Catarina Pereira, Mariana Lopes
Conveying a message to other people clearly might sound simple. But it's a process that is often fraught with error, especially when the topic that is being communicated is a complex one. As communication leaders of SMAGRINET – Empowering the Energy Transition in Europe, this is one of LOBA’s hurdles on the project: How do we communicate something that most people do not even have the basic understanding of (meaning energy)? The task becomes even more challenging when LOBA itself is not a specialist in the energy field either. So how do we overcome this? We turn our weakness into our biggest ally.
LOBA.cx is a Portugal-based company with grounded experience in communication and digital solutions that has been involved in EU-funded projects as dissemination and communication leaders (among other tasks) for more than 10 years. Throughout this time, we have been in charge of raising the impact of several projects in many different domains. From high-performance computing to bioeconomy, from security/policing to public procurement (etc.), and now energy with the SMAGRINET project. So, how do we raise awareness in these fields we are also not experts in?
A first step is putting ourselves in the shoes of our audience and getting to know them better. Firstly, we analyse our target groups, their backgrounds and how they usually communicate. By understanding who are the people we're speaking to, we're able to use our common knowledge or experience to decide how best to explain the project’s results. In SMAGRINET, we have different targets, but putting it simple, one is very knowledgeable of this topic, and the other isn’t. And it’s on this last one – the general public – that we will focus on in this article.
1. We get involved
To deliver clear messages, it helps to understand the basic principles of the specific subject the project focuses on. So, being in charge of turning complex topics into simple messages without being an expert on the subject entails a first step: doing a lot of research. A lot. We need to at least understand the basics, and sometimes even the basics are quite complex. This helps tremendously. We also make sure we follow other social media accounts from projects and organisations in the same field of activity to be aware of how they are communicating. We are subscribed to newsletters that discuss this topic.
2. We keep the communication flowing
Additionally, we try to have a good communication flow with our consortium partners. The reality is: sometimes it’s hard for our experts to recognise what an outsider does or doesn’t know. Their worlds revolve around these topics and what for them is just common knowledge, for the others… it just isn’t. And this is where being the one that is not expert in the topic comes handy: as soon as the message is clear for us, we are sure it will be clear for the general public as well.
3. We teach the basics
We go by steps, trying to make our audience more knowledgeable. Once again, we start from the basics. For example, we’ve initiated our social media channels with publications that answer to the following questions: “what is the smart grid”, “what are the advantages of the smart grid”, “what is a smart meter”, “what is the energy transition”, “why is the energy transition important to me”, etc. Always with simple and concise messages easy, which are to understand, even to less knowledgeable individuals.
4. We keep it simple and concise
We avoid using technical terms. We make sure to read and revise all communication and dissemination materials produced by our partners that are meant for the general public, such as articles for the newsletters, scripts for awareness raising videos, presentations for general events, etc. Once again, we put into our advantage the fact that we aren’t experts. If there’s something we don’t understand, we try to do research and change the message into a clearer one, or we ask the responsible partner to be a bit simpler and more concise. In the end: if we understand the message, so will others.
5. We make it visually attractive
The visuals are also important. Therefore, making them simple and clear are one of our goals. Instead of displaying complex images that don’t have an impact on the general public, we put an effort in following a simple route. For example, by showcasing light bulbs, lightning bolts, electric domestic appliances, etc. Basically, we go for day-to-day images instead of showing images of advanced metering infrastructure or smart distributions boards or even broadbands. And if we choose to do it, it’s to explain what they are and to raise awareness to it.
This is very briefly what we do to try to communicate SMAGRINET to the less-knowledgeable generable public. We focus on the basics and on the daily things, we make it simple and concise, we contextualise everything with simple imagery and we avoid technical terms and, above all: we do a lot of research and revision of texts. In the end, this is always our goal when communicating about the outcomes of SMAGRINET: making them clear so that people understand their value and can make proper decisions based on them.