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EUPRIO looks at digital transformation of communications

The digital transformation of communications in higher education continues to throw up challenges and opportunities for EUPRIO members, writes Nic Mitchell


So how timely that the 2018 EUPRIO annual conference at the University of Sevilla in Spain, from 3-6 June, offers a platform to answer some of the key questions facing university communication professionals, such as:

  • How can big data be used for effective communication?
  • What do we know about bots: can they be used other than for malicious purposes?
  • Which messaging apps are the most effective in the field of micromarketing for a university?
  • What are the newest ways of customising social media channels and content?
  • How can you tell a science story using new multimedia tools?
  • How do you effectively manage university data to face future challenges?  

As conference regulars will know events like this offer breakout sessions, including masterclasses and workshops, where participants can interact with expert speakers and go deeper into particular aspects.

EUPRIO delegates attending the conference on The Digital Transformation: A challenge for communication in Higher Educationcan either attend one masterclass on each of the main full-days (Monday 4 June and Tuesday 5 June), or a masterclass on one day and two workshops on the other, or four workshops over the two days. Workshops are repeated twice on the same day, so participants should be able to tailor a timetable to their needs and interests.

A taste of the masterclasses

Emma Gilmartin from Glasgow University

Among the masterclasses is a session on The value and impact of social media (Monday 4 June, 14-15-16.30) led by Emma Gilmartin from the University of Glasgow in Great Britain.

She has revolutionised Glasgow’s approach to social media by putting students and staff first and by unifying the university’s online presence and overhauling UofG’s social output, using emerging channels and live platforms to tell the university’s story.

Her session will explore how best to use different channels to tell diverse stories of campus and student life and how to empower a social media community and create a student social media ambassador scheme.

As well as demonstrating how social media can be most effective for crisis communications and managing public relations issues, Emma will also consider how best to explain the value of investment in social media to senior management.

A masterclass on the second full-day of conference (Tuesday 5 June, 09-11:15) develops the theme of joined-up staff and student communications further, with Philip Graham from the University of Edinburgh.

Taking staff on communications journey

His session Universities and cities: so close yet so far will highlight the importance of taking staff on the communications journey to build relationships and establish networks with the goal of implementing culture change and to create a sense of community: Not always easy with over 50,000 staff and students!

Philip Graham from Edinburgh University

As internal and external communications cannot be easily separated, particularly across digital and social media channels, consistent approaches are needed whether celebrating student success or discussing the impact of Brexit, says Philip.

His masterclass will also give delegates the chance to discuss the outcomes of the first EUPRIO Mobility Programme, a new collaborative initiative. The first project called Tell me: what’s going on? saw the universities of Utrecht and NHL Stenden in the Netherlands and Edinburgh University share best practice and find innovative solutions to improve communications with international students.

Plenty of workshops to pick from

If you prefer workshops so you can hear more speakers and cover a wider range of topics, among those offered on the first full-day (4 June, 14:15, repeated at 15:30) is A modern idiot’s guide to data driven communications led by Scott Forrest,  a Canadian who has been working at the University of Lapland’s Arctic Centre in Finland.

He will attempt to answer the question: ‘As our organizations collect more and more data – particularly personal data – how can we find solutions that help us, rather than bury us, in meaningless unconnected information?’

 Among issues tackled will be the new European regulations to ensure the protection of personal data (General Data Protection Regulation, or, GDPR).

Bots expert Juan Carlos Medina Serrano

Also on Monday (4 June), Juan Carlos Medina Serrano, a data scientist with the Technical University of Munich, leads a workshop on Bots, Trolls and Social Bots: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

 Originally from Mexico, Juan Carlos will consider how bots can be an effective tool for communications in universities and for disseminating knowledge.

He is currently doing a PhD on the spread of misinformation in social media and its effects on the political landscape. His session will cover how interactions online between computer-programme entities – the so-called bots  – can pretend to be real users to manipulate public opinion.

Bots can be beneficial

But, he will argue, they can also be used for beneficial purposes, such as automating human communications and services, particularly with advances of AI. They could also help to “turn CRM systems into more customisable systems with the help of data science techniques” and support internal communications as well as the spread of knowledge, says Juan Carlos.

Julie Backer from OsloMet, Norway’s newest university

Among the workshops on Tuesday (5 June, 14:15, repeated 15:30) to select from is Developing a digital toolkit:The key to a robust communications operation in 2018 with Julie Backer and Trine Beate, from Oslo Metropolitan University.

The session will look at how Norway’s newest university – OsloMet – used its new university status to transform the way it practices strategic communications.

Not another communications strategy!

Like many, the university had a communication strategy, but few were even aware of it. What it needed was not another eloquently formulated document, but a digital toolkit to communicate effectively with key target audiences.

In this workshop, you will be taken behind-the-scenes for a view of the process of designing such a digital communications toolkit and a look at designing a channel mix to help reach target audiences and digital graphic design tools to help ensure a consistent visual brand.

Hands-on workshop with Melanie Bartos

Another Tuesday workshop will cover How to tell a science story: Multimedia tools in science communications. This will be led by Melanie Bartos with Stefan Hohenwarter from the University of Innsbruck, Austria.

This will be a hands-on workshop about storytelling with multimedia online tools, exploring how to connect with scientists, how to tell their stories and present them to the public with multimedia tools such as the web CMS Shorthand – and in a way that works on all devices and form factors, from huge desktop computers to small hand-held devices.

So, don’t forget to bring your laptops to the workshop!

* That’s just a favour of some of the sessions. To find out what else is on offer, see Speakers

* Registration details can be found at