Marketing and Brand Development for Science Communication – A conversation with Jo Cowper

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Jo Cowper is the founder of  Six Degrees East, a company she founded out of her passion to help business owners build stronger, more unique and more resilient brands that unlock growth for their businesses. She shares her views on how marketing and branding strategies can help in science communication.

To see all episodes, please go to our CONVERSATIONS page.

Personal profiles


Twitter: jocowper

Linkedin: /in/jo-cowper-communications/

Jo works with start-ups and SMEs, empowering them to make better decisions that are informed by a clear understanding of their external environment, and their own unique strengths. From advice and insight to hands-on communications support, she helps businesses to find clarity; develop stronger communications and connect more effectively with more of the right customers.

Which researcher – dead or alive – do you find inspiring? Bernard O’Donoghue – supervisor for my Masters’ dissertation 🙂

What is your favorite animal and why? – Horse! Beauty, power, noble – and fun!

Name your (current) favorite song and interpret/group: – 

Vampire Weekend at the moment – anything from Father of the Bride

What is your favorite dish/meal? – Pizza! Or in fact pretty much anything cooked in Italy 🙂

Jo at a training session


Jo: Jo Cowper, very warm welcome to our show here at Access 2 Perspectives Conversations. Jo Cowper: Thank you, Jo. Happy to be here.

Jo:  Hello everyone. Please meet Jo. Another Jo. So we have a Jo guest and a Jo host today in the show. Yeah, that’s enough of the jokes on that for today. But it’s a great pleasure because you are a consultant and advisor coach for mostly if I got it right for entrepreneurs and female entrepreneurs to market themselves.

Jo Cowper: Yes, maybe business owners, not necessarily female, but owners of startups, of small and growing businesses, of business owners who really want to be able to present themselves in a way that feels authentic and unique. 

Jo: Great. And then those of you who have listened to our podcast show for a while, you might wonder, so what has that to do with research now? And just to introduce the marketing aspects of research, some of you might be more aware than others. Any researcher has to market our research topics and also build a reputation as a research and expert in our field. And I’ve been lucky to have experience working not only within academia, but also in the entrepreneurial world and also with the kind of work I’m doing today. And as a researcher, I was scared of terms like marketing and sales. And it feels dodgy and trying to trick people into buying something they don’t really need. At the end of the day, it’s really about making services accessible to the clients or to the stakeholders in the research context. So Jo, would you mind maybe or would you like to share some of your journey of what brought you into marketing? Like, what kind of milestones did you pass which brought you to the position that you’re not holding in supporting business owners to market themselves? And what’s your approach to this? 

