Hear me roar!
It often comes as a surprise to our clients – innovative entrepreneurs wishing to participate in the SME Instrument programme, or other EU-funded schemes – that dissemination & communication activities are considered an indispensable part of the project and therefore figure prominently in the application and evaluation process.
Seen from a wider perspective, neglecting dissemination & communication activities seems to be an inherent streak of SMEs – they simply tend to maintain close relationships with clients as a matter of course (“keeping clients happy”) so purposefully elaborated strategies seem unnecessary and costly. Yet they are doing themselves a great disservice.
EU’s support for innovative SMEs (in a form of various programmes and funding schemes) has been conceived by the experts, so as to ensure proper allocation of public resources. All aspects leading to a commercially successful project have been taken into account so the application/evaluation process cannot but reflect this inner logic. In other words – rest assured that the application form does not contain any redundant sections, parts that you can simply ignore or address in a slapdash manner.
“A proper dissemination and communication strategy can make all the difference in the world”
As a matter of fact, dissemination & communication activities constitute a vital part of IMPACT section, that turns out to be the most important one of all: it is evaluated first and its score is being weighted 1.5 compared to a weighting of 1 for the scores for the other criteria.
Finally, in case of a tie (multiple projects receiving equal overall scoring) – results of IMPACT section are decisive. We can therefore conclude without exaggeration that a proper dissemination and communication strategy can make all the difference in the world.
The importance of sharing
Importantly, learning how to properly & efficiently share projects results, both internally and externally, is a perfect training for the future market activities. After all, dissemination and communication is not a one-time deal, rather it is a long-term relationship with stakeholders, that will engage them in a two-way exchange and provide the company with an ongoing feedback to improve the message, the product on offer and even the SME itself.
The main goal of the dissemination and communication strategy should thus be to improve the utilization of results produced during the project, transfer them to a target audience and gain its loyalty, but also to improve the communication process within the company/project’s consortium. Here a distinction should be made between dissemination and communication, since they differ slightly in scope:
Dissemination is linked to a relatively narrow community of professionals in the field and is therefore realized via e.g. presentations at scientific conferences, peer reviewed publications etc.
Communication involves a multitude of audiences, including the media and the public and ought to be much more comprehensive when it comes to the means employed (Internet, articles in national & local newspapers, press releases, white papers and so on).
“Begin with knowing your target audience”
All you need is the plan…
How to proceed and come up with a winning strategy then?
Begin with knowing your target audience – it will allow you to determine which types of dissemination/communication activities are the most appropriate and choose a spectrum of channels to be best used for these purposes. In the next step, simultaneously with defining your goals, try to keep in mind your own circumstances and available resources.
Tip: Do not be afraid of thinking big – the approach developed for the needs of a particular innovation project may well serve as a launch-pad for an overarching strategy.
To really resonate, define a message to convey in all materials and activities in terms of an underlying value proposition and adjust the language to fit the content. Ensure a good timing of its delivery.
Tip: Never overdo it – clarity of the message makes it easy to understand and retain.
Harness the power of the Internet – THE medium of today. The company’s website or a project-dedicated one can be a key element of dissemination and communication, both within the project and beyond. Experiment with social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) and new tools such as webinars.
Tip: Consider setting up an intranet in order to share all project reports and documents and so to improve internal communication.
And now – let us hear you roar!
Piotr Putaj, Research & Innovation Funding Expert