12 September 2014

A communication and marketing campaign for research data storage

On 1 August this year, Griffith University launched its Research Storage Service. I don't want to focus too much on the service itself in this post: you'll get a good sense of what is on offer by checking out the information for users provided on the website.

Instead, I want to talk about the marketing and communications activities that are accompanying the launch of this service, as this has been a key part of my work as the change manager on this project. I was involved in a lot of other things in the lead-up to the launch - such as making sure that our helpdesk staff and discipline librarians were aware of the product and how they could support it - but now that the service is in production the focus is very much on getting our target audience of Griffith researchers (staff and Higher Degree by Research candidates) to start using it.

It's convenient (if a little simplistic) to think about these activities as bottom-up and top-down. Rather than split this into two posts I've decided to cover all the activities here, so this will be a much longer post than usual.


These activities are targeted directly at potential users of the service, with the goal being to get researchers using the service. Two other teams from within my division of Information Services (INS) - Communications and Media Services - have provided invaluable assistance to me in developing a campaign for the service that covers a range of print and digital channels.

One of the great things that our Communications and Marketing team provides is a page with information about each campaign that they have worked on. Using existing statistics they are able to come up with a general idea about how many people you can expect to reach through different channels (they call this "estimated impressions"). As it stands currently, this campaign's potential reach has been estimated by the Comms team as follows:

Online advertising for 10 wks (Library and INS websites)159,647
Digital signage1 for 10 wks229,710
Library twitter540,710
INSight newsletter21,842
INSider newsletter42,368
Here is a bit more detail about the work involved with these different channels.

1. Postcard

Postcards are used widely at Griffith to advertise Information Services products and services. Here is the front of the postcard for the Research Storage Service:

Postcard image. © Griffith University, 2014.

The process for creating this postcard had a few steps. Our INS Comms Manager Tara Anderson walked me through a range of commercial stock imagery until we found a concept that seemed to work. Tara modified the original image on the spot to accommodate my feedback; this included replacing a foreboding grey background colour with the bright aqua, and replacing some of the small icons hanging from the cloud with more research-oriented icons, like the graph.

I had to provide Tara with the text for the back of the postcard. I aimed to be concise and focus on the benefits to the researchers:

Back of the postcard. 

Note the QR code, which will take an interested researcher straight to the website on a mobile device.

2. Digital banner, digital signage and slideshow

Following the design of the postcard, Tara could quickly rework the imagery and text on the postcard to produce a digital banner, which is currently on rotation on the landing page for Information Services:

Screenshot of INS landing page showing the digital banner.

Again, the 'Find out more' link at the bottom of the digital banner directs interested researchers straight to the website.

Tara has also created a similar image that will be displayed as digital signage in libraries across the multiple campuses and possibly in the building that houses the Office for Research at the Nathan campus (we have yet to negotiate this with the Office for Research). The digital signage is in high demand for undergraduate-related notices and promotions during semester, so we are aiming to run our image during the mid-semester break at the end of September and possibly over the summer.

3. Newsletters and blogs

INS Comms has two regular electronic publications.

INSight is a monthly newsletter for Griffith general staff and academics that is connected to the INSight blog. The email newsletter and blog combined are seen by about 2,000 people a month. In August I submitted a story, New Research Storage Service now available, that provided details about the service along with a link. Coincidentally Griffith's new cloud hosting policy, which prohibits use of Dropbox and other third party storage solutions, was also featured in this issue; the two articles were linked so that the Research Storage Service was presented as a timely solution to people needing to switch to an institutional service to comply with the new policy.

INSider is a fortnightly newsletter for INS staff. One of the July issues included an article, Research Storage Service pilot - a success. As with INSight the newsletter is linked to a blog, and these jointly receive around 4,000 visits a month. Although INS staff are not the primary users of the service, many INS staff are directly or indirectly involved in supporting researchers so this is still a useful channel for promotion.

More news articles about the service will be added to both of the newsletters at appropriate times in future.

4. Social media

The service has not yet been promoted using the @GriffithLibrary Twitter account but this is planned. This Twitter account has more than 700 followers and receives regular retweets from other Griffith-related accounts.

5. Animated video 

In addition to the campaign planned with INS Comms, I was fortunate enough to work with our Media Services team on an animated video.

Our Media Services manager Eva Czaran provided me with guidance about the process to develop a video like this. Because we didn't have much time, Eva suggested that we stick with an animation, since recording interviews with people would require much more time for scheduling and editing. Animation would also enable us to have a video with a similar visual style to the other products like the postcard and digital banner.

The first step was to develop a script. It was surprisingly difficult to write a script small enough to fit into a 90-second video - my first effort was more than double the length that it needed to be! In the end, the script for the video reiterated similar messages to the postcard:
As a researcher, you want to know that your data is secure. You want access anytime, anywhere and you need to share data with collaborators - at Griffith, in Australia and overseas.  
Griffith’s Research Storage Service helps researchers store, share and synchronise the digital data generated during their research projects.  
Once you have an account, it’s easy to get instant access to extra storage space for a research project. Just fill in a few details! 
Invite your collaborators, including researchers from outside of Griffith, and share your project space with them. 
Access control is up to you. Give your collaborators full access by default, or set permissions to prevent others from editing, sharing and deleting.  
You can also download and install apps for synchronising your files across your desktop, laptop and mobile devices.  
Storing data overseas can breach Australia’s privacy legislation and University policy. With the Griffith Research Storage Service, you know that your data is stored on Griffith systems, not off-shore.  
To find out more about the Research Storage Service, visit the website:
Eva commissioned a freelance graphic designer (who has worked with Griffith previously) to create the animation, using the same commercially licensed artwork as a base. (I did not realise that these commercial images come in layers containing each part of the image such as the clouds and each dangling icon as a separate element. This means that they can be easily modified and re-used, providing that you have paid for the rights to do that.) Eva also arranged the professional voiceover, music and sound effects. There were several rounds of feedback on this, with minor changes made to some of the animation, including the addition of red highlights (the first version was largely white and blue). Although there was some discussion about changing wording in the script slightly, we decided against this as it would have led to additional time and cost if the voiceover needed to be re-recorded.

