Online and Media Communication Tools
In order to be effective, you (think tanks) must not only generate research-based publications, but also be able to communicate your findings with a range of decision-makers and the public. The most common and required communication and outreach tools for think tanks are categorised in four customary channels: publications, online, media, and events. This document will focus on online and media communication; while Publication and Events are found in Products.
Each channel will entail communication mechanisms, where it is briefly explained what they offer to their main audience, the most suitable language or style used, helpful formats and tools, as well as beneficial examples and resources.
Not all of the listed communication tools are suitable for all think tanks. Every organisation must decide what mix of tools works best for themselves. Additionally, not all communication tools are going to be useful in every initiative and project; the proper mix should be chosen in this case as well.
Google Suit are google's intelligent apps. It is much more than just handling emails. It entails various helpful apps and tools to manage your think tank. Non-profit organisations (incl. Think Tanks) can apply to receive the G suite business account for free. You have probably used one or the other apps before. Here are some of the most useful and practical tools.
*Note: National requirements differ and application process may take time.
- Google Calendar
- Google Calendar helps you to organise and keep track of your schedule and your employees schedules.
- G Suite allows you to establish several calendars, which are attainable by everyone in your staff (or any user, you offer the permission to). For instance, you can establish a group calendar for events like team holidays or another calendar for tasks; allowing every staff member to stay up to date with each others schedules.
- Google Drive
- This tool is a centre to organise common folders and documents and share them among their staff and external collaborators.
- It is also possible, certainly in the case of Google Drive, to make resources public and therefore share them with the centres’ audiences.
- Google Docs & Sheets & Slides & Form
- These tools enable you to create, edit, and establish text documents, spreadsheets, questionnaires, and presentations right in your browser and Google drive. You can also import your documents and thus can immediately edit them (inlc. docx, .doc, .pdf, .rtf, .txt, xlsx, .csv, .html, .ods).
- You can also collaborate and comment on the files, when sharing them with a number of people or make the file publicly accessible, always having real-time commenting and unlimited versions.
- Admin Console
- This console enables the Admin to easily handle everything from one single place, from configuring security settings (with a 2-factor authentication) to customising new domains.
- Google Hangouts (Chat & Meet)
- This tool makes video calls and conferencing calls. Meet is incorporated within all G Suite tools, so you can join meetings directly from a Calendar event or email invite.
- Cloud Search
- A feature that enables you to search across your think tanks content, from Gmail and Drive to Docs, Sheets, Slides, Calendar, and more.
- An emailed newsletter is used to notify the centre’s past, current, and future activities (incl. publications and events). It is merely informative and should direct the reader to other materials.
- It is directed at a general audience and should be written in a short and accessible style with a pleasant visual to encourage the reader to follow the appropriate hyperlinks to further detail on the publications/ events they are interested in. Elaborated HTML formats and inserted videos can be helpful (with consideration of your audience). It may be best to simply limit the email to a visually pleasing newsletter that directly sends the reader to a video, for instance.
- The email should be short (if too long then the centre should consider increasing its frequency) and all information should be included in the body of the email –never attachments. The newsletter is best sent in the morning, before people get to work or before people come back from lunch – rather than mid mornings or late afternoons.
- The organisation’s website provides information about the organisation and bring together all the centre’s other communication efforts. While an important point of reference, it should not be considered as the main online communication vehicle for the centre.
- Someone with digital experience should have control over the Website. Daily or weekly updates should be organised in order to ensure the website's information is up-to-date.
- The organisation’s Twitter account can be used for several objectives including: announcing new publications or events, filtering information on a given policy or research issues, encouraging discussion with other Twitter users, and receive publicity on the Think Tank etc. The account should be linked to the organisation’s other online and digital tools.
- It is an essential tool to use in engaging your audience, expanding your network, and receiving direct discussions on issues
- Aimed at other Twitter users and thus should follow Twitter best practices: short, direct, provide links for further reading, use hash-tags, and signal other users directly
- Offers the opportunity to engage with a general audience in a more informal manner. The page should feature current publications, blog posts, and events by the organisation as well as third parties and relevant articles.
- Facebook is an important tool to use in engaging your audience, managing events, expanding your network, receiving publicity on publications, as well as receiving direct feedback from audience.
- Aimed at other Facebook users and this should follow Facebook ‘rules’.
- Provides credibility and professionalism
- Easy tool to use for recruitment (as it is International)
- Staff LinkedIn profiles can provide the organisation with up to date information of their staff that can be featured in the ‘about us’ page of your website.
- Videos are helpful in presenting a visual to summarise a study/project and show key findings. They provide an opportunity to explain their research methods, emphasise key findings and recommendations, illustrate their arguments, etc.
- Videos can entail, recording live during events or edited to provide a more powerful story.
- Set up a YouTube and Ustream channel to share and store videos (which can be shared in emails, blogs and website), which can support and engage their management and deployment on several communication and outreach initiatives.
- Videos are directed towards a wide and diverse viewership, which can include citizens, researchers, decision-makers, participants, journalists or interested donors; an important factor to remember when sharing videos.
- Their style should depend on the particular audience and objective, you are trying to interact with. For example, animation videos can be useful to explain a vast and multiplex processes, systems or method, while mini-documentaries or short ‘investigative journalism’ style videos can exhibit the findings of a policy brief or blog post, etc.
- In the case of ‘web streaming’, there should be an effort in organising the event in a matter, where the content is as interactive and captivating -as if it had been edited.
- Podcasts, like videos, can reveal information and ideas in a fresh and atypical style.
- A podcast is targeted at a broad audience, since it is best uploaded on Youtube, Soundcloud, or/and iTunes. Hence the language used must be clear and to the point -realising, since it cannot rely on visuals.
- Wikipedia is a global and open repository of knowledge. It is also usually one of the top items on an online search. Thus, it is advisable for think tanks to have a page about themselves, so people can easily find and have information on your think tank.
- You should attempt to monitor your page as well as relevant linked pages in order to react if any changes are made by other users.
- Events can be very time consuming for a think tank, who has minimal staff. Tools like Eventbrite can be supportive in overseeing the invites, attendance, and circulating the pertinent information needed for an engaging participation. This means that the staff can focus on the logistics on the day and on producing the necessary supportive data and follow up to ensure the event makes a difference.
- The events can be shared via links or embedded in an ‘events’ page on the website, blog, and newsletter. They can be shared via the Facebook page or the Twitter account to reach a wider audience and encourage remote participation, too.
It is important to establish a contact base with journalists and media outlets. One needs a connection with journalists in order to get your think tank and publication mentioned in the press. Therefore it is important to start networking with people who work in the media. For more information on how to network, click here.
A communication method to keep the media in the loop of your upcoming events and publications is to do personal mailings. Nurturing your journalist contacts is significant, thus when a publication or an event suits to their content and is momentous, you should compactly and visually send them the invitation for the event and/or publication. For more on mailings, click here.
Once you have established a network with media outlets, you can organise Press conferences or special events for journalists on your publication(s). However, you need to strategically see what publication journalists would be interested in. It should be a current ongoing momentous topic that is related to the political situation and stance. For more information on press conference, click here.