Jo Cowper: Absolutely. Okay, so first of all, I can absolutely understand how the research world may not love the term marketing. I don’t love the term marketing. I kind of try to avoid it because it’s not really how I see the things I do. I see it as communication. And I think the difference is, yes, it might sound like playing with words like jargon, but actually communication, it’s a dialogue between you and somebody who’s interested in the thing that you could offer, that you could do for them. It’s not marketing, which of course has all those conversations that you’re trying to sell them a thing that they perhaps didn’t want. You’re going to make special offers that are going to be cut in price. It’s going to be discounted. It’s not that. It’s just the act of raising awareness, of creating understanding of options that may be of interest to people. But to go back to answer your question, Jo, how did I get to be here? Well, my journey also started in academia, in a small way, I guess, in that I’m an English Literature graduate. And like, I’m going to generalize, like every English literature graduate, the only career I want is with books. I’m going to go into publishing. And so after university, I moved to London with a view to getting a job and publishing. And it’s not renowned for being the most highly paid profession. It’s kind of something that you have to do for the love of it. You have to work for free in the beginning, all of these sorts of things. So I ended up getting an internship free and unpaid role rather, with McMillan in their marketing and publicity department. So I was delighted, but also disappointed. I don’t want to be in marketing and publicity. I want to be an editor. I want to be a real editor. But once I got into the marketing and publicity department, I realized that actually the opportunity to work creatively and to interpret, in fact, to use some of the skills I’d learned through my English Literature degree to interpret what is within the book, what will people want to know about it? What is the big message was almost greater, certainly at a junior level in marketing publicity, as it would have been editorial. Anyway, that came to an end. I continued to look for marketing jobs and publishing, and then, as there were none, why did I search for marketing jobs altogether? It ended up finding a direct marketing job in a conference company in London, which was kind of the closest thing that marketing can be, I think, to like, a canning factory. There is just this process, you know, you do this, you get the next project, you do the same thing. Get the next project, you do the same thing. And so I went back to Plan A, started looking again for work in publishing. And I was lucky to get a great role with a really vibrant small publishing company where I could really learn and grow and build a bit of a marketing department, being involved in all aspects of the business. And it was there where I first learned about the idea of a brand. And I went to a fantastic training workshop with a guy whose name I think he was Mike, but Mike who I don’t know. Otherwise I’d give him the credit. And he had this great analogy. So he was talking about it was around the time when Volkswagen had taken over Skoda, before the time that Volkswagen took over Skoda. Skoda was divided. It was a terrible car. Nobody wanted to drive a Skoda. And then suddenly skoda’s are great. They said, What changed was it just the body work? Was it the marketing? No, it was the engine. They put a Volkswagen engine into the scota and suddenly it’s a good car. And it’s the very same thing. The relationship, I think, between brand and marketing. And so good marketing communicates the essence of the brand, the engine, the thing that powers it. So since then, I’ve kind of dedicated my career, really, to trying to help people find and correctly identify that engine and then to communicate it to other people in order that the people they’re connecting with aren’t poor individuals who have been forced to buy a thing they didn’t want, but the people who think, yes, I want exactly that thing that’s inside, give it to me. That kind of transformed my vision of marketing and what it’s all about. 

Jo: Oh, okay. Yeah. For me, it was also like to understand the term marketing for what it’s meant to communicate in itself. So when you say the heart of somebody’s services or when it’s not a Volkswagen engine, but the surroundings would still be skoda. So how does it translate now to your clients, to a business owner? Does it mean, like, is it another appearance versus in a value or rather finding a way to package the services in a way to identify what the client really needs and wants and finding the right narrative for the business owner to meet the demand in the market, basically. And what’s the transition? Okay, maybe this is physically asking for your USB, but what’s the transitional effort that clients achieve by working with you in better understanding their own products? 

Jo Cowper: Sure. Okay, well, first of all, the people who I really love working with are people who believe they’re offering something that is good. They believe they’re doing something that will make a difference, that is purposeful, that in some way improves what their clients could otherwise access. It’s a good option. 

Jo: I think that would probably be true for most of not all business owners until they’re being forced into making more and more profit just for whatever reasons. And there’s a parallel academic work that we can get to that. 

