultures are diverse and initiating change in traditional practices, overcoming prejudices and misunderstanding in a global setting to champion biodiversity preservation can be very challenging.

However, she added, concerted efforts by governments and organisations across the globe are being made to address these issues. Two forces identified in making this possible are global youth participation in the protection and conservation of biodiversity, and industry support.

The former calls for a rich, cross-cultural contribution by youth towards sustainable solution strategies to tackle current environmental issues. The latter is based on the fact that the influence of business today is much wider and more powerful, hence the support of industry is vital.

“With universities and industry working together, progress is affirmative,” Dr. Pillai remarked.

Curtin Sarawak final year PR students Stevenson Tan and Ling You Ping could not hold back their excitement when their international team was declared this year’s GlobCom winner.

“Despite the time zone differences, we worked very closely with the other team members for long hours, from research to designing and developing communication strategies for the client. The diversity of the team resulted in amazing ideas and our confidence and communication skills improved exponentially. It was certainly worth all the effort,” said Tan.

GlobCom is an international PR and communications competition for university students. It has seven key objectives: collaborating in multicultural teams; overcoming cultural barriers; acting together online in virtual teams; working as agencies solving a global PR issue; recognising the strength of cultural diversity; learning to implement global strategies locally; and convincing via presentations. Curtin Sarawak is the only Malaysian university in GlobCom since joining in 2015.

GlobCom symposiums have previously been held in Erfurt, Germany (2003); Barcelona, Spain (2004 and 2011); Gorizia, Italy (2005); Palma de Mallorca, Spain (2006); Lisbon, Portugal (2007); Abu Dhabi (2008, 2009 and 2012); Cheltenham, United Kingdom (2010); Stellenbosch, South Africa (2013); Boston, USA (2014) and Miri, Malaysia (2015).

For more information on Curtin Sarawak, visit its website (www.curtin.edu.my), its Facebook page (Curtin University Sarawak Malaysia), Twitter profile (curtinsarawak), YouTube channel (CurtinUniSarawak) or Instagram (curtinsarawak).

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