All you need to know to promote your research to businesses - The "why", the "what" & the "how" in disseminating to businesses.

 

1. Requirements and expectations: Why do businesses need information from research?

In general, businesses want to stay up to date about what is going on in research projects and not miss latest developments that are relevant for their own developments, services and products. This is particularly true for businesses without an own R&D department.

Businesses are also interested in finding new R&D cooperation partners, e.g. to outsource R&D activities, share resources, or validate research done in-house. In this context having strong IPRs is very important for businesses.

In some areas, e.g. in health society or public technology, businesses need input from independent research providing independent data confirming that their products are safe, have an effect, or an overall positive risk-benefit balance. Examples are public debates with environmental organisations or the general public.

The need by businesses to receive information from some research areas (e.g. arts and humanities, social sciences) might not seem evident. In these areas, there is a bigger discrepancy between science and businesses.

In commissioned consulting, businesses expect the experts to deliver a clear and quick answer to a problem. They are not looking for possible solutions and their caveats; they want clear answers that help them solving problems that they encounter in practice.

2. What information do businesses require from research?

Depending on the research area, information required from research varies. For example in the manufacturing industry information is needed to reduce costs, make products more attractive, and to maintain/achieve the pole position on market.

On the one hand, industry is interested in using the results from research. For them it is essential to know how to access the results, under which licenses, and if they are openly available. It is important for them to know which IPRs apply and which of the results can be re-used. This information should be well understandable.

On the other hand, businesses do not only need research outputs such as concrete results, papers, patents. They are interested in updates on any latest research development. This can include everything up to messages or short reports on what you are up to right now.

Businesses also need people. They want to know principle investigators in their own sectors to be able to collaborate. Not only do they want to know about events that researchers are attending. They are also looking for individual experts in the field and their expertise. Businesses are always looking for opportunities to get to know researchers and find possible collaboration opportunities.

3. How should the key message(s) be structured?

Make sure to align your research with what the targeted businesses do. To make the message more interesting for the targeted businesses, make sure to transform it to fit their requirements and expectations. For instance, if they are producing a product or offering a service, how can your research contribute to those? If they are producing washing machines, could you write a story about your research and a washing machine?

Explain what you are doing and get the key message to your audience. Start with the knowledge base that they already have by involving their world in the story. As a result, the message will be easier to understand, and it gets a personal touch. People like it if you are interested in what they are doing. It is important to be open to discussions, and have a platform for businesses to enable a two-way communication.

In context of commissioned research, the specifications of the requested research reports are set and communicated by the company. In these cases, the company should receive the information in exactly the format requested. Businesses will have trained staff who can deal with scientific information.

It is crucial to clarify the IPR beforehand: make sure that relevant and sensitive results are only available for the company.

4. Form/format of communication to businesses

As already mentioned, the business target audience is big. There is no format fitting all sectors and businesses. To find out what your own sectoral industry wants, talk to them and ask how they are usually getting their information from research. This can be a good first orientation. However, different players will give you different answers. Try to create a two-way communication.

It is recommendable not to go just with one format. Use 3-4 main formats that your target audience uses. Always think multi-canal and multi-format. Do not put all energy in one big campaign. Use various tools, e.g. video, social media strategy, marketing actions, paid media, price relations, public relations (influential bloggers). All these tools and approaches can complement one another. Doing communication well is a big job, and it does not necessarily lead to success. You can do it right and still fail to reach a lot of impact.

Communication material should be in the language that your target audience understands best. To achieve a broad dissemination, in particular for EU projects, use English as dissemination language. For national projects use the national language; but always provide an executive summary in English.

Next to producing e.g. texts, leaflets, blogs, or videos, an important format is directly involving your target groups in face-to-face events or meetings. For example, you can organise special workshops for industry partners in context of your research project.

Another possibility is to invite industry audience to talks and conferences. This is, however, not always easy if those events are geared towards academics. Business audiences are not that much interested in getting to know comprehensive technical details; they want to know what the main output is, how it can help the company and how they can apply it. Choosing appropriate formats to present to and discuss this with them in a two-way communication is recommendable.

To generate interest about your events targeting businesses you can advertise and disseminate them via social media channels (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn) and buzz marketing. It is necessary to get connected with your peers through various channels and to see it as an integrated strategy. Decide in how many channels you need to go to be well connected, and try to get the right topic to generate a buzz. ResearchGate is not recommended as this network is mostly used to reach peers from research.

 

 

All you need to know to promote your research to businesses - The "why", the "what" & the "how" in disseminating to businesses.

 

 

1. Requirements and expectations: why is the general public interested in science information?

The general public is a very large group, and without having a specific sub-group in mind it is difficult to pinpoint their interest. In many cases, the general public is not actively looking for specific information from research. However, citizens are generally interested in understanding how science is trying to solve current or upcoming challenges.