Jo Cowper: Absolutely. I think there should be a parallel there with academic work because it’s creating a thing that you believe is purposeful and valuable. But it can be very difficult almost in a kind of direct proportion. The more that you are doing the thing for what feels like what’s the word? Like almost a philanthropic reason you’re doing the thing for the greater good, it can feel more and more difficult to apply an old fashioned concept of marketing to that thing that you’re doing because it feels uncomfortable, the things don’t match. You know, I’m doing something for good that’s going to help people or that’s going to progress academic thinking in the case of research or it’s going to advance science. So I don’t want to be selling that thing. I want people to come and to want it for the right reasons. I want people to appreciate the value of the thing. And so this is effectively how I help people. I help people to translate their own understanding of the value of that thing into terms that the people they’re talking to can understand. And so that requires generally, there are three big parts to this. First of all, being really clear in yourself about what it is that you most want to achieve. And that can be quite hard to know at times as well. It can be quite hard to piece this out, because when you’re in the depth of the doing and get dragged in all sorts of different directions, you can end up thinking, I serve dozens of different people. I’m doing this for lots of different reasons. And so it can be quite hard to just find a space of calm and think, actually, what is fulfilling to me, for me, what is the importance of this thing? This is the first base because these are your fundamental beliefs, the things that keep you going and doing the thing that you’re going to do, and that keep you coming back every day and being enthused about it. Then there’s understanding, okay, who is it for? And so really getting yourself into the head and the mindset of the person that you would wish to engage with your thing. And so trying to think, well, what’s it like in their lives. Because nine times out of ten, your prospective customer or stakeholder in the case of academia isn’t sitting in their home thinking, gosh, I really wish I could get such and such a thing. Or they’re not just waiting for you to turn up and offer them a thing. They’re dealing with a different problem. And so what’s super important is to think, well, what is it like in the mindset of that person? What problem are they trying to solve? And what is preventing them from engaging with me? Is it that they’re already engaging with somebody else? Is it that they don’t fully understand what I do or how I could help them? Is it that they don’t fully understand their own problem and they need some more education around that first? What actually is it? Is it that the thing is too expensive? What is the barrier? And so the more closely you can understand the problem, you can solve for them and the barriers that prevent them from engaging with you, that will help you to match up, let’s say, to break down the barriers between what you wanted to achieve and what they were doing in their regular life. Now, the third part, the big third piece, is what else is out there? So in some sectors, you would call this competition. In the academic world, I can appreciate it. It’s not yes, I suppose it is competition. Even if there is collaboration. 

Jo: Ideally collaboration is often seen or lived as competition unfortunately depends.

Jo Cowper:  The things that the person who you would like to engage with you could engage with instead rather than as well. But instead understanding what are those other options and how do they look to the potential stakeholder in order that you can see like. Well. Everybody out there is proposing points A-B-C and D. But nobody is talking about XYZ. Which is also important to me. So if I talk about XYZ, I’m going to be different, I’m going to be relevant and I’m solving my stakeholders’ problems. And so these kinds of three pieces are the critical basis, I suppose, from which I would then look to develop a person or a business unique brand, their unique proposition that makes them different in a way that’s relevant. 

Jo: Yeah. And again, but there’s proof of concept that researchers need to gain and develop the skills, the marketing skills or communication skills. There’s a term like science communication, which is everything and everything like nothing, which encompasses communicating with other researchers, with citizens, with stakeholders. So that’s highly confusing and a whole lot of work. But if it’s being looked at through those three categories or stepping stones that you just outlined. It’s really a matter of just getting clear on what our research topic is. Who’s on the team? Who benefits from what we’re working on with the stakeholders. And then finding a way to communicate that on a website. On a departmental presence online and hopefully also by the team to engage in communication through social media for the reason of getting out there and possibly and also there’s proof of concept for that. By doing that, there’s a lot of opportunity to gain insights for research, to collect feedback before research articles are being published that might take months and years and often exceed the duration of a PhD program. Yeah, so there’s a lot by your summarizing in these three steps, it’s really the essence of what science communication can and should be all about and how proven marketing strategies can serve as researchers in gaining clarity about the research scope and finding ways to engage with the stakeholders. 

Jo Cowper: Yeah. I think it can also be important to think in terms of in the same way that with a business. Every business owner found a kind of face of choice where you can think either the brand is mainly me and I’m going to lend some of that brand to my business to make my business thrive. Or you’re thinking I’m going to build a business brand and I’m going to make myself a little part of that. And I guess the same thing applies with research, that either I am going to be the brand, people are going to be interested in my research because it is mine, or this research topic is bigger than me, I’m going to really build this research topic and I’m going to make myself a cog in that bigger wheel. And it’s a choice that depends on what you’re doing and what your ultimate ambition is, on your personality, on your worldview. Effectively there’s not a right and wrong choice but it’s a useful choice to make because otherwise you can end up in a lot of confusion. And I think one of the difficulties that can also come about as the optimist business owners activity, it would also apply to researchers is that if you do see yourself as more of an introverted type of person it’s not comfortable to accept that you are the brand. And yet sometimes it can be true. And so in that case, it can be helpful to think about well to go back to that post first book about earlier and think about what is your purpose in getting the thing out there. Because when you are a brand that doesn’t mean that you have to become a kind of classic celebrity and publish every part of your life. It means you are selecting the values that are critical to you in your professional capacity, that are the things that are going to become the basis for your personal brand. And by all means you can still keep your personal self to yourself as privately as you like. It’s just separating out which part of your personality is your personal brand or which part of your being is your personal brand and which part is just you privately being yourself doing what you do. 

