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Visibility and value – marketing communications community groups review progress

How can research and education networks show their value – to funders, customers, and other stakeholders and audiences? What evidence shows value, and how do you gather this evidence? Participants of SIG-Marcomms (Special Interest Group on Marketing Communications) and the Global PR Network shared examples, challenges and ideas during their joint meeting on Sunday 16 June in Tallinn, Estonia.

User stories

Stories about the users of REN networks and services are great ways to show how individuals, projects, institutes or wider society benefit. The ‘In The Field’ website, which originated from discussions in these groups, highlights such stories from around the world. Jane Gifford of AARNet, who devised the site, presented an update on its usage and development. With around 90 contributing organisations and projects and around 300 stories now published, the site has proved a great success and is now focusing on attracting more newsletter recipients.

The value of user stories was raised in other presentations too. Hastings Ndebvu of UbuntuNet Alliance (UA) said that there is now an increasing need for visibility of the positive impacts that NRENs are bringing in the UA region; progress has been made and a communications workshop in Zanzibar in November 2018 provided a boost to this area of work. Kathryn Anthonisen of CANARIE said that user stories collected together on ‘In The Field’ site, financial benchmarking, and a global map of R&E networks (currently in development and presented here by Kathryn) all together “tell a powerful message to stakeholders”.

For many NREN marketing communications staff, finding and developing user stories can be a challenge. A proposal to follow up in this area with a more dedicated session or workshop on the necessary approaches and skills was met with approval.

Measuring value

In a session on ‘metrics and strategy practices’ Jane and Kathryn joined Robert Hamon-Collins (Jisc) and Gitte Kudsk (DeiC) in giving examples of what marketing communications outputs and outcomes they measure, how and why. This topic has been explored in growing depth during recent SIG-Marcomms meetings and there is still an appetite for further sharing in future, according to meeting feedback.


Although recent and upcoming European regulations about data protection, privacy and intellectual property rights (IPR) are principally aimed at European organisations, there are circumstances in which non-Europeans need to beware. Magdalena Rzaca, GDPR IPR Legal Advisor at GÉANT provided examples to the participants, who came from 5 continents, and answered questions. The good news was that most were already aware and have been taking action.

Other topics covered SEO (search engine optimisation), recent social media campaigns, tips on vlogging and a review of the purpose and practices of the SIG and Global PR groups themselves. The groups’ steering committees and coordinators will consider how to make improvements before next year’s joint meeting.

Further information

More than 30 people joined the June 2019 meeting, which preceded TNC19 in Tallinn. All slides and the agenda are available online.

The next meeting of SIG-Marcomms will be on 17-18 September in Montpellier, France, hosted by RENATER. This will include an afternoon joint meeting with SIG-MSP on the 18th. Registration for this meeting is open – register here.

SIG-Marcomms is part of the GÉANT Community Programme. The group engages communication and marketing specialists from NRENs, with meetings three times a year. The Global PR network is primarily a mailing list, where participants can exchange news and ideas during the year, and with an annual meeting in connection with TNC and SIG-Marcomms.

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