Strategic Environmental Communication
and Media Focus

Applying communication and media to advance environmental science and management

Focus Advisor: Lisa Leombruni

In an era when media is both pervasive and highly interactive, audiences are bombarded with messages about the environment and left to make sense of an overwhelming amount of often poorly prioritized information, from scientific reports to pitches for green consumer goods. How can scientists help the public understand scientific findings? How can messages stand out from the media “noise” to reach the intended audience and motivate new awareness and behavior? Which strategies can lead to a more effective use of media in all its forms?

The Strategic Environmental Communication and Media (or “communication”) focus will provide answers to these and other important media questions while giving students critical communication and media skills. The communication focus is a joint initiative linking the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and the UCSB Carsey-Wolf Center. Students pursuing any of the seven specializations offered at the Bren School may add the communication focus to supplement their training.

Students in this focus will learn to use media to communicate effectively and strategically around environmental issues. They will acquire indispensable verbal and written communication skills and develop competence with web, video and social media tools. They will learn to develop more compelling environmental stories, target appropriate audiences, and monitor and manage environmental messages. The 12-unit communication focus will train students to use media creatively and strategically to educate, engage, and persuade, and to incite action among a variety of audiences.

Students pursuing the communication focus complete a minimum of 12 units of coursework, consisting of two required primary courses (4 units each), plus a minimum of 2 elective courses (minimum 4 units):

Coursework for the Strategic Environmental Communication and Media Focus

(1st year, spring)

(2nd year, fall and winter)

(2nd year, spring)

ESM 440: Strategic Environmental Communication

ESM 249: Environmental Persuasion
ESM 449:
Environmental Communication Practicum
ESM 269: Survey Design & Environmental Public Opinion
ESM 438: Presentation Skills for Env. Professionals
ESM 441: Environmental Media Production
ESM 442: Grassroots Organizing, Outreach & Campaigning
ESM 444: Writing about the Environment for the Public
TMP 244: Entrepreneurial Marketing
FAMST 118: Sponsored Campus Production (GreenScreen)

Students enroll in ESM 440 Strategic Environmental Communication in the spring of the first year of study to gain a broad perspective on the use of media and to learn messaging skills that will help them reach different audiences. In the fall and winter quarter of the second year of study, they take a minimum of two electives to gain specific media and communication skills, choosing from among web design, social media, film production, marketing communications, grassroots organizing, and public opinion surveys. Students conclude the focus in the spring of the second year of study by taking a capstone course, ESM 449 Environmental Communication Practicum, where they will work in teams to plan and implement an environmental information campaign for a real client. Each team will be comprised of a mix of students who have taken different electives so that, collectively, the team can implement a comprehensive campaign.

Required courses: Bren School students pursuing the strategic environmental communication and media focus must take the following required courses.

ESM 440
Strategic Environmental Communication (4 units)
Successful environmental communication is not just about getting the facts right. Before tackling an issue, it's critical to consider the intended audiences and their values and attitudes--and to use effective storytelling to reach them. To learn to message effectively, students will study the theory behind persuasion and decision-making, including how reason, emotion, and social influence work, and practice writing for a diversity of audiences, including the general public, policymakers, and funders. Students will also learn how to develop compelling stories from good ideas, using conflict, drama, and character, and gain an understanding of the complex media environment in which their messages compete for attention.

ESM 449

Environmental Communication Practicum (4 units)

This capstone course will give students the opportunity to apply their knowledge and communication skills in a practical setting. Working in teams with diverse skills, students will develop and implement their own information campaign in association with an environmental firm, organization, local or regional government, or other institution. Students may choose to use the environmental issue(s) explored in their Group Project or Eco-Entrepreneurship Project, or another topic.

Focus Electives: Students must take at least 2 elective courses to supplement the primary coursework and to develop key environmental media skills.

ESM 249 Environmental Persuasion (2 units)
  An introduction to the practice of environmental communications in professional settings. Topics include environmental psychology, message framing, persuasion, and decision making, with a focus on public media and communication. Focuses on how to design and implement public media communication programs to be effective for particular audiences, goals and circumstances.  

ESM 269

Survey Design and Environmental Public Opinion (2 units)
This course covers issues of survey design, including sampling, questionnaire design, data collection, and data process. Students will design and field an original survey, analyze the survey data, and report on the results.
ESM 438 Presentation Skills for Environmental Professionals  (4 units)
In this intensive course, students will study, prepare and practice presentation skills with a focus on project defenses, presenting posters and research, and presentations for job interviews. Lectures will focus on clearly and effectively communicating quantitative and qualitative information to specific audiences. Emphases will be on visual presentation (e.g. slide formatting, clear presentation of quantitative information, etc.) and verbal communication (pacing, clarity, volume, tone, etc.), which students will hone during practice presentations and mock question/answer sessions in weekly discussions. Students will have multiple opportunities to practice and receive feedback on presentations for group projects, defenses, professional conferences, and job interviews.

ESM 442

Grassroots Organizing, Outreach, & Campaigning (4 units)
This course will review the role and effectiveness of grassroots environmental efforts on local, statewide, and national scales. Leaders from several local environmental groups will train students on strategy, campaigning, working with community members, engaging in local politics, and tailoring their efforts to achieve different objectives.

TMP 244

Entrepreneurial Marketing (3 units)
This course introduces the student to the role of marketing in a total business strategy. The basic objective is to provide students with a broad introduction to marketing concepts, the role of marketing in technology firms, and the various factors that influence marketing decision-making.

ESM 441

Environmental Media Production (2 units)
This hands-on course is designed to give students the core skills needed to conceptualize, capture, edit, and deliver short-form environmental documentaries. The basic tools of filmmaking -- cinematography, lighting, sound, and editing -- are covered.

ESM 444

Writing about the Environment for the Public (2 units)
This workshop course will focus on developing, framing, and communicating messages for a variety of publics and media. Students will learn about and practice with elements of message/story development including identifying audiences and purposes, interviewing, analyzing and creating news genres, and identifying and employing frames for stories. Students will complete the course with media-ready work.

Suggested Coursework Schedule for MESM Students

1st Year, Spring Strategic Environmental Communication (required)
Elective Coursework (1 course optional)
2nd Year, Fall Elective Coursework (1-2 courses)
2nd Year, Winter Elective Coursework (1-2 courses)
2nd Year, Spring Environmental Communication Practicum (required)