Jo: It’s interesting that you mentioned values because they are intrinsic to what’s known as the open science movement. Some people call it, some people deny the term movement because anyway so there’s certainly a trend towards open science which basically in my understanding interpretation is just coming back to terms with good scientific practices in place for us and it’s very much virtues and values driven. And what we think can also be seen in the entrepreneurial world, in the business world and industry is that more and more companies and corporations are redefining their activities and products around values which as we said earlier should be the starting point for any business really to embrace. But I think there’s a hunger in the western societies to return to values and purpose driven product design and solving the issues that we all face and back to community instead of unlimited growth for the sake of it. As much as this might sound cheesy and idealistic but then again to me it’s really the foundation of any activity as a researcher or an entrepreneur or business owner. So from your experience with the clients that you work with, would they always mention their values as sometimes experience that as a hindrance to be able to function as a business owner out there or with a need and desire to be able to incorporate their values better? Because it’s part of what I think I heard from what you just said. But if we could just leverage a little bit more about what role does personal values play into designing products and a business for small business owners?

Jo Cowper:  I think I’ve never known a setting where somebody’s values would impede them from going out there with their business. I think they’re pretty much always the foundation that you can build from because you’ve certainly got your personality in the sense that if you see yourself as being somebody who doesn’t really like to speak up, that can be quite difficult. But that’s where it can be very helpful to go back to your values and think, well, I believe in helping people in this particular way. I believe in, I don’t know, in partnership and transparent communication. I believe in innovation. I believe in whatever. These are the values that guide you and that it’s therefore useful to share as part of your communications in order to attract other people who share the same values. So that when you do work with them, you’re going to have a more satisfactory working relationship because you’re coming at it from the same base, from the same expectation of what’s important. And so I wouldn’t necessarily say that you don’t necessarily need to go out there and say, these are my five values. Your five values, or your six values, whatever the values that kind of guide your business. And I tend to find that you tend to be five or six guiding values in a business. That’s sort of quite typical. These are the things that influence the way that you behave. And so what I would say is that choosing or identifying your values isn’t just a question of taking stuff out of the air. I like the sound of being a venture. I like the sound of being innovative. Whenever somebody names a value that they say they have in their business, my first kind of response is to challenge them to evidence it and say, okay, adventure is important to you. Show me, how does that come across your business? How can I see that in your business? And if I can’t see that in your business, you need to change the way you’re doing your business or you need to think again about what are the values that drive your business. And so it has to be stuff that we can see that are guiding you. If you say listening is a value, then how do you show that you are more listening than average, that you are making a bigger effort than just the ordinary man in the street? So I think it’s important. These are things that define the way that you live as a business.

Jo: Yeah, this brand is said also. I just wanted to clarify. I think we all often unknowingly set out with firm values to start a business or to embrace a research topic. And then like in academia, what I’ve observed in myself, being a PhD student, is that our values are often compromised for the system that we find ourselves in. I mean as business owners we actually have the power to design a working environment but then there’s, I think one of the factors, time and energy capacity of mindset which might impede them with our values and also what you just said. I’ve also only ten years into being on the market identified the values that really work with me and that I brought to life over the years because now I have the proof of concept and these are not just empty terms but I can actually prove that these are the values that I live and work by. Which have my activities and my services and also have a return of outcome for the people that I work with.

Would you agree that it’s often not easy to name the specific values that are important to us other than I mean we can easily buy into things like transparency. Collaboration. These are all fancy and nice and easy words to comply with but then in practice. Other things to work through and often painful and I think many of these works in action demand a very high level of empathy. Of humbleness. Of stepping back and then trying to approach again. So I think there’s a reason for them being coined values because they’re not as easy to live as they are to be named.

