Funded Horizon 2020 projects are required to execute various Dissemination and Communication activities with the aim of extending the impact of the project. This requirement often leaves researchers wondering how to successfully achieve such Dissemination and Communication. We’ve already touched on the overall goal of a Dissemination, Communication and Exploitation strategy. Additionally, we discussed two possible ways to market a Horizon 2020 project: 1. through a website for your project and 2. with the use of a social media strategy. Presently, we’d like to discuss a third excellent marketing strategy that should play a key role in your aim to achieve additional dissemination and communication of your project: Public Relations (PR). This article will introduce the concept of PR and explain the initial steps to curating a Horizon 2020 PR strategy for your funded project.
What is PR (Public Relations)
Before discussing what a PR strategy can help achieve, let us first understand exactly what PR encompasses. Though other forms of marketing and PR do share the same overall goal of extending the conversation and telling the story of a particular product, project or company, the underlying fundamentals of PR are quite different. This main difference lies in how said overall goal is achieved. Unlike social media marketing, or other types of marketing tactics where the story is told by the company itself, PR is earned and written through outside trusted voices (AKA reporters). Therefore, PR is the form by which a consortium of researchers seek for their project to be noticed and recognized by the public media. The public media will then, if impressed, choose to report about it through their news and media outlets. As a result, the aim for a PR strategy is to create coverage and exposure of the Horizon 2020 project without directly paying for such advertising. In this way, the Horizon 2020 project earns and further maintains a relationship with its audience through unpaid avenues and opportunities.
Why have a Horizon 2020 PR strategy anyway?
So why should you invest in a Horizon PR strategy? Why is it of added value to leverage a positive relationship with the press about your Horizon 2020 project? Let’s consider the following points that PR can help achieve:
- When done well, PR ultimately adds a layer of legitimacy to your research project. This, in turn, increases credibility in the eyes of your potential audience. These days, the general public is consumed by an abundance of information, which makes it quite difficult to distinguish relevancy amongst the overwhelming piles of said information . Therefore, being mentioned or covered by a credible media outlet or scientific publication can be of great help. It is well known that individuals often rely on the publications of communication outlets they find especially credible and trustworthy to act as a deciding factor for them.
- If your PR strategy bears fruit, you’ll find that journalists and reporters do some of the marketing work for you. Let’s face it, the most important thing you’ll want to be focusing on is seeing through your Horizon 2020 research project. But, that doesn’t mean you can let your dissemination and communication efforts fall behind. If you successfully attend to your public relations strategy, you may enjoy others doing some of the marketing work for you.
- A successful PR strategy can help reduce the costs of your dissemination and communication efforts. Ensuring your Horizon 2020 budget is spent as you intended for is incredibly important. By taking advantage of synergies between earned, owned and paid media, you can achieve greater impact at a lower cost. Aside from the time it will take to produce a proper press release (more on this in the next section), you’ll have no extra fees to take into account.
- Earned PR coverage of your Horizon 2020 project will help to increase your audience reach and, as a result, grow your audience base. This, without a doubt, is one of the most basic goals of any dissemination and communication efforts.
- PR coverage boosts your authority in your field of research. Having someone else cite your research or your knowledge is a huge testament to your authority level. This, in turn, can be an additional boost to marking your current Horizon 2020 project as innovative, ground-breaking and with the real potential to impact the world in which we live.
The PR to your Horizon 2020 PR strategy
If the aim of PR is to gain coverage and exposure by the public, the focus of the PR strategy, therefore, needs to be on building strong relationships with potential reporters and successfully conveying to them your Horizon 2020 project. Having understood the overall premise of public relations, let’s now focus on one of the most popular ways to win over the attention of media outlets – a well-crafted Press Release. Therefore, incorporating a press release strategy to your PR and overall marketing strategy is a must.
The elements to your Horizon 2020 PR (press release)
Formally, press releases are official statements produced to gain the attention of media outlets who will then report on and share said information with the greater audience. Ideally, press releases are composed of the following parts:
- Release date – timing is everything for news updates and coverage, so the first thing a media outlet will look at is the release date to gauge if the item is still relevant for publication.
