How to address and reach businesses and the public with your research
Many researchers face challenges in terms of disseminating their research online. In OpenUP we aim at creating recommendations and guidance for researchers who want to communicate their research to target audiences beyond academia.
Many researchers face challenges in terms of disseminating their research online; in particular when it is about reaching target audiences beyond their peers. In OpenUP we aim at creating recommendations and guidance for researchers who want to communicate their research to target audiences beyond academia. The draft guidelines have been published in our recent deliverable D6.2 Interim Use Cases Report, and are currently being tested in one of OpenUP’s pilot studies. The goal of Pilot 5 is to analyse and test how disseminated research results from the Energy area can be made more interesting, appealing, and usable for business and the general public target audiences.
Defining target audience(s) and key message(s)
Research communication and dissemination play a major role to enable inclusion and participation of all relevant stakeholders. In these guidelines, we particularly focus on reaching industry/innovation (businesses) and civic society/citizen (general public) target groups. However, these target groups are very broad, and for a targeted communication and dissemination it is necessary to specify those target groups further (e.g. large companies, SMEs, startups, business sector/company associations, creative industry, NGOs, CSOs, citizens, elderly people, maker community, etc.).
It is important to disseminate specifically to target groups. A crucial element is to get to know your target audience. If possible, it is recommendable to meet representatives from the target groups in person (e.g. contacts from a company that you are already in contact or negotiating with) and to directly ask them about their needs and expectations of the research outcomes. Then you can tailor your dissemination/communication material and strategy accordingly.
Once you know your target group, it is essential to define the key message that you want to communicate. In general, it is important to make sure that the key messages and information that you provide is relevant for the targeted audience. A good recommendation is to explicitly include the audience in the material that you produce (e.g. a dossier, brochure). Write about your audience to make sure that the information contained specifically relates to them and is relevant.
A tip that works for all communication formats: present the information always thinking about your target audience. Try to understand what type of information they will need from you. If they are consumers they do not need to know how it works, just how it is going to benefit their life. Industry might be interested in more details. Always think of what THEY want to hear from you, not what you want to tell them. You do not need to talk to all audiences at the same time.
Defining communication objectives and structuring key messages
For defining your communication objectives, think of what you want to achieve with your communication to the targeted audience. What is the purpose of the communication to the specific target group? For instance, it makes a difference whether you want to open or contribute to a debate, or to achieve a research collaboration. There are different ways to spread information depending on what you want to achieve. This goes for both general public and business target audiences.
Once your communication objectives are clear you can start structuring your key messages and adapting them to the media format and channels to be used. The format will heavily impact the structure of the information.
In general, it is recommendable to structure the information in several layers:
- quick and sound bites of information, giving an overview of what it is about;
- more explanation, but still fairly low level;
- deep and thorough information, including further background backing up documents (e.g. studies themselves). This is not just for people to read it, but also to show that your layer above it is grounded.
Even if it does not explain every single detail the information gets more credible and transparent this way.
Choosing media and format: general recommendations
Scholarly texts such as journal articles and literature indexes are very important as of today. However, they are outdated formats and need advancement to compete with the digital revolution of the world wide web. Depending on your targeted audiences and communication objectives, more visual formats like videos or animations might be more suitable to achieve a good impact.
Choosing media and format of your communication strongly depends on your communication objectives, i.e. what you want to achieve. There are many ways to communicate your research, e.g. direct messages, blog post, tweeting about it or putting your research on Instagram. Think about who you are trying to reach, what the message has to be, and what your audience should be able to do with it (e.g. further sharing it, working with it, making a song out of it).
Form and content go hand in hand. The way the message is delivered is like a message itself. You can share your key message to reach your target audience as passive listeners. However, you can also activate your target audiences and enable them to become active or do something with the content that you provide. Social media and other platforms offer various possibilities not to only passively share your messages, but also to actively involve your target audiences.
Overview: draft recommendations for communicating research to businesses and the general public
|1. Define dissemination & communication objectives||
Think about your goals: e.g. open a debate; achieve a research collaboration.
Think about what your audience should be able to do with your information (e.g. further sharing it, working with it).
|2. Define target audience(s)||
Think about who exactly you are trying to reach.
Get to know your target audience, their needs and expectations of the research outcomes, as well as their preferred communication channels.
|3. Define key message(s?)||
Make sure to align your key message with what the targeted audiences expect.
Start with the knowledge base that they already have by involving their world in the story.
|4. Plan your dissemination & communication strategy||
Choosing media, format and dissemination strategy strongly depends on your communication objectives.
You can share your key message to reach your target audience as passive listeners. You can activate your target audiences and enable them to become active or do something with the content that you provide.