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Why Science Communication Matters

In a world of polarised politics, a distrust of the media, and where fake news can reach millions of people quicker than ever before, science communication matters more than ever. I am fiercely proud of all the great work done by our scientists year-round, but I’m also proud of our communications team.

I’m thrilled to announce that SINTEF just won the CHARGE Energy Award for best organisation brand. The CHARGE awards celebrate excellence in energy branding and communication, aiming to stimulate the discussion on brand strategy by acknowledging and showcasing outstanding initiatives within the energy sector.

CHARGE Energy Award winners 2020
Screenshot of the digital Award winning ceremony

 

It’s a massive vote of confidence in our work, so I want to share with you why SINTEF puts so much effort into communication and branding.

Sharing world-leading science – with purpose

Our uniqueness is based on the high quality of the applied research we provide our partners. In several areas we are undoubtedly world-leading, mentioning a few: hydropower, alternatives to SF6, CCS and CO2 as a natural refrigerant (see video below).

 

But there is sometimes a disconnect between scientific papers and real-world solutions. Our brand and communications strategy aims to fill this gap by showcasing the science that matters for successful technology-based climate change solutions.

A unique approach to communication and branding

As a not-for-profit organisation with many projects funded through government programmes, we do not run one-way communication paid marketing campaigns. Instead our brand focuses on two-way dialogue and communication with our stakeholders through earned publicity, thought leadership and credible science communication activities.

This isn’t just about writing pop-science articles from scientific papers (although we do that too!) – it’s about identifying who needs to hear the message and how best to reach them. As an organisation, we should always aim to communicate the same message to other scientists, industry groups, journalists and decision-makers in four different ways. This isn’t about hiding the science, it’s about making the science more understandable.

Delivering high impact to society is the main purpose of our branding and communication activities.

It is a paradox that science institutions that generate world-leading innovative solutions can be conservative in their branding and communication activities. Good communication and branding can help bring science to the market more quickly. Delivering high impact to society is the main purpose of our branding and communication activities.

The power of blogging

The very blog you’re reading right now is an example of one of our best assets, but also our flexibility. In 2015, we launched the blog as a SINTEF Energy to target business and the science community with an open communication platform. Such was the success of the platform, that we expanded it to all the scientists all over in the SINTEF group in 2018.

But at that time, we also decided to change the focus of the blog from pop-science to a more technical stance that’s more relevant to other scientists and our industry customers.

This change has paid off, with pageviews soaring, and examples of valuable contacts made that have led to projects. Alexis Sevault’s Phase Change Materials explainer blog still brings in up to 100 new readers a week from Google searches, while the Hydrogen in Europe pre-study report brings in similar numbers. This visibility in Google in crucial when you consider that like most people, Norwegian bureaucrats rarely read research and rely on Google.

Beyond this blog

Our communications activities go well beyond this blog, of course! Long-term efforts include thought leadership, something that pays off over time. When the government announced the funding of the full-scale CCS project last weeks, we received countless requests from interviews from the likes of the BBC World Service and Reuters. Coverage like this brings knowledge and science to the public, as well as this brands SINTEF as world-leaders in our field. This wouldn’t happen without the work that goes into showcasing our science, week-in, week-out.

Why branding matters for science institutions

In order to be the best in our field, we need to recruit the most talented people out there. At present SINTEF is the number one choice for engineering students in Norway. This is great – but to stay there we need to constantly maintain and evolve our employer brand through challenging times.

Perhaps more than ever before, trust in society is difficult to earn and maintain. People find it hard to know who or what to trust due to contradictory information. But according to Ipsos, people trust scientists more than any other profession.

This is a strong call to action: It gives us a big responsibility to communicate.  At the same time, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, consumers expect brands and institutions to act. I strongly believe that by sharing scientific results, we not only build the SINTEF brand but at the same time help build trust in science in society.

Communicating to the <3

Science communication is heavily linked with traditional media, but the world is changing. Video is fast becoming the consumption method of choice, and not just among the youngest generations. The older social media platforms like Facebook have embraced video as a core part of their platform, while emerging platforms are video-only.

We have quickly developed an expertise in making and sharing short, explainer videos aimed at different groups of people. These are efficient ways of sharing our science, while always offering more information for those who want it. We also try to engage people by speaking to the heart as well as the mind. Combining facts with feelings is an effective way of communicating –  and this can be seen in some of our videos.

Aimed at a general audience, our video on the EU project SuperSmart (see below) about environmentally-friendly supermarkets received more than 140,000 views on Facebook. This self-healing distribution grid explainer video for the research project CINELDI is aimed a more technical audience and is designed to be used by CINELDI partners.

 

The bottom line

Science communication matters to the world, as decisions are being taken now that will impact our lives and the lives of our children for decades to come. It has never been more important to share real science with the people who need to make those decisions.

But there’s a big benefit to SINTEF  with our communication and branding activities. Positioning our scientists as thought-leaders in their industry and making our research easy to find and understand for industry partners leads to more inquiries and more projects.

Science is at the core of everything we do at SINTEF. Why not let your award-winning communications team share your work with the people that matter?

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