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An appearance in front of more than 1,200 industry representatives as the "opening act" for well-known publicist Michel Friedman is something not many graduates experience. It became reality for Larissa Benz from our institute on September 15, 2023. She was one of the three finalists of the Talent Award, with which the Federal Association of German Communicators (BdKom) annually honors the best master's thesis in the field of communications management/PR throughout Germany. The cheers were great when jury chairwoman Ina Froehner opened the envelope and announced her as the winner – also among many Leipzig alumni in the audience.

Larissa Benz presented herself on stage at the Admiralspalast Berlin with sovereignty. She announced that she would donate part of her prize money of 2,000 euros to the BdKom's current aid campaign for victims of the flood disasters. The prize also includes the publication of the study as a book.

Short video of the BdKom about the master thesis
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Multi-method study "Metaverse in internal corporate communications"

Larissa Benz's master's thesis in Communciation Management, submitted in March 2023, addresses a question that has preoccupied the practice of communication management for some time, but has not yet been addressed by academic research: the use of the Metaverse, the next evolutionary stage of the Internet pushed and propagated by global technology corporations, for purposes of internal corporate communications.

As part of a new evolutionary stage of today's Internet, the Metaverse will enable immersion in new, virtual worlds or virtual extensions of physical space. For companies and their internal communications, the metaverse offers numerous opportunities to break down the physical boundaries between employees in times of hybrid collaboration. At the same time, the question arises as to what problems its use entails. The study investigates which potentials, application scenarios, challenges and framework conditions arise from the use of the Metaverse in the field. For this purpose, a theoretical-conceptual framework was developed, which was empirically enriched with the help of qualitative focus group discussions with experts in internal corporate communications. As a result, concrete use cases were developed and described.

In a further step, a real-world comparison was carried out to check the status quo of the experts' willingness to use the Metaverse on the one hand and the willingness of employees in large companies to use it on the other. A representative online survey was conducted for this purpose. The results show that the Metaverse has concrete potential and use cases for use in internal communications, but that the willingness to use it on the part of relevant stakeholder groups is still strongly inhibited. Younger employee groups in particular are skeptical. A thoroughly surprising finding. The study, initiated and supervised by Professor Ansgar Zerfass, was made possible in part by a grant from Fink & Fuchs AG, Wiesbaden, which financed the panel survey.

Inspirations for research and practice

The initial review of the study states: "Larissa Benz has single-mindedly developed a complex and hitherto unexplored topic, built up a stringent argumentation and produced innovative results. The development of an inspiring framework for the use of the metaverse in internal corporate communication as a conceptual achievement and the empirical development of the willingness to use by communicators and recipients as well as the practically relevant conclusions fertilize the professional discourse." The award by the BdKom shows that the work will be of great importance for practice beyond this scientific contribution. This once again underscores the yield of the training at the Leipzig Institute, which focuses on research skills based on practically relevant issues.

Congratulations to Larissa Benz, who has now taken off in her career as a communications manager in the mobility industry!