New Trends in European PR: Success Stories

This is a guest post by Piotr Pogorzelski on an important emerging trend within European R&D PR and communications – the success story.

Innovation. These days we hear the word spoken more than ever and by some of the most prominent political figures on both sides of the Atlantic. Concretely, this translates in to large amounts of European public money invested in what is seen by many as a way for old industrial countries to keep the leading edge in a global economy: making technology that sells.

Innovation is actually far more about marketing, design and product than about rocket science and new discoveries. Even so technology is at the heart of the concept; it is more about the Iphone than about the nano-electronics in it that counts. In this sense innovation is an opportunity for communicators, and the ‘European innovation policy’, a topic cherished by the EU political class, is a chance for Europe and organisations taking part in European projects to communicate in a way they never did before.

With this new emphasis on innovation comes both this novel communication paradigm and fresh marketing techniques. One of them have recently found more and more aficionados within the community of European communicators: “success story campaigns”. Based on articles, videos and news taking as their prime material the results of industrial research projects financed by European organisations and local governments, they can take multiple forms, from the most simple press release to the most integrated campaigning action. Each of us has surely come across one of those in the past few months, whether on TV, the Internet or in newspapers.

Success story campaigns are based on a few key ingredients which any communications professional would be wise to utilise in a good recipe. These are: a positive message, a human face and a free-standing story filled with the concrete facts of a technological breakthrough that has led a visionary and hard-working entrepreneur, and there are more than you think, to a commercial success.

This new trend represents, in several ways, a unique opportunity for communicators. First of all, success stories put a human face on an organisation or institution that most probably carries for the average European citizen, and even more for the entrepreneur, the monolithic image of a body ruled by the Kafkaesque laws of bureaucracy.

The most innovative start-ups and laboratories in Europe are filled with young and passionate people asking for no more than a locus to tell the world why their product is better than any other out there on the market and what is so exciting about the business side of research. So why not take a camera and go film them on the spot? That is what many public organisations have already done or plan to do in the coming years, you can already see the results on your TV and all over the usual Internet channels, such as Youtube for example. Sometimes the initiative even comes from the project participants themselves. Nothing could be simpler in the democratic world of web communication, you just need a camera.

An important motivation for the companies taking part in European projects is to access new markets in other countries of Europe and, through this experience, to expand their operations internationally. The role of communication services in that case is the one of marketing, making success stories something pretty close to advertising. So why not go for it and take a press article as the starting point for a regular publicity campaign, such as any high-tech company uses to sell its technological products to consumers?

Some of the smartest people in communication are starting to look past the limits of standard PR, outside of the very restrained scope of a public organisation’s external communications. This has led them to integrate success stories into something much larger than a simple press article, building long running campaigns around each project that they promote. The heart of what I would call an “integrated success story campaign” is not as much a one-shot press article as it is a long term process including the involvement of the project partners in high-visibility events and press conferences. For that, a PR professional has to build a long term relationship with the entrepreneurs in a project and closely follow the latest evolutions of a company’s R&D activity and position in the market.

Another great advantage of this communication twist is the positive image of the European action it carries within. In the case of FP7 or EUREKA, two European programmes financing innovation at EU and national levels, the partners in a project have necessarily to come from different countries in order to receive financing. Sometimes, wrongly seen as constraint, this selection criteria allows the partners to find skills, know-how and material capital that does not exist in their immediate geographical surroundings. A concrete example of the added value of public action at a European scale.

A final point is the integration of success stories in online communication. All the organisations which have followed the trend have registered important increases in their ROI and have seen the statistics of their web-pages and their online presence grow exponentially.  Success stories are not just another expression for ‘re-brand’ or another old trick up the average PR officer’s sleeve; they represent a brand new and original vision for the way we do our job, not only as communication specialists, but also as new technology users and innovation-enthusiastic people.

 

Piotr Pogorzelski is a Marketing and Communication Assistant at EUREKA. EUREKA is an organisation that works with 39 EU member states to help businesses introduce new products, processes and services to market. For more information on their work, and to read a number of EUREKA’s own success stories, please go to http://www.eurekanetwork.org/.

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