Module Research Communication

By Sara Arvidson, Head of Communications, and Linda Harradine, research communicator
Örebro University, 8-12 November 2021 and 24-28 January 2022


Communication theory

Communication theory and making a communication plan

Lecture, with examples, on how to make an effective plan to reach out with relevant research to the public through media or other channels. The purpose of this lecture is to teach the researchers a model in how to make a communication plan, consisting of a SWOT analysis, the aim of the communication, the goals of the communication, target group analysis, messages, channels and evaluation.

SWOT analysis

In the SWOT-analysis you go through strengths and weaknesses (internal aspcts) and possibilities and threats (external aspects) regarding your research, in order to reach the right target group.

The aim of the communication

What is the aim of your research communication? What do you want to achieve? Why is that important? What do you want your target group to know, to feel, to do? If you are sure of the aim of your communication, the communication plan will be more effective.

Communication goals

There are different goals in communication. Information goals: What do you want the target group to know about your research? Knowledge goals: What do you want the target group to understand? Attitude goals: What do you want the target group to think (everything from tolerate to love)? Motivation goals: What shall be the motivation for the target group (anything from ”ok to do” to ”fight for”). Behaviour goals: What shall the target group do (anything from ”try once” to ”do every day”).

Target group analysis

A target group analysis gives you an increased knowledge of the needs, desires and motivations of your target groups.


What are the messages in your communication? What is the ”red thread” in the research that you want the public to take part of? Which result in your research is it that you want to communicate and why?


When you know the aim, target group and messages, you can choose the right channels for your research communication. It could be a newsletter, a Youtube video, a press release and so forth.


In order to continuously enhance your research communication, it is important to evaluate it. In this stage you examine if you have achieved your communication goals.

This session is interactive and include discussions on, e.g., examples of target groups, key messages and implications from the research of the UR researchers.  

Journalists and the media

News criteria

This part of the course deals with the question of why some research and researchers get picked up by the media and some don´t. What is the news value of your research? How does your research fit into the news agenda? If it fits into the news agenda it will be much easier to reach out.

How to approach journalists

There are many ways in which you as a researcher can approach journalists. But the basic line is to know what results in your research you want to communicate and why. There are many different channels to reach the media today: e.g. the UR newsletters, through social media, by writing press releases or creating short videos for YouTube.

The different media channels differ in the time perspective. For example, TV-journalists work fast – the deadline can be in a few hours – while the trade press can have deadlines in a few weeks. There is also a difference between the questions they will ask you as a researcher. In television it is extremely important to be brief and speak with the help of metaphors, while you can be more detailed with the trade press.

How to write a press release

In this part of the course we learn the formats of how to write a press release. The focus is on:

  • Headline
  • Ingress
  • Subheadline
  • Body text
  • Quotes
  • Contacts

We go through examples of press releases of research that have reached out to the audience in an effective way. We discuss the examples in groups of 4.

Popular Science Writing – theory and practice 

Writing a press release

Introduction to exercise by presenters

Ca 30 minutes: You will work in groups of 4 and start with a group discussion.
Discuss the arguments for the press releases.

Ca 30 minutes: Each person will get time to write a draft of press release that presents a recent paper or project in maximum one page. Focus is on results and (potential) impact.

  • What have you found (or done)?
  • What is it good for?
  • Why do we need this finding?
  • Who is benefitting from this finding?
  • Give an example of how it can be used

Peer feedback and revision

The drafts will be distributed to the other group members, who will comment on each of them. The comments will consider:

  • Target audience: Who will read this, and what are they interested in knowing?
  • Writing style: Structure and style. Based on the feedback, you will refine your writing.

The group members choose the most promising draft to present in front of the whole group in the afternoon. This draft is then revised based on the comments.

Presentations, feedback, discussion

One person from every group makes a presentation, showing the draft on the projector and the facilitators give feedback together with the whole class.
(Coffee break as feasible)

Oral presentation & video

Lecture on oral presentation

The lecturers make an introduction to oral presentation as opposed to popular science writing. For example, how to talk plainly with examples and cases, rhetoric tricks, body language, emphasis on colloquial language etc. The focus is on using your body and speech, preferably without PowerPoint.

Look at video with examples from Sweden.

Interactive lecture including discussions with the audience. Questions for the audience to start interacting.

Exercise (in plenum) – elevator pitch

Scenario: You have 1 minute in an elevator with an important person (e.g. a professor, a decision maker or a journalist) - how do you describe your research. Focus on:

  • What is most important?
  • Why and to whom is it important?
  • Background

Use the text from the press release from day 2 and make into colloquial language. Work in groups and pitch on each other. The lecturers will listen to some examples from every group and give feedback in front of the class.

Lecture and exercise: Presentation in front of the camera

Lecture: Instructors go through the technical part of video recording: How do we make a YouTube video presentation, the principles and the technicalities of setup and recording.

Exercise: Produce a maximum 3 minutes long video presentation of your research, using smartphone. Work in pairs – one is filming, the other is talking and acting. Then we watch some of the films in front of the whole group and discuss what works and what doesn’t.

Exercise continued

Repeat the exercise and switch roles. We look at the films again together and discuss what improvements have been done.

Assignments & feedback

Assignment: Video improvement

Reproduction of videos after the feedback from day 3.

Ongoing feedback from instructors. Selected videos presented. We look at some of them again in class.

End with a discussion with the UR communicators/PR people on how to disseminate the videos.

Afternoon assignment: Writing “SIDA stories”

Lecture: Instructors introduce the format (2-3 pages of project description in plain language and including images/illustrations).

Example stories available for reference and inspiration at

Assignment: Produce a SIDA story of your research. The facilitators will be there to help

Completing assignments

Exercise: “Sida story” writing continued

Polish and finish your articles, “Sida stories”, to publication standard. Ongoing feedback from instructors.