Jo Cowper:  And I think it’s important to be honest in your choice of the values that you choose for your business. So two things firstly. You say it’s taken ten years to get to hear about exactly your values and to really own them and I think that’s very. Very normal and to be honest. That’s kind of often where my services help because an outsider can often see more clearly you’re doing this. This and this. You’re not doing this. This and this. You’re coming across in this way and help to find a greater amount of clarity than is easy to find when you’re trying to be introspective and looking into your own head. You can be as self aware as you like but it’s often quite hard to find that rigor when you’re looking at yourself. I think the other thing is that yes. Exactly as you say. Sometimes it is very desirable to choose a certain value and an example of this is somebody I was working with lately who had sustainability as one of their values because it was important to that person but in fact in the way they were able to run their business at that particular time. In terms of the sourcing agreement arrangements they’re able to afford. In terms of the scenarios they’re able to work within it wasn’t really it couldn’t really be more sustainable than the next person. You know. And so it’s perhaps a value to aspire to but it wasn’t perhaps a value that they could build on very solidly it was perhaps more important to that point to identify other values that they were genuinely able to live right there and then and say that this is an aspiration for us of course we’re motivated. Perhaps we’re forward looking. Perhaps we’re innovating all of the things that will lead towards that commitment to sustainability which at the moment was economically just not really affordable through no fault of theirs; it’s a business phase.

Jo:  Yeah and acknowledge also that sustainability is urgent for all of us to rise and live as soon as possible. We’re not already there but as you said to name the value of being honest about it we’re not there yet but we’re very much trying really hard to get there and if you have any idea how we can do better. At least let us know to be just open. Vulnerable and transparent about what values are actually important to you just don’t see how you can cooperate and implement them right now.

Jo Cowper:  Yeah I mean in that instance your value perhaps would be that you are the idea of an open dialogue or the idea of always improving these could be the values that you’re living in right in that very moment.

Jo: And maybe also listing the little things that are already in place like buying petrol organic coffee for the office and sharing that with the customers even though it’s highly unrelated to the extra services that are on offer but they are part of the package because of the values that carry the business as a whole.

Jo Cowper:  It’s making choices. Isn’t it? That makes your values more true, it’s just doing what you can.

Jo: And also I think the way we look at businesses nowadays is not only seeing the product but what philosophy does the company or the entity communicators of all what other companies does it affiliate itself with? Is often part of an ecosystem which we want to also be able to relate to our customers.

Jo Cowper:  Absolutely and that’s where I see the brand as being so important because I think if you try to differentiate on product you’ve really only got two choices I suppose you’ve got three you can be the most expensive. You can be the cheapest or you can be the absolute best and all of these are pretty unsustainable because they’re good to find the absolute best on what basis? How is the cheapest? Well, it’s a pretty dangerous position, the most expensive? Again, there aren’t so many absolutes that you can position on in terms of literally what you’ve got it really has to be if that’s all it’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it it’s how you deliver that thing that is going to be the differentiation that’s why people are going to choose you. I often think of the example of Zero and QuickBooks because they’re both accounting softwares they’re pretty much as far as I know I’m no expert but I don’t really see there’s much difference in what you can do with the two there’s not a huge difference in pricing one of them looks very accountantlyish and the other one looks very kind of entrepreneurialish and basically align yourself really based on how it feels I think to a large extent how do you see yourself? Accountancy is absolutely a horror for me so I go with zero because they say I don’t need to think about accountancy at all. Amazing. 

Jo: And I think there is again a lot of Paris, if not the same in academia because there’s not one researcher who’s being successful on his or her own terms. There’s not only a league of preceding research that has happened before which the research is being based on but also colleagues. Students. Technicians. Like a whole again league of personnel that contributes to the success of the research project and that’s usually embedded in an infrastructure with the institution where the research is taking place provided also by manufacturers who provide the equipment for the research experimentation to be successful because they hopefully function to a much enough degree.

