"Communication is based on what reaches the recipient"

Thomas Mosthaf - Head of Communication

The Communication Department is responsible for all tasks related to internal and external communication, press and public relations, customer feedback and content management for the Studierendenwerk's internal and external channels. Project funding for student projects and the area of international affairs are also part of the range of tasks. The department is regularly staffed with one and a half positions and relies on the cooperation of students on a 520 euro basis for certain tasks.

What goals had you set yourself in 2022?
For anyone involved in communication, it is of course the most important of all goals: What you send in communication should get through.
If it doesn't, there's only so much you can ask yourself about why that is:
  • Is my content not relevant or no longer interesting for the target group?
  • Am I broadcasting on channels where my target audience is not or no longer listening?
  • Have I not met the speaking behaviour and the ductus of my target group?
  • Have I missed a communication trend?

If any of the above questions apply, one should urgently strive for a new communication behaviour and evaluate on which channels what is meaningfully received by whom. And fear of contact doesn't make sense either. You don't have to like every channel, but getting to grips with it is obligatory.

We asked ourselves these questions in 2022 and subjected our communication behaviour to a very comprehensive analysis. We came to some clear conclusions from talking to our clientele and evaluating the reach of our communication.
The most important finding was probably that communication with students works best when it works at eye level and against the background of current trends within the target group. That is why we decided in the third quarter of 2022 to set up a student social media editorial team, which will essentially take over communication on our channels. The positive results from more and more targeted content has not been long in coming. In the current lead medium Instagram, user numbers have increased by 13 per cent and the trend is still upwards. For other leading media of the past, such as Facebook, things look rather bleak for our target group, and in media that are new to us, such as TikTok, we will have to gain more experience in the coming months as to whether and how the medium is suitable for our communication.
Other channels such as the X-Clon Mastodon, Reddit and also messenger solutions such as Signal also still need to be tested for their usefulness.

Where did the Studierendenwerk stand in 2022?
Well, let's be honest, there were many communication channels that hardly worked at all. I'm thinking of Facebook, which was flooded with trolls, haters and bots, and I'm thinking of the attempt to reach students via mailing lists. Mail is the fax of today and even if it is very convenient to have a mailing list for serial mails, we notice again that mail content no longer has any information reach. At most, students still communicate via mail when they have a tenancy agreement with us or other government agencies need to contact them. No student we interviewed still writes to their friends or fellow students by mail.

What does that mean exactly for communication?
It means that what doesn't appear on the smartphone screens doesn't exist! At most, the screens in the refectory still reach the students when you're waiting at the food counter. But I honestly think it's hopelessly romantic by now to put up a poster and believe that someone will notice it. No matter how creative, colourful or informative it is. The people who are addressed walk past it with their smartphone screens in view.
Our world of communication is narrowing more and more to a smartphone display and certainly to wearables and smart watches and the only question we have to answer in the future is the following: How do we manage to become and remain relevant on these displays as well?

Yes how?
The most promising target group are the first-year students who are still looking for sources of information on all questions about studying. If we can get them interested in our channels, we've already won a lot. We want to strengthen this with our student editorial team in the future. But all those interested in studying who are looking for information about life in their student city should also come to us as soon as possible. How we can best capture them will probably be one of the most important questions in 2023.

Why is it important where to reach many students?
Every piece of information we send to a recipient answers a question or a need for information that my colleagues in the department would otherwise have to answer by phone or email. And fast information without questions is a real sign of quality for a company. Good communication can therefore do two things: it frees up colleagues for more demanding work and satisfies information seekers.

What were the highlights of the business year for you?
Our Energy Saving Challenge at the seven halls of residence was already a highlight. We had thought at the beginning of 2022 that many would come up with this idea, but then realised that we were among the first. It was also great that the students really participated actively and that energy was saved. Perhaps with a worried eye on their own wallets, but still.

We were also able to achieve a brief high with the implementation of speed dating for catering assistants in the middle of the year. Very briefly, we were able to add success to the frustrating and time-consuming attempt to advertise vacancies at the Studierendenwerk. That was very nice, even if it turned out that it could not be repeated at will. The second attempt was much less successful.

What does that tell us?
It tells us that commitment and creativity do not always bring the solution if the offer is not right. But it was still fun.

What would help?
If you want to win someone over - especially in employer marketing - they have to positively differentiate themselves from the other applicants in the industry. We have a strong feeling in 2022 that today it is no longer the employees who apply to the student union, but that the student union has to apply to the employees. And if they don't have any gimmicks in their pockets, you don't have to wonder about the lack of interested applicants or unsuitable applications. The best communication won't help. We have to work on our "application documents". In conversations at the national level, I found out that we are not alone in this phenomenon, but that many colleagues in student unions nationwide are facing exactly the same problem.

What is your conclusion?
It doesn't help: you have to constantly re-evaluate and constantly decide which information channels to put energy into and which not.
In the coming months, we will be guided by the opening quote and see which channels get the most. In doing so, we must not shy away from courageous decisions.
One recent idea is our "Meme Factory" and the attempt to put all relevant Studierendenwerk content into meme format. We will report next year on how successful this attempt was.

Your contact person for the area
Thomas Mosthaf
Head of Communication
Xylanderstrasse 17
76829 Landau
Tel.: +49 6341 9179 200