Earth, air, fire and water – not Afropop from the 1970s but essential elements from the ancient Greeks – which in our modern “comms ecosystem” roughly equate to website, press, events and media. Bear with me a moment and let me explain! Our website is the core, press gives oxygen, events are the crucible, and media (whether audio, video or social) are channels to the outside world. Here’s how they fit together at UNU-MERIT – and how a new “fifth element” ramps everything up to another level.
Earth: After several years on WordPress, we’re planning to “migrate” our website to a shared UNU platform sometime in late 2020 or early 2021. Like any journey, we’ll encounter risks and opportunities, but one thing’s for sure: we’re starting from a strong position. Thanks to the great cooperation between ICT, comms and our research teams, we have a really dynamic and popular website. With news items every couple of days and 1.8 million visits per year, the return on investment has been phenomenal. All for $50!
Air: We post all our press releases through the UK-based agency, Pressat, with its opt-in media database of more than 33,000 journalists and editors. We have a non-profit account with Pressat, which means we can send up to four press releases per month at zero cost. We then monitor our media relations through a central UNU account with the Talkwalker platform, which we started using in early 2016. First experiences were great, with a few hundred million reads courtesy of the Reuters newswire and UN partners.
Fire: Besides all the usual events and conferences, we train scientists in media literacy (including the joys of jargon busting) while also training journalists in data literacy (including the dangers of cherry picking). These “Reach and Turn” workshops – a kind of crucible format where researchers spark off and learn with reporters – has grown from a pilot programme in Latin America to a global series, spanning eight events across four continents and 400 participants, with partners including UNESCO, the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Federation of Science Journalists and sister institutes in Ghana, Malaysia and beyond. Next stop: New Delhi with Nature India in the first quarter of 2020 (TBC).
Water: As of 2019 our media streams include Shorthand, a visual storytelling platform used by BBC Online (where I first saw it), Cambridge University, the Red Cross and many more. Our academic status enables us to claim a 50% discount, so again we get a great return on investment. We’re also active on all the major social media channels, sharing YouTube videos and other content across the big four of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, including regular paid advertising campaigns. Plans for 2020 include a new series of regularly updated expert “Vlogs”.
Aether: The Conversation (TCUK) is the fifth element that turbocharges all of the above. Since October 2013, UNU has published 69 articles by 41 authors, gaining a total of 1.2 million views. Now, thanks to a new membership deal signed in the summer of 2019, we’re increasing the pace and volume of this work. As of October 2019, Quality and diversity should also improve, thanks to both virtual and in-person workshops. Last month our sister institute in Helsinki held a training session for researchers in Finland and Mozambique, and this week we hosted colleagues from sister institutes in Bonn and Bruges for a two-day event with our own researchers, led by TCUK Cities editor Emily Brown. Overall the training was for about 30 researchers; below is a picture of the final group.
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The opinions expressed here are the author’s own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.
UNU / H.Pijpers