Not only for the greater good: five selfish reasons to improve communication (scientists edition)


Untitled design 41

Many scientists see public communication and outreach as a way to give back to society, or they pursue them as mandatory activities required by some funding agencies, such as the EU.

But there is more to it. Investing in a good communication strategy has many practical and economic benefits that go far beyond the scope of a single project or grant. Drawing on my experience as a communications consultant, I present here some practical benefits of well-executed, strategic communication that are often underestimated by researchers:

1) Building a reputation

With a good communication plan and its implementation, an institution or an individual researcher can increase its credibility and visibility. Positioning oneself as a valuable resource and a reputable source of knowledge is key to attracting top talent, fostering collaborations and tapping into further funding opportunities.

2) Attract funding
Research relies heavily on external funding. A well-executed communication plan can help attract funding by demonstrating the institution’s value proposition, the societal impact of its research and the potential return on investment for funders. Effective communication can convey the potential for future breakthroughs and public perception, making it more attractive to philanthropic organisations, government agencies, private investors and industry sponsors.

3) Industry partnerships and commercialisation opportunities
Many research institutions seek to bridge the gap between academia and industry by promoting technology transfer and commercialisation of their findings. Unfortunately, too many potential partnerships  never materialise because of a poor pitch or because they’re unable to address a non-academic target. By effectively communicating the potential applications and the advantages of  collaboration, it’s more likely to attract industry partnerships, licencing agreements and spin-offs that lead to commercial gains.

4) Motivating the research team and attracting new talent

Excellent visibility of a team or institution evokes a sense of pride and social achievement among team members and strengthens the group. When they see their efforts recognised and celebrated in the media, the team feels valued and acknowledged. This can be a life-changing turnaround for students and post-docs whose hard work and contributions often go unnoticed by the public and even their social circle. I still remember how I felt when the media became aware of the excellent work being done in my lab. I wasn’t even directly involved in the research, but the social recognition and sense of belonging was enormous! Last but not least, public visibility helps recruit the best talent – in addition to scientific reputation, career prospects, research interest and economic incentives, which are important factors in choosing where to work.

5)  Engage stakeholders and gain support

Well thought-out communication is important to maintain a close relationship with stakeholders (e.g. patient associations) who are critical to many research activities, such as clinical trials. An honest and long-term relationship with stakeholders through newsletters, events and other communication channels isn’t only the right thing to do, but also a way to build alliances that are important for future ventures.

In summary, a good communication strategy is always a worthwhile investment for a research institution and even for an individual researcher, provided it’s carried out together with competent professionals who priviledge durable results.