How does Dissemination shift due to digitization?
In research projects, dissemination is traditionally done through multiple channels, including offline channels like publications or events. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a shift of dissemination towards digitization has been noted. How does this shift look like and what can we learn from it for the future? And what of it is independent from the Covid-19 pandemic and will stay with us?
Lena Werthmann (Nuro Games), Cologne (Germany),
Due to the Covid-19 crisis, we could witness a big progress in digitization. As a software company which has worked digitally for quite some time now, the change to home office was easily done. We started using teams instead of other communication channels, but so far this has been the biggest change.
This is different, however, for dissemination. Dissemination itself describes the act of spreading information about a research project, gathering an audience and would, in a commercial project, probably be called “marketing”.
In research projects, dissemination is traditionally done through multiple channels: Online through social media, newsletters and project websites, on- and offline through networks and publications, and offline through events. Each of those channels targets a different stakeholder group, however, events used to be one of the main activities to disseminate, as direct communication and an interested audience are both prevalent here.
However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a shift of dissemination towards digitization has been noted. How does this shift look like and what can we learn from it for the future? And what of it is independent from the Covid-19 pandemic and will stay with us?
More digital doesn’t mean more. It means better.
One thing we have noted is that due to the additional efforts in digital dissemination, was that it became very fragmented. The website suddenly had extra parts that were not planned for in the beginning and made it look chaotic and information hard to find. With four social media channels, we planned to reach different target groups, however, even there the fragmentation became visible. The WELCOME consortium decided to counter this with multiple measurements, which can all count under the title of this headline: More digital doesn’t mean more. The pages of the website were combined in two ways: Either statics pages with similar content were combined, or pages like the “news” and the “blogs” section were combined to provide a single platform-like overview for dynamic content on the website. Regarding social media, a little bit more content was actually desirable, which meant that the different social media channels were streamlined and extended, while the YouTube channel was minimized due to its missing function.
Digital Dissemination reaches a completely different stakeholder group than events.
Of course, currently, events don’t happen. However, not everything that we are used to can be transferred to digital channels, so events like conferences, fairs, roundtables, workshops and much more won’t be outdated for a long time. But what is the actual difference?
Events that cannot be digitized on the same quality are for example workshops, focus groups and any other kind of direct interaction with potential users or customers. Real interaction especially gives the opportunity to have an impression of the reaction of a user, to be able to ask them qualitative questions based on their reactions and to interact with them much more spontaneous than e.g. an online survey would. Especially if a prototype exists, this also counts for “passing stakeholders” on events – People who might try out the software or game who have never heard of it or might not be reachable through other (for example digital channels).
Communication becomes easier
Okay, yes – this one is self-explanatory. However, it is something that has become very evident during the Covid-19 crisis and will surely accompany us even after it has finished. The progress in digitization in the last few months has given rise to a huge uptake in digital meeting rooms like Zoom and GoToMeeting, but also project management and communication software like Teams or Slack. Features like digital backgrounds for video calls are something that have rarely been used before and make home office possible. On the same hand, security has been optimised and areas like healthcare are also more digitized than they used to be in the beginning of the pandemic.
Internationally, 59% of people assume that communication tools will become even more important in the future after the Corona pandemic, and 61% assume that conferences and other types of meetings will stay digital and be streamed . It will be interesting to see how correct they are.
React and adapt quickly – It will not change back.
This diagram by McKinsey displays a short analysis of how experimentation with technology provided an advantage during the early days of the Covid-19 crisis. It shows that company owners who responded quicker and more during the crisis have a better grasp of the crisis and a higher measured effectiveness of the measurements – In both cases by more than a 100%!
This teaches us that a quick reaction as well as avoidance of “half-hearted” investments are two of the main pillars in such a crisis situation – But it also shows that reacting quickly to any progress or improvements in digitization is incredibly important. The world becomes faster due to digital means, which means that a fast, correct reaction with enough impact is important to prove as an advantage to competitors in any situation.
So, what did we learn from these consequences of digitization? Reacting quick, but meaningful, is an important aspect. WELCOME, for example, could have reacted better initially by not just expanding dissemination channels, but also streamlining the existing ones. Additionally, WELCOME heavily leaned on the improved communication possible through the digitization itself, but also through adaption of digitization. This will also continue in the future for this project.
What is now missing is a strategy for events – For example the planned workshops or the Open Days. It is also one of the few areas where the Covid-19 crisis hasn’t led to a meaningful standard reaction.
 "How the crisis pushed companies” – McKinsey & Company (2020)