Science Advice for Policy by European Academies
In this context, SAPEA has collected practical and technical advice about how to adapt outreach and communications activities for the foreseeable future.
Rather than reproducing advice from all over the web, we have collected links to what we consider to be the most useful guidance, and added commentary and guidance specific to SAPEA. This page will be updated regularly.
A webinar is an online meeting or presentation held over the internet in real time.
For SAPEA, these could take the form of online equivalents of in-person events. In a SAPEA webinar, stakeholders could be invited to join a video meeting where our representative presents a topic and then takes questions. These events should be kept short, ideally under an hour.
Don’t expect large numbers of people, and certainly not the general public, at these events. Aiming a focused event at an interested audience (strategically invited) could be a very effective way to have impact.
The EU-funded All Aboard Project has published an excellent handbook to hosting a webinar, from planning and advertising through to execution.
You can find more good advice, including a list of staffing requirements, roles and time commitment in this article from SocialBrite.
And writer Piotr Prokopowicz has described his experiences with setting up remote workshops (as well as some practical tips for staying motivated working from home!).
Don’t forget to gather participant data, both for SAPEA reporting purposes, and for making future webinars run even better! Most webinar software will provide you with a count of participants, and if you run a separate registration list (as recommended in the guidance linked above) you can also collect the same information about participants as you would about an in-person event.
Finally, the New York Times has some quick hacks on how to look good on camera!
There are many different platforms for hosting webinars, and more are springing up all the time. Many of the big platforms are offering expanded free services during the coronavirus outbreak.
Factors to think about:
You can use Microsoft PowerPoint to record a presentation with narration, and then publish it directly as a video.
To do this well, you’ll need a good-quality microphone (poor sound quality is an immediate turn-off for viewers). Your computer’s built-in mic will not cut it. A headset mic might do, if your computer has good hardware, but give it a test. A standalone USB mic is probably best.
You’ll also need a reasonably modern computer, or be prepared for the video conversion step to be rather slow and fragile. You can’t do it at all from a tablet or mobile.
Microsoft provides detailed instructions about how to record a slide show with narration, and how to export a slide show as a video. If you plan to share the video on a video-hosting service online, e.g. YouTube, you will want to export as .mp4, .wmv or .mov format, not the proprietary ‘slide show’ format that Microsoft provides.
See below for some thoughts about where and how to publish and promote your video.
If you have a video, YouTube is the best place to publish it. There are other video-hosting websites, the next-biggest being Vimeo, but YouTube is by far the most widely used. This means not only that your video will be on show to the biggest user base, but also that whatever system you use for your website, social media and so on will already be set up to handle YouTube-hosted videos — and this might not be the case for other hosting services.
You should publish your videos on YouTube, even if you intend to mostly share them via social media or on your website. This is because videos are usually fairly large files for you to host and quite server-intensive for users to stream. You can offload all that work to YouTube, which isn’t going to run out of server space or bandwidth anytime soon. Then you can embed the YouTube-hosted video on webpages, tweets, facebook posts and all the rest of it.
The technical side of uploading a video to YouTube includes a large number of steps, but it’s relatively easy to do. WikiHow has an excellent and up-to-date guide.
You may also want to add subtitles (in multiple languages?). Again, using YouTube’s built-in subtitles ensures maximum functionality and compatibility — users can switch them on and off, or their operating system can choose the appropriate language for them. Instructions are here.
Beware that a video that’s a few monutes long will take a few minutes to upload, even on fast broadband, and then another few minutes after that for YouTube to process and publish it before it’s available. If your video is significantly longer, say an hour or more, or the file size is bigger (HD), it could take an hour or more to upload and then up to 48 hours for YouTube to process and publish it.
Once your video is on YouTube, don’t expect anyone to find it by themselves. They won’t. The best way to get eyeballs on your video is to share it yourself.
Of course, the single best piece of advice for marketing your video is to identify your target audience. Who do you think will be interested in watching the video? The more carefully focused your content is on the audience, the more successful it will be.
If you really want to get serious about marketing your YouTube videos, the first piece of advice is to make sure your YouTube channel (account) has at least several videos on it — don’t try and market a half-empty channel. Then, this article has some great and up-to-date advice.
It’s always been the case that social media posts that contain images are often more attractive and successful than those which are pure text. This is true for Facebook, Twitter as well as for image-driven platforms like Instagram.
