Communicating internally and externally, before, during, and after. In any initiative or organisation, effective communication is crucial for achieving objectives and showcasing results. Communication in the management and implementation of European projects is a critical strategic task that is often left until the end, which is a mistake. Nothing exists if it is not communicated, and the European Commission understands this well.
There can be no European spirit if people are not aware of European policies and their financial framework, and how European projects impact our daily lives. External communication needs to be planned and results must be disseminated. People, companies, organisations, and administrations will not participate in European programmes if they are unaware of their existence or have difficulty accessing their calls for proposals and mechanisms for finding partners.
Without an effective internal communication plan, coordinated work among different international partners will not achieve its objectives. Furthermore, it is crucial to communicate effectively during different phases of the project and provide the final evaluator with a clear picture of the project. The European Commission is increasingly demanding when it comes to communication, and they will scrutinise this aspect as well.
For any European project, a Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation Plan needs to be designed.
Who are we targeting? The first step is to identify our target audiences: end-users, partners, stakeholders, experts, professionals, influencers, decision-makers at local, regional, and European levels, media outlets, social media, and the general public.
We will also define the channels through which we will reach each audience. Additionally, for each audience, we will establish one or several communication objectives, based on which we will create specific messages. The following are usually the common main objectives in the implementation of any European project:
- Raise awareness among citizens;
- Expand the project’s impact;
- Engage stakeholders and target groups;
- Share practical solutions and knowledge;
- Influence public policies and practices;
- Develop new communication networks.
Based on each objective, we will design communication actions that will be scheduled in a timeline covering all stages of the project, from the application process to the dissemination of results once the project is completed. And what do we mean by “communication actions”? It encompasses a wide range of initiatives, including event design, meetings, participation in forums, conferences, and seminars, creation of videos, brochures, newsletters, press releases, creation and management of project websites and social media platforms, team-building activities, and any other proposal that enhances the visibility, transparency, effectiveness, participation, and impact of your project.
In any project involving multiple actors with diverse profiles, internal communication is essential for mutual understanding, effective planning, and goal achievement. Here are some essential steps to consider from the moment your project is approved.
Create a communication matrix
This is a template, a tool that includes the following elements: type of communication, objective, channel, frequency, involved audiences, organiser, deliverables, and formats.
For example, the types of communication can be defined as follows:
- The first meeting among partners to introduce the project and its objectives: once, at the beginning, and in person.
- Transnational working sessions to review the project’s progress: every 6 months (approximately) and in person.
- Virtual meetings prior to each in-person meeting: every 3 months (approximately), online.
- Project progress reports: every 6 months (approximately), in paper or digital formats, stored in platforms like Google Drive and shared via email and/or specialised apps, as agreed upon by the partners for easy access.
Regarding the participating audiences for each communication, factors such as the number of people travelling to each in-person meeting for each partner organisation should be considered. Due to budget and operational constraints, it is recommended to have two members per organisation, justifying their roles.
In terms of deliverables, each meeting will generate its own products, such as an attendance list, an agenda to be distributed to participants at least 15 days before each working session, minutes that include decisions made, task status, new tasks assigned, and responsible parties. The minutes should be sent to participants one week after the meeting. Additionally, reports on project status and evaluation should be included.
It is also advisable to create communication standards with the project’s visual identity (logo, typography, colours), providing templates for agendas, minutes, presentations, and reports (although some report templates may already be provided by the National Agency and the programmes themselves).
Furthermore, the plan should include the process for scaling communication, which involves prioritising, determining the level of impact on the project, identifying the authority to make decisions regarding communication, and establishing maximum resolution times.
Planning External Communication
To raise visibility for our project and disseminate its impact among different target audiences, we can carry out various actions, some of which are required by the European Commission and guided by the programme itself. For example:
- Creating a dedicated project website, which should be launched within the first three months of the project’s lifespan. Many projects make the mistake of launching the website only after the project is completed, but a website should be a living space that showcases the project’s ongoing activities and hosts its results.
- Creating our own profiles on social media platforms where our target audience is present, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and possibly Instagram. Through these platforms, we need to build a community and provide real-time documentation of our activities by sharing photos, videos, and text.
- Establishing relationships with media outlets by compiling a list of general and specialised media and journalists who may be interested in covering our news. We will craft press releases that are newsworthy and meet journalistic criteria, aligning with the media’s agenda. We can also give interviews to digital media or provide background information to support potential reports.
- Creating our own events involving stakeholders, such as training sessions, informative events, contests, and social gatherings. We should also participate in external events that are relevant to our field of action and interest.
- Generating our own newsletter to keep the most engaged audiences up to date with our activities or news related to our field.
The essence of European projects lies in generating knowledge that can address common problems or opportunities from an innovative, sustainable, and social perspective. What kind of results can we disseminate? We can share any tangible outputs created during the project through appropriate channels. This can include sharing our approach or model for addressing a problem, manuals produced, informative newsletters, best practice guides, and evaluation reports. We can also communicate the knowledge, experience, and achievements acquired, while contributing to raising awareness and social consciousness about the issues we are addressing.
To achieve this dissemination, we have various tools at our disposal, such as our project website, European platforms, meetings and visits, workshops, seminars, webinars, events, audiovisual products, podcasts, brochures, articles, press releases, and social media platforms, among others.
Maintaining EU Visibility
In all promotional and communication materials, the European Union emblem and its funding statement should always be used. Here is a link to the rules for its use: Download centre for visual elements.
Additionally, each programme specifies its own rules regarding the use of its corporate identity.
As with any communication plan, a chapter should be dedicated to evaluating the achieved impact and determining whether the SMART objectives (specific, measurable, achievable, and time-bound) have been met. Many aspects can be measured, such as:
- Number of visits and inquiries on our website;
- Interactions and engagement on our social media channels;
- Media coverage of our news and events;
- Our participation in conferences and public events;
- The impact of our project on public policies;
- The production and circulation of our own informational materials, as well as their usage by third parties;
- These are just a few aspects that can be considered when evaluating the impact of your project’s communication efforts. Each aspect provides valuable insights into the reach and effectiveness of your communication strategy.
These are some of the key considerations when managing communication in European projects. While each programme may have its specific requirements and characteristics, these guidelines can serve as a general framework adaptable to the unique nature of each project. Remember to embrace creativity as the most powerful instrument at your disposal.
Effective communication is not only about delivering messages; it is about building relationships, engaging stakeholders, and sharing the results of your project for maximum impact. You can enhance visibility, transparency, participation, and ultimately, the success of your European project by implementing a well-designed communication plan.
Did you know that effective communication is the key to success in European projects? At Consulta Europa, we’ve been leading the way in communication and dissemination strategies for European projects since 2009!