And then also the question is when it comes to open science we talk about a range of principles and pillars within open science which also includes open hardware and software. So the tools that we use as researchers to come up with the results and not only conceptualization and access to knowledge and access to contribution to knowledge. So it’s really holistic, similar to the entrepreneurial and business world. So there aren’t so many differences. It’s just a different language and different terminology and often there’s also bridges in between the entrepreneur and the research world especially when it comes to applied research. But also with basic research where I have my roots in I did a PhD in evolution and development biology where I always try to myself or basic researchers often say well. We don’t know what our purpose is to acquire knowledge and to learn what nature provides and that’s beautiful and exciting enough but also basic research often enough leads towards the research and then implementation of societies. We just don’t have that in the picture from the get go. I would like to unless you want to share any other comments on what we’ve talked about henceforth? 

Jo Cowper: No, that’s great, thank you. It’s good. 

Jo: I would like for us to shift a little bit because now you’ve moved from England to France, probably with other countries in between you can share with us, totally up to you, but that’s how life happens. Where I would like to draw the conversation is how does the French language come into your profession or like you shared before, that as much as you are influenced in French, you abstain from training or coaching in French just because and this is what I would like to hear from you. 

Jo Cowper: Sure, of course. So yes, I live in France now and yes, I’m Anglophone and my French is perfectly functional. I can do everything that I need to do, I can have conversations, I can live in French. That’s fine. But my work, I suppose, and even there’s a bit of a distinction I’ll make in a minute. But a lot of what I do is really helping people to express what they do and why they do it in a way that feels perfectly right. And so to understand the right words, the right tone, the right character, to express the thing that really resonates with them, that feels, yes, that’s right. That’s me. That’s exactly how I feel. And as a nonnative French speaker, I don’t believe I have any, probably will ever have that degree of facility in the French language to really catch that absolutely correctly. But the bigger thing and sorry, I do work with some French businesses or with businesses that have French clients, but typically I work with businesses that have Anglophone clients as well. Because the thing that really strikes me living in France is there are significant cultural differences. I mean, there are significant similarities. Of course we can all get along, we can all be friends, we can share interest, all sorts of things. But the general approach to communication, the expectation of a relationship you might have with a brand, the whole cultural background of how it is to have grown up in a different country, it’s just not the same. You know, to have that depth of empathy and understanding of what your customer is experiencing? What are they living through right now? By all means, I could happily coach a French business owner to do the right analysis, to think about it in the correct way, to put together three elements: what do I want, what my customers want, what the competitors are competitively stuck to. But I don’t inherently have that essence of how it feels in a different culture. And so that’s something that I’m really, really conscious of. That the way that marketing works, the way that communications work, the way that brands work, is not the same internationally. And so certainly one experience I had was working for a business that was kind of bilingual across French and English, and it was originally French, and so a lot of the marketing was French translated to English, and it was translated perfectly correctly, but the concept just didn’t make sense. There were not things that you could really say so close, but they were not. And I’m conscious if I was to do it that way around, I’m very likely to have exactly the same button happening. 

Jo: Absolutely. And we’ve had a few discussions on the show also with, for example, Avi Staiman, who runs a firm that facilitates editorial processes, including translation, explicitly because what you just said, like, you can, of course, translate facts and workflows and processes from one language to the other, where the researchers are still human beings. And the way knowledge is being communicated in writing as well is embedded in phrases that are native to the language of the narrator, which also then I think I’m getting better in understanding, capsules in and naming what I’m like. The tension that I feel is there when researchers have to translate their research into English in most cases. Okay, now that’s my strain. But basically what I was trying to say is there’s a lot of information and information being and how the knowledge sharing is being embedded into phrases that are native to the respective language and then being translated into another language or English in particular. As you said, it just doesn’t make sense. And then the editors or whoever is there to basically iron out to make the English better is then tasked with having to understand what the authors were meant to say. And that’s often not possible because there’s just too many gaps in between.

