Blue Communities research makes waves
The right communication strategy was essential for the Blue Communities project; a programme of marine research that supports the long-term well-being of coastal communities. Researchers from the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth used animation and infographics to share their work across different geographies, languages and cultures.
Effectively communicating academic research to a broad audience is no easy feat but when this needs to cross borders, languages and cultural contexts too, it adds an extra layer of complexity. This was the task facing the Blue Communities programme.
Run by researchers at the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, alongside partners in East and South-East Asia, Blue Communities supports coastal communities to protect their environments and create a sustainable future.
The team needed a way of condensing 4 years’ worth of research into easily-accessible formats that could overcome language barriers and connect with a diverse range of stakeholders - from fellow researchers to NGOs and local communities. It wanted to convey the importance of its findings and inspire people to take action and influence behaviours in their area of work or communities.
"We're often talking to the Foreign Office or to politicians or policymakers, and they don't have time to get into the level of detail that an academic would. So this really does help us talk to some of those people, and communicate the impact."
Mel Austen, Professor of Ocean and Society at the University of Plymouth
We partnered with the team to simplify their messaging and create the key visual assets of their communication strategy: an infographic, an animation and a series of sketchnotes, translated into several different languages.
“As academics, we're very good at using words to describe something complex but when it comes to reaching a wider audience we realised the need for a different, more simplified approach - one that's visual and relatable,” says Mel Austen, Professor of Ocean and Society at the University of Plymouth.
A major aim for the team was to attract the wider research community, using the material as a “hook” to draw them in and to generate vital support for the programme.
“At universities, we are all trying to showcase and communicate our research and that's a really important part of our role - not just to the wider community but also to other researchers. These assets give us teasers to say ‘Come and look at what we've done….It’s a bit like advertising,” explains Mel.
We worked to ensure all assets were representative of the communities and partners the programme was trying to reach - from the voice used for the animation to the range of genders, ethnicities and religions featured - to create a more meaningful and impactful connection and, ultimately, motivate them to take action.
“That was really important to us,” adds Mel. “It has really helped in communicating to those communities so that they can actually feel, ‘this is about me’ and empower them to speak to people at a higher level about interventions that will really make a difference to their lives, their livelihoods and their habitat.”