Community News Community Programme Interviews

Interview with Lonneke Walk, Chair of the Special Interest Group on Marketing and Communications

This interview is part of a series highlighting the objectives, roles and mission of GÉANT Community Programme’s special interest groups and task forces. 

Lonneke Walk is team lead of Cooperation Communication at SURF, the Dutch NREN. She has worked at SURF as a communication advisor for more than 15 years and is responsible for internal and external communication.

Lonneke, you have been Chair of the SIG-Marcomms since 2015 but a member since 2006, when it was still called the Task Force on Communications and Public Relations. You have seen our community’s marketing and communications trends develop and adapt! Can you tell us what it means to you to be part of this group?

For me this group is a source of inspiration. It is a group of experts who faces the same challenges while working for the same goals – to deliver network infrastructures and the best digital services to help researchers solve some of society’s greatest challenges (in fields like agriculture, healthcare, environment, climatology) and to improve educational services. The incredible aspect of working for this community is that we do not do this only for our own country. We connect globally to advance research and education. It’s great to be part of a group that comes together to help each other, explore ideas, share knowledge, and best practices for the greater good.

SIG-Marcomms is an incredible group of marcomms experts from all across the world. Meetings are joined by NRENs from Brazil and Canada to South Korea and Australia, passing through Uganda and Finland. It is fascinating to see how, despite the physical distance and the different cultures, many marketing and communications techniques as well as challenges are shared. What are the most common topics and trends that the group has been discussing lately?

At our last meeting in Brussels, we approached some of the most popular and requested topics by doing a workshop on making a short video interview and hosting presentations on impactful social media campaigns. We also shared experiences on how to brand NRENs as  organisations and good employers. It is worth noting that in the past couple of years, we talked a lot about organising hybrid events, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Another frequent topic is security awareness and how to prepare for crisis communication. In fact, our SIG is one of the initiators of CLAW, the Crisis Management Workshop.

It is true that marketing and communications are not properly technical fields, but they do are vital to the development of the NRENs and member Institutions – without them, our community would not get the right visibility and the same impact. How would you see marcomms teams fit within the NRENs world, their dedicated services and connectivity?

Stories about the users of our networks and services are a great way to show how researchers, teachers, projects, institutes, and the wider society benefit from the NRENs’ work. These impact stories and best practices can inspire other individuals to improve their own research and work in education. By communicating the impact of NRENs’ activities, these stories stimulate innovation and, in doing so enable rapid technological advances, sometimes years ahead of commercial organisations.

SIG-Marcomms has collaborated very often with other SIGs and TFs for joint meetings to promote collaboration between fields and highlight how working areas are intertwined. How do you think that these meetings are useful to the community to understand the value of marcomms activities?

All SIGs and TFs are doing a wonderful job but, at times, because of the technical language they use, their work can go unnoticed to the “person in the street” or other key stakeholders that are not familiar with the peculiar environment of research and education networks. Staying in touch with colleagues from other SIGs and TFs, exploring collaboration opportunities, or simply keeping them updated on the results of NRENs’ marcomms activities on the services’ success ensure that they are aware of the value of marcomms activities. Marketing and communications are key to engineering and scientific services and projects to help them translate the technical languages they use to user stories for everybody to understand and read. This will also increase the visibility of their positive impact on the community.

You are Team Leader of Marketing, Communications and Events at the Dutch NREN, SURF. What do you bring from your work in SIG-Marcomms and exchanges within the Community to your daily work?

Hearing best practices and experiences of other NRENs gives me new insights on how to improve my own work. It keeps me on my toesI am proud to work with international colleagues to connect researchers and teachers and make better research and education possible for everyone. It gives me energy to work even harder for our wonderful organisations.

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