A pattern emerged from this year’s EUPRIO Award winning entries – with a strong focus on increasing public understanding of what universities and their talented experts do for society at large, writes Nic Mitchell.
The two top slots were won by institutions of applied sciences, with Hogeschool von Amsterdam, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, or AUAS, being the overall EUPRIO Award 2016 winner for its series of ‘making a point’ mini campaigns.
These campaigns tackled some of the major issues facing the city of Amsterdam, ranging from caring for senior citizens to the need to recycle the growing piles of garbage clogging the city streets.
The emphasis was on showing how university staff and students were working together with civic society and companies to find new solutions to everyday problems.
Second prize in the #EUPRIO2016 Awards went to Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, or HiOA, in Norway for their imaginative ‘viten + snakkis’, or ‘Research chattering’ series of podcasts.
These are broadcast regularly and see university experts talking as they would to their neighbors to help the public understand trending news topics and offer advice about everyday challenges.
To date, the podcasts have covered everything from the impact of Brexit to advice on getting children to sleep at night and how to handle stress at work.
Third place went to the extensive four-day ‘Media Talent’ in-depth multi-platform training for a select group of academics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Run by the University’s press office, the media training connected the academics with journalists, training them to tell their stories for different outlets, including social media, podcasts, radio documentaries and opinion pieces.
High standard of entries
Martin Herrema from the University of Kent in the UK was president of the EUPRIO Awards jury.
He said: “All the members of the jury were very impressed by the high standard of the entries this year. All of the 12 projects demonstrated a high degree of professionalism and we congratulate those involved on their work.
“However, the final decision on the winning entry was a clear one, with conference delegates and the jury voting decisively for the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. This project provided a shining example of how public understanding of the role of university research and expertise in improving society can be communicated effectively.”
The winners were chosen by a 50:50 voting system, with the judges and conference participants picking the winners together.
This year delegates were able to vote using the new University of Antwerpen conference app developed by conference sponsors’ Lumi, a global market leader in real-time audience insight technology.
Solving problems facing the city
Paul Helbing, director of communications at AUAS, said: “We are very proud to have the support of so many EUPRIO communication professionals for the things we are doing in Amsterdam.
“The people around us in the city are really starting to recognise that our students and lecturers are addressing their everyday big issues and that we are using our scientific knowledge to solve some of the problems facing the city.
“Through the ‘making a #point mini campaigns, we are also demonstrating that we are a lot more than simply a teaching institution.”
The second #Point of care campaign included a VIP event at one of Amsterdam’s art deco cinemas where senior citizens were given the full ‘red-carpet’ treatment. This generated plenty of positive colourful images for the media and posters have also popped up around the city highlighting the ‘Ageing in the city #point of care’ messages to target audiences.
Chatting about the burning issues
There was also a focus on talking about some of the burning issues facing society in the entry from HiOA, said senior communication adviser Kjersti Thoresen.
The regular podcasts, lasting between 15 and 20 minutes, give the institution’s experts a chance to discuss their particular areas of knowledge.
Instead of formal interviews or scripted talks, the podcasts are informal chats with communication staff personnel.
Kjersti said: “The informal style is designed to appeal to the public at large rather than directly to student recruitment or research collaboration. It is a great way to supplement traditional forms of science communication like our online research magazine.
“Researchers are selected for their knowledge of particular areas in the news or of topics that we know people discuss around the lunch table.
“The informal chatty style aimed at ordinary people and not other scientists is a great way to do public engagement. The experts gain confidence in talking about trending stories in the media and it is a great way to give them some media training.”
The podcasts, produced using HiOA’s journalism programme’s broadcasting studio, have been in Norwegian. But the last one – on tips about student life from two academics – was recorded in English.
New level of media training
Media training for academics was taken to a new level in the entry from the University of Edinburgh, which won the third prize in the EUPRIO 2016 Awards.
Press and PR officer Joanne Morrison said: “It was a competitive process with 40 academics applying in the first year of the Media Talent programme and 25 were selected for basic training in broadcast interviews. The best 12 won places on the final 4-day course.
“Speakers included the former editor of The Times and participants were challenged to write an opinion piece within an hour. They also had to pitch ideas to BBC Radio 4 producers in three minutes and took part in a podcast.
“We also arranged for a tour of BBC studios and the Sunday Herald newspaper in Glasgow where active journalists gave them insights into how best to engage with today’s media.
“Success can be measured by more than 50 appearances by the selected academics in the UK, Irish, Spanish and US media. We’re planning to do it again next year.”
Congratulations to all the winners and everyone who entered the EUPRIO Awards…