EU projects are formed of several partners from member states, who team up and develop a solution in line with a specific policy objective.
Experts with different backgrounds work on technical elements, sometimes difficult to understand, during the entire lifetime of the project which can sometimes be several years.
In addition to the research work packages, each EU project specifies a task dedicated to Dissemination and Communication. Due to the complexity and technicality of the research, development and deployment of communication strategies always represent a main challenge (identification of topics of interest, engagement of audiences, social media, “translation” of research inputs into easy-to-understand messages, etc.)
At the EACD Peer Coaching Session in Brussels, a discussion on a specific topic was held by EACD members to analyse how communication strategies can be improved in this area. Three main conclusions were highlighted.
Initial questions for the communication leader on the research are: How does the project impact our daily life? What do we want to convey? What´s the goal of the research? What could be the next step? What are the Key Performance Indicators? Here are some initial ideas:
- Video: to produce a 2 mins video summarising project challenges and results. Content should be emotional focussing on elements of interest for a wider audience rather than a group of scientists with high technical knowledge in the field. Topics such as sustainability, innovation or digitalisation should be somehow present.
- Social media: a quick, efficient and affordable channel of distribution for the messages (Twitter to provide first reactions, LinkedIn for a deeper analysis). Comms leaders must spot key moments during the project lifetime to build momentum and target main stakeholders. Keywords are to be repeated consistently in all your messages.
- Influencers: in every sector (even in asphalt modified bitumen!), there is a bunch of influencers who could help in maximizing the message’s impact and hence generate more traffic. Clear communication on the research from the beginning of the project will motivate them to follow latest developments and also get involved.
Activation of audiences
- Convincing: Messages should offer a technical solution and present a good idea for the future. You should identify an innovative element to distinguish the project.
- Interactive: Identify new audiences in environments besides the Brussels arena. Interact with local authorities or sectorial groups, and other technical stakeholders who could multiply the message towards other areas which aren’t possible to access with regular EU channels.
Adaptation of communications to your research needs
- “Art of participatory leadership”: Use new models for workshops and conferences, motivating experts to increase their participation (pro-action café.)
- Modernise your events to include open space technologies and apps during presentations.
- Integrate different profiles for conversation tables to combine know-how.
- Identify topics for further discussion which can be of future interest.
- Motivate teams to identify new challenges and start proposing solutions for upcoming research.
José Diez is Director of Communication and Public Affairs at the ERF, managing communication strategies for EU projects focused on innovation, sustainability and road safety.