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Communication and Dissemination for European Projects (#2)

In  a previous post we introduced the importance of communication within the context of European funded Projects, and we defined three different modules to establish an efficient communication:

A) Internal Communication Tools
B) Communication Activities
C) Website

After describing the list of tools for internal communication, we will now deal with the Communication Activities and the website.

Why do we need Communication activities?

They are the core of internal (among project members) and external (external stakeholders) communication, and define how the various actors of the projects (project members, scientists, external stakeholders, funding agencies, common citizens etc.) communicate. They are usually explained all through the Communication Plan.

An approach which seems to be quite effective, in order to define the communication activities in the Communication Plan, is the following:

  1. Define general Objectives
  2. For each objective, define a clear, pragmatic and concrete sub-objective
  3. For each sub-objective, describe
    1. Who are the actors involved
    2. Who are the means of communication
  4. Define Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to evaluate the effectiveness of the action

I’ll make it more clear by means of an example: let’s assume that your project includes the participation of Small Medium Enterprises (SME). We have then the following schema:

  • Objective: involvement of SME;
  • Sub-Objective1: Participation of SME to project events;
    • Actors: Project Management Office (PMO), SME representative
    • Action1: PMO invites SME to project’s events by means of email invitations
      • KPI for Action1: number of invites / number of participants ratio
    • Action2:  Ask to SME to contribute with talks/ presentations to the event/conference
      • KPI for Action2: number of talks by SME representatives
  • Sub-Objective2: Keep SME updated about project’s news;
    • Action1: send monthly newsletter to SME by email
      • KPI for Action1: number of clicked links from the email
    • Action2:  ….
      • KPI for Action2: ….
  • Sub-Objective3: produce documentation about common work;
    • Action1: …
      • KPI for Action1

Well… got the idea?

Of course a list of tools (means of communications) should be also provided, at it may include

  • Newsletters
  • Social network activities
  • Videos
  • Interviews

It is not simple to enumerate them. Their necessity and usability really depends on the type of projects and its goals. In addition, it is really an activity for which some expertise in communication is needed. With respect to this, the best suggestion would be to get in touch with some serious communication company, used to work in EU projects.

The website: a must

The purpose of the website is usually to disseminate project’s relevant information to all stakeholders. The website shouldn’t contain reserved material but only publicly accessible material (e.g. documents and presentations external or internal stakeholders, images for press review).

And socials?
The website should include also news and interactions from social networks. However the website should be simple enough to allow almost anyone with basic IT skill to add pages, articles, images.

Which technology?

A simple CMS (content Management System) software based on standard LAMP technologies (Linux Apache MySQL PHP) is the most reasonable solution: many popular solutions exist such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal etc. would be preferable. To be web 2.0 compliant the layout template could be based on a CSS3 framework such as Bootstrap, Foundation, Sass as such infrastructures provide cross-browser compatibility on desktop and mobile devices.

Users & editors

We plan to have up to five content editors (i.e. CMS users), their access credentials will give them editing capabilities on various subsections of the Web site; they must be able to:

  • create new pages and update existing content pages.
  • rename existing pages or move them around the site hierarchy structure, site navigation should auto-update accordingly
  • set publish/unpublish dates for documents
  • upload set of images and add a public viewing gallery for them into any page
  • edit content boxes appearing in splash / summary pages, or in side columns

The editors will need to be fully formed on all the tools available in the CMS; probably via a initial dedicated hands-on seminar ( e.g. three or four 2-hours sessions).

..and some extras….

The management of the Website will also need prompt CMS software update, performance and security monitoring, full management of the SQL database, we might need extra Database tables and CMS tools (PHP snippets based on the CMS API), traffic stats monitoring (Google Analytics).

That’s all folks

Now we get to the conclusion. I’ll tell you a secret: contents of those two posts were actually taken out from a work I did in order to select a company to support our project i communication activities. And it seems to work.

Of course, these are just some ideas which need some (much) refinement.

However having seen that – unfortunately – the communication activities in EU projects are sometimes decoupled by the the wealth of knowledge about communication (widely used – on the contrary – for commercial purposes), those two posts want to be a startup guide to dive into the matter of communication in EU projects.

Comments and feedbacks are more than welcome.
And please share your experience.

EU aims at competition, it’s true, but sharing information about those “hidden challenges” will help everybody to design and run better projects for a better science.

 

HEADER IMAGE Photo by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash

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Communication and Dissemination for European Projects (#1)

Communication is often considered a structural pillar in several domains.
Of course commercial domain makes wide use of any kind of communication “tool” (e.g. social networks, communication techniques as “story telling”, or the old well-known commercial ads) in order to engage users and – in the end – increase profit.
However the importance of Communication has been recognised as relevant also in the field of science, and in particular of the Science Projects funded by the European Community.

Documents like Communicating EU research and innovation: guidance for project participants demonstrate how serious this issue has been taken by the EU.

In addition, almost all EU projects I’ve come across, include a Communication Working Package.

This issue – or better this challenge – needs at least two ingredients to be properly tackled:

  1. a good Communication Plan
  2. the know how and technical tools which are, in the end, the substance of the communication itself. They include all the technical tools (e.g. teleconferencing tools) and best practices which must be used to carry on an effective communication based on the communication plan.

In this post I’ll deal with the second aspect, reporting the experience we had in the context of the EPOS european project and providing some thoughts, guidelines and – most importantly – our experience about the creation of  all the tools we needed to set up an efficient communication.

We called it Communication & Management Toolkit. 

 

HEADER IMAGE Di Sceptre (Opera propria) [Public domain], attraverso Wikimedia Commons

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