This year for Earth Month, four COM students in PRLab launched “Sustain4Sapiens,” a campaign aimed at inspiring conversation surrounding climate change. The team, which consists of graduate and undergraduate students Zhuokun Jiang, Mia Miller, Della Qin, and Yangke Shangguan, have partnered with BU’s Institute for Sustainable Energy, and work under the guidance of Sarah Finnie Robinson, Director of “The 51 Percent Project” and an expert on climate change communications. The team’s ultimate goal is to empower Gen Z to find solutions for climate change by simply starting a conversation through this online initiative.
“Sustain4Sapiens is working to galvanize conversations on climate change,” says Miller. “It’s necessary to communicate about sustainable practices because that’s the only way we will inspire change. It’s not our mission to educate the public on scholarly scientific research, rather we want to alter the stigma surrounding climate change communications.”
However, coming up with the name of the campaign proved to be difficult: “[We] wanted something catchy that young people could realistically talk about in the most casual way, but we also sought to convey the urgent necessity of humans stepping up because we are the only species who can actually solve this problem,” said Miller. In the end, after two surveys, they decided on the current name.
From then on, this PRLab group has been busy getting this message out to its target audience, BU students, through the popular social media platform, Instagram. Miller further noted how they’ve been using Instagram “…to connect BU students and their networks with impactful actions they can introduce to inspire more sustainable lifestyles. Our approach to climate change communications conveys a friendly, vibrant, no-stress tone to evoke a positive and welcoming feeling, so young people feel more confident discussing climate change.”
The Instagram account is filled with colorful reminders about the little ways you can make a difference to the environment throughout your daily routine, coupled with thoughtful captions. Currently, Sustain4Sapiens has “generated a series of 30 impactful sustainable actions people can take each day during Earth Month,” said Miller.
Jiang also noted that they’ve borrowed this concept of “…a #30daychallenge, which is generally related to fitness and bodybuilding, to better attract and interact with our audience.”
The process of creating a PR campaign can be tedious but, for this group, their inspiration was the research. “We needed to critically analyze who would be our most effective target audience,” said Miller. “We recognized that Gen Z is the most alarmed and concerned about climate change. Right as we were about to launch, the student climate chance strike #Fridays4Future went viral, which was incredible timeliness for our launch. After that strike gained so much visibility, we realized how relevant our work is.”
Each member of this PRLab team contributes individual skills while working cohesively in order to maximize productivity. Miller is the Project Manager, who facilitates client relations, Qin is the Graphic Designer, who designs the visual content, Jiang is the Copywriter, in charge of creating written content, and Shangguan deals with strategy and development. However, Jiang noted that they do not split the tasks so strictly: “We all get to communicate with the client, reach out to media and other organizations, generate content for Instagram, and brainstorm ideas.”
Sarah Finnie Robinson, a Senior Fellow at the BU Institute for Sustainable Energy, commends this group’s efforts. “PRLab students are notable for their professionalism and solid grounding in public relations,” said Robinson. “Sustain4Sapiens is really outstanding, and full of irresistible design and authentic content. I’ve also been impressed by their flexibility, ingenuity, and resilience. We frankly experienced a collaborative stumble early on in the semester, as so often happens in real life, and they doubled down to make the campaign better than ever.”
When asked what she feels is the most important message students should be learning throughout this campaign, she emphasized the importance of simply discussing the topic with others. “Climate change can be an easy conversation with friends and family,” said Robinson. “There are literally hundreds of ways to be part of the solution. The climate scientists say we need to act now to address the challenge of global warming. Everybody has an important role to play.”
Miller recommends PRLab to any student who want hands-on experience in this field. “It has prepared us for the real world,” said Miller. “It bridges classroom learning with real client work. Working in PRLab is like a real job, not like an internship where you barely get to touch any of the work or engage with clients.”
“The experience in PRLab is acknowledged in the industry here in Boston,” Jiang said. “During a job hunt, most employers have heard about and think highly of PRLab.”
It is evident these students have a grasp on what it takes to effectively plan and execute a PR campaign. With the help of Robinson, these four students have created a platform to provoke action from the younger generation on an urgent matter. Sustain4Sapiens seeks to strike a nerve in the world by reminding us that significant change can come from collective action.
For more information on Sustain4Sapiens, visit https://www.instagram.com/sustain4sapiens/
Leslie Oh, Staff Writer
Leslie Oh is a senior at Boston University who is majoring in advertising with a minor in international relations. She has lived in Connecticut, Korea, and California, but hopes to start her professional career in the Big Apple after graduation. She enjoys exploring new cuisines around the city and watching cooking videos online. Her biggest guilty pleasure is watching reality television shows of all sorts.