However, you should never just share a graphic. Your post also needs accompanying text to make it easily searchable by humans, and easily indexed by search engines, as well as keeping it accessible for users with screen readers or other technological adaptations.
Graphic artists, designers and social media specialists are used to making social media graphics. If you don’t have access to this kind of expertise, there are loads of quite nice online services for generating these. More are springing up all the time, so a Google search is your friend here, but here are some quick tips:
The general question of how to communicate effectively with the media is much broader than can be covered here. The UK’s National Centre for Coordinating Public Engagement has some excellent advice if you are just getting started.
At the time of writing, with coronavirus all over the news, blanket press releases on most topics are even less likely to have an impact than they used to. However, there are already signs that this is changing, as both readers and editors start to tire of endless news about disease and death, and are starting to diversify a bit in what’s published.
This means that by far the best way to engage with the media is to make direct contact with one or two friendly journalists who are important to you. Do your research to find out who’s the right person, then use Twitter or their professional email accounts to open a direct conversation. Keep your messages short, simple and helpful, offering more info if they are interested. A simple personal approach will do much better than just sending round a press release to a thousand outlets, as you get the chance to sound out what angle they are interested in and how you can fit your news in around what they’re working on.
The basic rule is: treat the journalist as a stakeholder or a colleague, not just an ‘audience’, and have a conversation with them about how you can best collaborate.
Several big social media platforms offer the ability to broadcast live video to your followers and those people who follow them. In the right circumstances, these can be quite effective, especially if you are trying to reach a broad audience like the general public or a whole community (rather than a very specific set of professional stakeholders). Facebook, Twitter and Instagram not only support live broadcasts, but actively promote them, meaning that your video will appear prominently on users’ news feeds while it’s going on.
Live broadcasts require no technical expertise (and very little gear). And the threshold of ‘professionalism’ is quite low: these things are supposed to look a bit wobbly and you don’t need studio-quality video or sound. But they do require some practice, a bit of preparation, and a clear idea of what you want to talk about before you start!
Facebook’s video streaming feature is called Facebook Live. It allows you to broadcast a live video out to your audience through your company page or personal profile. This feature can be used to create one-off videos or series of recurring videos. It can be used to answer questions in real-time, to showcase an event to people who couldn’t attend, or to share updates on particular topic.
While you’re streaming, your video has a high chance of appearing in the news feeds of people who follow you. Once the stream has finished, a recording stays on your page or profile, meaning that people can still view it (and it might still appear on their news feed).
Twitter also allows live streaming of audio or videos. It works similarly to Facebook, though you are supposed to use a dedicated app called Periscope (also published by Twitter) instead of the Twitter app itself.
Unlike Facebook, Twitter allows you to invite up to three guests to the broadcasted videos. Guests add their own video streams to yours, and can be heard by everyone.
A Twitter chat is where a group of Twitter users meet at a predetermined time to discuss a certain topic, using a designated #hashtag on each tweet. A host or moderator will pose questions (usually writing ‘Q1’, ‘Q2’…) to prompt responses from participants (‘A1’, ‘A2’…) and encourage interaction among the group. Chats typically last an hour.
Twitter chats can generate a lot of social engagement, increase your following and maybe even propel you into the role of being a trend-setting thought leader within your stakeholders.
For science and research outreach, now more than ever is the time to switch your focus from big events and press releases to liaising with individual stakeholders.
The first step is to identify key people who might be interested in what you’ve got to tell them. You will know best who these people should be, but here are some categories to jog your interest:
In larger organisations, the person to contact (if you don’t already have a personal connection) is likely to be someone on either the policy team or the communications team. In smaller organisations, you will be able to guess at the right person from their website — often it’ll be the director, general secretary or CEO.
In normal times, the best way to contact someone like this was by picking up the phone. With lockdown, you’re lucky if you can find their phone number. An email can work, but a DM (or public @-message) on Twitter is another good way — it bridges the divide between professional and personal in quite a handy way. If you’re lucky, some of the people you talk to will be as desperate for some “normal” work to come their way as you are to get your message out there!
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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement 737432. The information and opinions on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Commission. The SAPEA Consortium is not responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained in this website by anyone, including European Union institutions and bodies or any person acting on their behalf.
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