2018-07-09

Series "Education"

Author

Christian Holst
is a lecturer at the Zurich University of the Arts and teaches social media marketing and content strategies in the subject area Cast/Audiovisual Media. He was responsible for marketing and social media at the Zurich Opera House and at the Oldenburgisches Staatstheater and worked as a programme officer at the Stiftung Schweizer Jugendkarte.
Practical oriented student projects

Cultural marketing at the Zurich meets Hong Kong Festival

In October 2017, eleven students of the Zurich University of the Arts, study programme Cast/ Audiovisual Media travelled to Hong Kong to take over the "Zurich meets Hong Kong" city festivals social media channels and report on around 50 events as an "embedded social media team".
The Hong Kong subway MTR is a fascinating phenomenon even for people from Zurich, who are very spoiled when it comes to public transport and who are inclined to complain about "density stress". According to Wikipedia, the MTR carries around 5.6 million people per day (for comparison: the Berlin subway carries 1.4 million people on a railroad network 3/4 the length), during peak hours the 300-meter trains run every minute and people are let in by stewards in portions. Nevertheless, everything works efficiently, disciplined and calmly. Pushy or reckless people are hard to be found and if you find one, it is not unlikely that its you yourself who's been overcome by your German subway reflexes.
 
Working in Hong Kong is in a way quite similar: Its efficient, disciplined and calm and that is the way you get a lot of things done. At least that was our experience when we went there for a social media and content strategy course in October 2017.
 
With this video the students introduced themselves to the Hong Kong audience.
 
A festival of two cities
 
What exactly is this city festival all about? "Zürich meets Hong KongA Festival Of Two Cities is part of a global celebration series connecting Zurich with other cities in the world in productive dialogue, the festival website says. In concrete terms, this means that Zurich presents itself in a variety of events as a centre of culture, science and business as well as an attractive tourist destination. Most of the events were held in cooperation with local artists, organizers, universities, companies, etc. The objectives of the social media campaign were to cover the festival on a broad and representative basis, so that its diversity would come to light. In addition, the aim was to stimulate interaction and encourage locals to visit the festival events.
 
Campaign idea
 
An exciting task, therefore, for which the students developed a campaign idea in a two-week course in May 2017. The theoretical input on social media and content marketing was kept to a minimum in this course. After a briefing by the client, the City of Zurich, a concept was developed under time pressure and with little knowledge of the circumstances in Hong Kong. The challenge was to find a framework that encompasses all the festival's diverse events and at the same time stimulate interaction. Against this background, the students developed their campaign idea around the Böögg, a snowman figure that is very popular in Zurich. During a local holiday that celebrates the end of winter, a large Bögg doll, prepared with fireworks, is burned at a square. The name Böögg is probably related to the word bogeyman. Anyway, in this case the Böögg was a sympathetic ambassador of the specific Zurich culture and lifestyle in form of a cuddly toy. It introduced the Hong Kong people to Zurichs culture, science and economics. Furthermore, the Böögg was placed at several venues of the festival so visitors could make selfies with it and post them to a facebook page with the chance to win a trip to Zurich and other prices.
 
The Böögg and the competition were introduced with this video.
 
The Böögg also played a leading role in the daily WhatsUp videos. In a short animated WhatsApp conversation with the Böögg, the visitors were informed about the programme highlights of the day. This idea was intended to make the Böögg appear livelier and inform the audience about the programme in an entertaining way. In addition, the Bögg appeared in various videos, e.g. here.
 
The central communication platform was Facebook. Zurich meets Hong Kong has the largest audience here. Twitter was used to document science talks and panels, like for instance the Talk "Politics of Space in Sham Shui Po" (here is the Twitter Moment), while Instagram was mainly used to report on more aesthetic events, like the Swiss Design Market.
 
Course management
 
During the summer, the concept for the campaign was adjusted with the client, worked out and finalised. The responsibility for this lay with the students. The travel preparations (visa, hotel and flight bookings etc.) were taken care of by a lecturer. In Hong Kong, we worked closely with a local agency that managed the advertising budget and took over the final editorial control of the content. In particular, the aim was to ensure that there were no political or intercultural misunderstandings in the communication. The cooperation worked very efficiently and smoothly. In addition, the students were supported by two local alumni of the local Design University, which proved to be extremely helpful in many situations.
 
A course on social media and content strategy held in Hong Kong instead of Zurich is obviously much more than just a social media marketing course. It is also a course in improvisation, project and cultural management, and intercultural communication. Of course, not everything runs according to plan at all times. Some of the aspects that appear to be so meaningful in the concept are limited in practice by cultural and political peculiarities that cannot be foreseen without some local experience. This became evident for the central campaign idea, a lucky draw. The original idea was to keep the participation hurdles really low to encourage as many people as possible to take part. After consultations with the local authorities, it became clear right before the start of the festival that certain requirements had to be considered for the competition, which made the rules of participation considerably more complicated. Instead of simply publishing a selfie with a hashtag, participants had to leave a comment to a specific Facebook post and follow various rules. Accordingly, the participation was slow and cumbersome. The students responded to that problem by addressing the visitors of the events in person, explaining the rules, spontaneously creating and distributing a flyer with instructions on how to play, and briefing supervisors at the venues. These efforts were fruitful, but the participation fell short behind the expectations.
 
Apart from that, Hong Kong made it really easy for us: Locals are friendly and helpful, despite all the hustle and bustle there is a relaxed atmosphere in the city, you can get along with English almost everywhere and there is stable Wifi and cheap smartphone data networks everywhere. Besides, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are the most popular social networks in Hong Kong, so the students didnt have to get familiar with new apps and services.
 
So as a conclusion: Working on a social media project in Hong Kong was very much like using the subway. It was dense and demanding and thus very close to the conditions of professional life. At the same time, however, it was a very positive and satisfying experience, and except for the participation in the lucky draw all goals were reached and in some cases even significantly exceeded. So it was a fantastic opportunity to perform the course in Hong Kong. https://www.facebook.com/zurichmeetsyourcity/posts/1962144297406534
 
The project is documented in detail in a project diary on medium.
 
PROJECT IMPRESSIONS - All pictures by Nadia Holdener