The video has been uploaded to YouTube to facilitate links via social media, and a higher quality version is also available in MP4 format for local presentations.

7. Library outreach

Library and Learning Services staff will be involved in promoting the storage service as part of their roles in supporting research. I have developed a 'communications toolkit' that contains all the information that a Discipline Librarian might need to understand the service and how to promote it. This includes:
  • a briefing paper describing why the service was developed, what its benefits are from the researcher's perspective, and how the product is supported
  • an overview of questions that might get asked of the librarians and how they can be answered
  • a one-page table showing the attributes of multiple storage options available to researchers at Griffith, so that librarians understand how this service fits with other offerings and when this service might not be the best option
  • copies of the FAQs and user manual from the site
  • a slideshow that could be used for an information session with a school or research team, and
  • the video.
Feedback on this toolkit has been really positive. 


Top-down communications on a project like this should do two things:
  1. Ensure that senior research leaders in the university are aware that the new product is now available and how it fits with the University's strategies, and 
  2. Seek their assistance in promoting the service to researchers in their area. (I am not sure that we always do this! Remember that these people have far more sway over researchers than we do, so why not be direct in asking them for help?)
Key senior stakeholders identified during communications planning included:
  • Deputy Vice Chancellor Research 
  • Pro-Vice Chancellor, Information Services and Chief Technology Officer
  • University Executive
  • Research Committee 
  • Deans and Group Boards (Griffith has four Academic Groups: Arts, Education and Law, Business, Health and Sciences. These are often called faculties at other organisations.)
  • Centre and Institute Directors (The primary way in which research is organised at Griffith is through more than thirty centres and institutes.)
  • Heads of School
  • Board of Graduate Research
The kinds of messages that we want to get across to senior research leaders are that the new Research Storage Service:
  • contributes to the University's Research Strategy 
  • reduces risk
  • improves compliance (with various things including the Australian Code for Responsible Conduct of Research and privacy legislation, as well as Griffith's own best practice guidelines for research data management and newly released Cloud Hosting Policy), and 
  • helps meet funding agency and scholarly publisher data requirements.
Clearly these are quite different messages to those included in the bottom-up marketing campaign, which is all about benefits to the individual researcher. 

The program of activities for communicating with these stakeholders includes:
  • briefing the PVC INS by email
  • providing a demo and briefing for the CTO
  • briefing the DVC Research: this was done by the PVC INS, who contacted him via email to forward the briefing notes supplied to her.
  • Research Committee: the PVC INS will speak verbally to the topic, play the video and distribute postcards.
  • Deans and Group Boards: the four Library Services Managers will promote the service through whatever means appropriate, as each Group Board operates differently. Some receive a written report from INS, while others may include a presentation in one of their regular meetings. 
It may be difficult to capture all the relevant senior people through meetings alone, and one of the Library Services Managers asked for a template email that can be sent out to key people. This is part of the communications toolkit mentioned above and reads:
Dear [insert name here]

Information Services (INS) is seeking your assistance in promoting a new service to research staff and Higher Degree by Research candidates in [insert name of Group, Centre, Institute or School here].

The Research Storage Service - http://research-storage.griffith.edu.au/) - enables Griffith researchers to securely store the digital data and related documentation that they generate in the course of their research projects and to easily share with their collaborators at Griffith and elsewhere. The university is offering this service specifically to help researchers fulfil the requirements of the Australian Code for Responsible Conduct of Research and to ensure that researchers can comply with Griffith's Best Practice Guidelines for Researchers: Managing Research Data and Primary Materials and the new Cloud Hosting Policy.

It would be greatly appreciated if you could bring this new service to the attention of your colleagues and HDR candidates by directing people to the Research Storage Service website: http://research-storage.griffith.edu.au/. The website contains all the information needed to set up an account and get started with storing research data on the service; extensive FAQs and a user manual cover all common tasks. The website also contains information about how to contact INS for advice about alternative storage solutions for researchers with more specialised needs (e.g. very large data, a need to integrate storage with instrumentation or high performance computing, or higher-than-usual security requirements).

If you would like to include an item about the new service in any relevant meetings, a short video promoting the service is available on YouTube: http://youtu.be/J_krN4Pcfjs. Postcards for the service are available through your Discipline Librarian [insert name of librarian here] and an INS staff member can also provide a short presentation on request.
Note that the email starts with the request for assistance, rather than the information about the service. The email mentions specific actions that the recipient could take such as directing staff and HDR students to the website and adding research storage to the agenda of a meeting in their area.


A communication and marketing campaign for a research storage service can be complex and time-consuming. Having a 0.5 FTE change manager on this project has meant that a planned approach could be taken; communication has been seen as essential to the success of the project, not just an afterthought to the technical work involved. The availability of in-house communications and media specialists has helped with the production of professional and engaging print and digital products for promoting the service directly and supporting the face-to-face work of the discipline librarians.

While the impact of these activities remains to be seen, the project team hope that the effort expended will lead to a quicker uptake of the solution by the researchers it has been designed for, which will contribute to Griffith's overall goal to improve research data management across the organisation.