#sharingthesuccess Changing Climate Change & Disaster Risk Reduction narrative through social media – an interview with Carl Mercer, UNDP Advocacy & Communications Specialist

This month, we are sharing the success story of Carl Mercer, Advocacy & Communications Specialist, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP. @UNDP

Congratulations Carl, your Klout score has risen 3 months in a row !

1.Who are you, who is your audience and what social media channels do you focus on?

-I’m a Communications and Advocacy Specialist with UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support. The team I work with focuses on the areas of climate change, sustainable energy, and disaster risk reduction and recovery. UNDP works in nearly 170 countries globally, our primary audience are our partners and donors. By communicating our work we are able to highlight best practices and lessons learned across these work-streams, which can in turn help influence other similar projects globally, as well as showcase to our donors and partners the quality and efficacy of the work being done.

-UNDP is actually one of the biggest implementing agencies in these three work areas and it is important – given the global agreements and frameworks that emerged last year – that contribute to the development of global policy. I think it’s fair to say that our communications and advocacy during 2015, and our work with Member States helped in the development of the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement, amongst others. In terms of social media channels, I personally rely on twitter for most of my outreach, as that seems to be the best place to reach our particular audience. However, UNDP as an organization also uses other mediums, such as Facebook and Instagram.

2.What themes and content do you cover?

– We’re focused on climate change, disaster risk reduction and sustainable energy. However within those work areas are many more specific work streams. Climate change, for instance, includes work on both mitigation (energy and forest protection) as well as adaptation, which helps people and communities to predict and plan for the impacts of climate change. In terms of disaster risk reduction, we cover all of the major areas of the Sendai Framework, including early warning & preparedness, local and urban action, disaster risk governance, and resilient ‘build back better’ recovery. We’re actually getting ready to launch a new global partnership on DRR, called ‘5-10-50’, which focuses on supporting at least 50 countries in five priority areas over 10-years, and that will undoubtedly include a significant multi-partner communications campaign, which is quite exciting as a communication professional. Aside from the core areas of the team I work in, I’m also involved in most elements of UNDP’s work related to the environment, such as biodiversity.

3.Have you changed your approach recently? What’s really working well for you now?

-From a communications perspective, 2015/2016 offered many opportunities to use social media for outreach. The major agreements and processes that emerged – the SDGs, Paris, Sendai, Addis, etc. – had their own particular hashtags and there was a consolidated, joint approach by the international community to shore up support for these critical agreements, and I feel that this approach was quite successful.

-Personally, I’m very proud of the work that we did during both the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and COP21. For both of these conferences, we developed strong communications strategies that included traditional media and social media and used cost-effective techniques to reach as wide an audience as possible. Take one example, during COP21 we filmed short, 1-minute ‘COPDaily’ videos to highlight the key issues of the day, whether that was biodiversity protection or climate finance, and this both highlighted our staff expertise and helped inform the public as to what the critical issues were. For Sendai, we really focused on the concept of risk-informed development, and our simple tagline “if it isn’t risk-informed, it isn’t sustainable development” became quite popular throughout the Conference and broadly in the DRR world. In both of these cases, social media was not only an asset but an essential tool to get the message out there.

4.What impact have you seen from your social media presence?

I have certainly seen my social media presence grow and, as a team, we’re seeing more and more people get on board and communicate their work. What’s exciting is to see so many of our partners engaging with us online and participating in this ‘conversation’. Social media has helped us promote the work we do, it’s helped attract media attention (we’ve had journalists reach out to us via twitter because of what they’ve seen), and it’s helped to highlight the successes and lessons that our country partners have experienced. When you work across as many countries as UNDP, and with such a range of work streams, it’s important to have access to channels like twitter or facebook that helps to get the messages out there and to share the work that is so important. Looking ahead I’d like to see my social media presence continue to grow, but I’d also like to expand my engagement into other work streams and areas. One of the great things about communications is being able to learn so much about the topic, and I’m well versed on disaster risk reduction, energy and climate change. These have all been very topical issues this last year and I’m excited to be able to message and communicate about new issues as they arise.

Thanks so much for the chance to interview!

 

Raya Alchukr

Worked for the UN for over 13 years. Passionate about youth empowerment, humanitarian work, education, child protection, women and gender issues.

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