Making (and seeing) innovation work

Rethinking communication in the era of information overload

Thousands of innovative ideas are developed and put into practice in Europe each year – everything from precision surgery tools to ingenious service concepts. But only a handful become as widely known as the great inventions of our time – like the combustion engine, digital camera, or mobile telephone. There’s a good reason for this – at least according to Anna Falduto, head of the Steinbeis Transfer Center IKU - Seminars for Innovation, Communication and Companies: the more new inventions, the more skeptical consumers and the media become. Of course – who wouldn’t want to call themselves a critical consumer?

Given the situation, companies which develop innovative new products, technologies, and services need to prove in a credible manner that their inventions really are, well, inventive. PR experts have spotted a niche here – developing inventive marketing concepts of their own to solve the problem. Their aim is clear: to make innovations understandable, so company stakeholders can see what the invention means to them – recognizing personal benefits and opportunities, whatever their background.

Instead of advertising to the emotions, Innovation PR focuses on convincing stakeholders in practical terms, taking their skepticism over empty promises very seriously indeed. You can’t just claim something is a new invention – you have to prove it. In a way that’s understandable and credible – whatever world the target group lives in. Engineers, developers, marketers, company spokespeople, journalists, presenters, customers, and consumers – all living in vastly different worlds which need to be integrated into communications. They need to understand each other.

You always have to tread carefully with the mass media: company spokespeople should be included in the innovation and development process at an early stage. This helps them understand exactly what needs to be communicated. Sadly, this is far from standard practice in many companies. But the benefits are obvious: clear, factual information material can be compiled, and journalistic queries can be answered directly and knowledgably by the firm’s own communications team. Not only does this improve information flows – journalists will be happy to come back to the company again. Good communication speaks for itself.

All journalists appreciate reliable contacts. The key? Clear, understandable press releases and communications – tailored to the target group. Print, radio, and online journalists need to be approached exactly the right way, with information on relevant topics in an appropriate style. Professional writing, tailored to the reader, coupled with a perfect choice of pictures and captions. By doing this, companies can save journalists a lot of work – an important step in seeing things eye to eye.

The same applies to the internet. An informative press section, vivid image trailers and product sequences, moderated blogs – key tools that allow companies to demonstrate just how good they are at communicating. All backed up with professional corporate publications and innovation presentations.

One thing is crucial: whatever PR methods companies adopt, they must be part of an integrated communications strategy. Because when innovations work, not only does this trickle down to the bottom line, it’s reflected throughout the town where the company is based – acting as a standard bearer for the entire economic area.

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