Proving our worth: finding allies in strategic communication


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Kurt Riesselmann, Symmetry magazine, Fermilab Office of Communication, May 2010

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Proving our worth: finding allies in strategic communication

  1. 1. Proving our worth: Finding allies in strategic communication Kurt Riesselmann symmetry magazine Fermilab Office of Communication May 2010
  2. 2. A case study in strategic communication: The way to symmetry magazine <ul><li>Background: </li></ul><ul><li>99% of funding for Fermilab comes from the </li></ul><ul><li>U.S. Department of Energy. </li></ul><ul><li>Unlike NASA and NSF, the Department of Energy </li></ul><ul><li>has no mandate, history of science communication. </li></ul><ul><li>The DOE national laboratories do most of the </li></ul><ul><li>communication for the DOE Office of Science. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Pre- symmetry <ul><li>Pre-2004, particle physics has no single voice: the laboratories all do their own little thing. </li></ul><ul><li>The DOE Office of High Energy Physics funds the field but has no communication tool itself. </li></ul><ul><li>Fermilab publishes FermiNews, a 16-page magazine that comes out every two weeks. </li></ul>
  4. 4. How symmetry was born: strategic communication, building alliances <ul><li>In 2004, the two biggest laboratories conducting research in particle physics in the U.S., Fermilab and SLAC, agreed to join forces: pool our resources and create one magazine that represents all of (U.S.) particle physics </li></ul>
  5. 5. Key audiences <ul><li>Magazines all have different goals and key audiences. </li></ul><ul><li>At symmetry , our key audiences are about 1,000 policymakers and stakeholders, including funding agencies. - They make the decisions on basic research. </li></ul><ul><li>- They must justify next year’s budget. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Of course, many more audiences <ul><li>“ The interested public” </li></ul><ul><li>Current and future students </li></ul><ul><li>Scientists (at Fermilab and other institutions) </li></ul><ul><li>Local community/visitors to the lab </li></ul><ul><li>Media </li></ul><ul><li>Alumni and retirees </li></ul><ul><li>Six issues per year, between 17,000 and 22,000 copies (depending on content) </li></ul>
  7. 7. Goals <ul><li>Work with all stakeholders and be the voice of particle physics (in the U.S.) </li></ul><ul><li>Present particle physics as the vibrant field it is </li></ul><ul><li>Show the many aspects and connections of particle physics (the field is broader than you think) </li></ul><ul><li>Give funding agencies and policymakers a way to share their messages and visions </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate research priorities </li></ul><ul><li>Bottom line: help secure the future of the field </li></ul>
  8. 8. Characteristics: <ul><li>We set out to create a magazine that would be: </li></ul><ul><li>- credible - novel </li></ul><ul><li>- approachable - engaging </li></ul><ul><li>- alive - clear </li></ul><ul><li>- artful/stylish </li></ul><ul><li>symmetry is a magazine about particle physics and </li></ul><ul><li>its connections to other aspects of life and science, </li></ul><ul><li>from interdisciplinary collaborations to policy to </li></ul><ul><li>culture. </li></ul>
  9. 9. How can we measure our ROI? <ul><li>- Survey of the entire readership is not helpful for us </li></ul><ul><li>Increase in number of subscriptions and hits on our website are good but don’t tell us much about our key audiences </li></ul><ul><li>Instead: </li></ul><ul><li>Focus groups </li></ul><ul><li>Talking to the funding agency (DOE) </li></ul><ul><li>One-on-one conversations, anecdotal evidence </li></ul><ul><li>Lots of room for improvement!!! </li></ul>
  10. 10. The real ROI: The benefit of alliances? <ul><li>Testimony from our allies and key audiences regarding the usefulness of our magazines might be our strongest proof of ROI. </li></ul><ul><li>But is this a good measure? If so, how can we all form more and better alliances? (Working with recruitment, research networks, development…) </li></ul><ul><li>Or do alliances bog us down and make us too vulnerable to decisions that others make? </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>What is your experience? Let’s discuss. </li></ul>Sample Communication Talk