The general public is interested in a lot of science contents; it does not matter if it is cancer research, chemistry, biology etc. What is important is that they can get something away from the story, and that they gained some knowledge in this process. They are interested in science e.g. due to personal reasons, a pure interest to learn new knowledge, or because they have a particular problem that they want to solve.

Some stakeholders from the general public (e.g. patients) have a major interest to talk to the experts and to get actively involved in research - either due to their personal situation or their enthusiasm or passion for science. Be aware that if you highlight researchers in your communication strategy, individual citizens or patient organisations might contact them directly.

2. What information do businesses require from research?

Everything that is being researched will find interest somewhere at the general public. However, it should be disseminated in an appropriate format. Communicating to the general public sums down to reasoning with the audiences (e.g. how can I convey my message to a butcher?). It is important to transport clear and exciting information snippets and to tell a story.

The general public is interested in information that has a direct connection to whatever is on their mind at the moment. There are moments in which citizens are interested in something specific, e.g. if they need to decide on a treatment or to deal with pollution in their garden. But when they are looking for input and evidence it is really hard for them to find. There is a disconnection between research information providers and receivers: there are a lot of flashpoints and need to understanding research information. However, when citizens are in need for this information, it is often not provided on the channels that they are looking to.

This is very hard to tackle as it is not always predictable when people need the information. A common mistake in science communication is to present research in a nice and easy to understand way and to expect that this suffices to make it interesting for people. However, research needs to find innovative ways for its results to be easily findable once the need by the targeted audiences arises. A possibility is to observe and be very active in public debate (i.e. daily environment, social media). If the research community becomes more open to discuss and actively participate in public debates, it would be easier for the general public to find research information.

Some citizens are also interested in finding expert contact persons. For instance, in the health research area individual citizens might contact researchers who are declared as contact persons for specific research projects or areas.

This can be challenging if the project is in a really early stage; especially where concepts are still being developed. In these cases, it is recommendable to tune down the information to be shared. This is particularly relevant to the health research area, where people are desperate to find results and cures. It is important to not give them too much (or false) hopes.

3. Form/Format of communication to general public

Like for the business target audience, there is communication format fitting all general public target audiences. Flexibility is the key, and the format to be chosen depends on your dissemination objectives.

When communicating research outcomes to the general public, it is important to explain them through the big picture. There are various communication registries. The communication format should not be too technical and it should tell a story. By following a storyline, complex topics can be more easily communicated to citizens. Attach the topic to a sensational detail to draw interest and to engage your audience.

Explain what research does to improve their life and relate it to their everyday life. Even in areas where stakeholders (e.g. patients or patient organisations) might be actively looking for information, you still need to communicate through the big picture.

There are various possibilities: organising a big communication campaign; targeting a very specific target group (e.g. patients); or provide pure information that people are waiting for. A more conventional way is to issue a press release going to local or international media. However, using social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter helps gaining some visibility. It is recommendable to go with the social media trend and use, next to text, visual online resources (e.g. videos, animations). The latter are more appealing and easy to share.

Also, it is recommendable to not only provide information, but to stimulate a dialogue with your general public target audience. This needs creativity and flexibility. Very important are also events targeting general public audiences. An example are EU researchers nights targeting school or high-school children as well as adults.

 

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:

  1. quick and sound bites of information, giving an overview of what it is about;
  2. more explanation, but still fairly low level;
  3. 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.

To structure the information about your research, you can use a model used in writing courses. A page of information (e.g. webpage, poster) should have an OIA structure: Orient, Inform, Activate. The scope is to give 1) a general view of the topic, 2) to inform your target audiences, and 3) to stimulate their active participation or interaction. Inform and activate your audiences about current developments by, e.g., providing a steady feed of curated and summarized/explained knowledge; providing (raw data) or raw information; and providing information and knowledge on how to use/apply this information in their daily practice.

Standard report templates with an introduction to the problem, solution and conclusion section are appropriate for target audiences interested in technical details. However, to enable a low-level entry to the topic other formats should be used.

 

 

Defining target audience(s) and key message(s).

 

Research communication and dissemination play a major role to enable inclusion and participation of all these stakeholders. For results generated in European projects the European Commission distinguishes four main stakeholders and target groups:

  • Research communities
  • Policy makers (on Member State and EU level)
  • Industry and other innovators (e.g. SMEs, Start-ups)
  • Citizens and Civil Society Organisations

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.

Another advice if you are dealing with a very specific and small target group (e.g. policy makers): Invite them to discuss the expected outcomes before writing the final document that they will receive. Having a dialogue in advance is as important as the final document itself.

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.

Also, it is not necessary to communicate about everything. For instance, if your results are not available yet it is not necessary to communicate about them to your audiences yet.

 

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.

 

This category used to be called "Projects" w/ alias "projects-d"

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