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ISSUE 11 - July 2011

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Outrageous Outreach — Unconventional Ways of Communicating Science (pages 22-32)
Oana Sandu, Lars Lindberg Christensen

Key Words
New Communication Models, Unconventional Outreach, Targeted Messages, Social Media, Word of Mouth, Thought Leader Organisation, Target Insights, Audience Profile, Assessment of Unconventional Partnerships, Evaluation Criteria


The golden rule of communication, advertising, public relations and marketing is “follow your target group”. In this article, we look at how this mantra is applied in science communication and public outreach. Do we really follow our target groups? Do we regularly research the behaviour, interests and preferences of the individuals behind the demographic categories? Or do we just believe that we are following them when in fact we are “preaching to the converted” — the demographic group that is already intrinsically interested in science and actively scours the science sections of the national newspapers?

As science communicators, it is not only our social duty and moral obligation to communicate scientific results to laypeople, but it is also a necessity if we want society to approve continued funding for scientific research and also to inspire young people to become scientists. In today’s fast-changing world of the new media it is no longer sufficient to walk the safe and well-trodden path. We need to ensure that our organisations “follow the target groups” by following the latest social trends, by being present in pop culture, teaming up with commercial partners, and engaging in other activities that build a bridge between the often isolated scientific world and the “real world”. This article deals with these types of communication, here called unconventional or “outrageous” outreach.

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