- Catchy Title/ Headline – right after the reporter decides if the timing is right, they’ll look at your title as a first indicator if the piece is newsworthy. Having a catchy title is of great importance. Make sure its short, clear and engaging so people will continue reading.
- Subheading – To quickly understand if your title has substance, the next indicator in line is the subheading to your press release. If your subheading is interesting enough, the reporters will keep reading. Still, you don’t have a lot of room to catch their interest, and this certainly is not the place to spill all the details. Try to stick to about 350 characters.
- Dateline – Dates and locations, AKA the 5 w’s which consist of who, what, where, when, why, are to be covered here. This is most relevant for event type Press Releases, but parts of the dateline may also be applicable for additional types of press releases (discussed below).
- Body paragraph – You’re doing very well if reporters have managed to stick around all the way to the body paragraphs of your press release. Now is the time to go in greater depth on the details regarding your press release. Most important to focus on is WHY. Why is this newsworthy? Why should people care? Why is it something to cover? Why is this publication so unique?
- Images and Links – To make your body paragraphs even more engaging and detailed, you can add relevant images or links throughout the section. Images are great because they are eye-catching, and can help to explain or demonstrate information that is a bit more difficult to understand. As for links – often times reporters will need additional information about the subject of the press release. Having links that will guide them in the right direction can help them stay engaged with your press release and avoid potential frustration with unclear details.
- About us – This is the opportunity to include a very impressive and high-level background about your consortium. In this context, it is important to include a list of partners and, if relevant, their unique added value to the consortium and research at large.
- Contact info – If a reporter has gotten as far as your contact info, that means you are almost there! Therefore, you must make sure to include very simple and clear ways to contact you. Sticking to your name, phone number and email address is generally a winning approach.
- Clear conclusion – It is customary to indicate the end of a press release in some way. Dashes, a dotted line, or any other relevant symbols can be used here. This way, reporters will go on to review additional pages or be able to quickly assess how long the press release is off the bat.
The right timing for a press release
In the general public relations world, there is a long list of reasons which call for a press release to be put into action. Specifically, regarding the EU grants world, and your Horizon 2020 project, we’d suggest to formulate press releases around the following occasions:
- Officially receiving funding for your Horizon 2020 project. In Public Relations world, this is considered “breaking news”, and media outlets are all about such opportunities for unique coverage and scoops.
- Promoting an event regarding your project. It is possible that your overall dissemination and communication strategy will include participation in or launching of events that are related to your project. This can be either your participation in major conferences, or scientific meetings of any kind, including project’s workshops. Whatever the occasion, securing some additional coverage leading up to the big day can be great for two reasons: 1. Additional audience members and 2. Additional coverage of the day or summarizing your big event. In the case of a Press Release for an event, make sure to cover the 5 important w’s (who, what, when, where & why of the specific event).
- Sharing major research updates and breakthroughs. The aim of your Horizon 2020 research project is to successfully produce unique insights, breakthroughs, and original data within your field of research. Such information holds great potential for impact and therefore is of extreme interest to reporters and relevant media outlets.
Issuing your Press Release
Once your press release is ready to go, it is time to issue it through various channels. In the PR world, there are several more popular channels, and it is most advised to research each one to understand the type of information they generally tend to cover, how much they charge, etc. In the context of your Horizon 2020 project, we’d suggest starting with the following two avenues:
- Your Social Media Channels – your active social media channels can be an excellent place to start. If you haven’t determined your social media strategy yet, head over to our social media guide of Horizon 2020 funded projects. Said social media channels should be followed by some very relevant audience members that could be the potential lead to your next news coverage or promoted story.
- European Commission News section – This section of the European Commission’s website is essentially a repository of any news, events or press releases in the Horizon 2020 grant world. This is an excellent and very relevant channel through which to promote your project’s press release, or upcoming event. Once the press release is ready, simply contact the European Commission through the website.
The discussion above showcases the advantages of including a well thought out Horizon 2020 PR strategy for your funded Horizon 2020 project. Though additional time and resources do need to be set aside for the curation of a strategic and accurate plan, the rewards can be well worth it. Enspire Science is happy to answer any further questions you may have on this subject, and to work with you during your post-award phase as well.