One of my answers that translates from Russian to German for pros. So not scholarly works from her. I just know that how lyric and pros was often put into words carries so much cultural context and understanding and upbringing and being familiar with phrases and terminology even within a country particular regions, which makes it like a huge task for a translator to be able to even comprehend themselves, let alone them to translate into the other language. 

Jo Cowper: I think it’s right. There’s a loss of tone and nuance or there’s a risk of the loss of tone and nuance or a changing of the tone. That’s absolutely possible, I often think, because my academic background was in English literature and a lot of my focus was on studying the poetry of Seamus Heaney who did a translation of Beowulf, a very fantastic translation of this old north legend. And he really brings a tone to it, which is fascinating because it completely influences your reading of the story. But to what extent is that translation? Well, I mean, to a large extent, that translation is a work of art in itself. To what extent is it a representation of the original? Well, I don’t know because I don’t read or north or whatever, but it’s a fantastic piece of work. It’s an interpretation. It’s not a copy. It’s not something you could do with Google Translate or Depot. It’s work. It’s very interesting. 

Jo: Yeah. And I think that’s exactly what it comes down to. Also, for scholarly works being translated, it’s always an interpretation only, nothing more and nothing less as well, because that’s quite an achievement in itself. Same with peer review when it comes to what is the assessment or that’s one way to look at peer review. But really colleague feedback on research funding is just that other researcher’s interpretation of how they see their colleagues work and what advice they might give to make it more coherent or to rectify whatever they see as mistakes in the project design. So again, it’s just about interpretation. Same for the researcher. It’s just about the means that we have the equipment and the knowledge that we bring to the table and experience from what we already know about the subject, we then come with our own ways to interpret what we see as results and embedded into what we’ve already known and what other colleagues might think and say about it. So I think that’s really important for researchers to keep in mind where society expects us to provide facts. But if we now kind of summarize what we just said, there’s no such thing as fact. There’s always a level of interpretation. I believe we can only get so close to actual facts with the means that we have to observe nature or whatever objects and subjects, but to keep the harmony or to keep the idea of leaving room for other people’s interpretation. Yeah. So I’m just wondering. Do you know in retrospective Paris in the business world when it comes to providing services. And maybe this is a bit too meta for a conversation topic. But I just find it really interesting. Like. If we look at Paris between academia and the business world. As much as businesses are also there to fill gaps. To solve problems. To serve society. I think the approach is really similar. It’s just a different culture where the work is being done. 

Jo Cowper: Yeah. I think the analogy that you just made there. It’s a quite perfect expression of the role of brand and communications. To be honest, Because there is the fact that the thing that is being delivered and then how it is understood that the job of the brand is to try and bridge the gap as closely as possible between what the thing actually is and what it feels like to you. The provider of the thing. And effectively to try and ensure that everybody is out there. When they see it. Is going to come as close as possible to understanding the thing that you hoped that they would understand. Rather than just the vague or the looser brands, the more chance there is that each of a dozen people are going to come up with a different interpretation of what actually it isn’t, what it’s all about. And so the purpose of the brand is being really focused is to try and put everything in place visually, verbally, in terms of character, in essence, so that you do the best possible job you can to make sure that it’s being received in the same way wherever it turns up. And of course, yes, it’s always going to be an active interpretation. Of course it is. But the purpose of the brand is to try and guide that interpretation in order that it’s consistent in order, and that it’s relevant, that it resonates with the right people and, you know, shows the people who perhaps were not your ideal audience that actually their perfect option is perhaps a different one. 

Jo: Exactly. And I think that very much so is also why I invited you to this podcast, because I think what we’re trying to achieve is whatever science, communication or marketing or you give it whatever term you want listener, but by following proven techniques and strategies that were established over decades in the business world are well applied also for research purposes or in academia and often lacking. Or there’s room for better coaching in how researchers can and research departments can position themselves in their research projects to analyze exactly going to the three elements you mentioned in the beginning to do a purpose stakeholder analysis to understand what the purpose of the research project as a whole is, to get every participants or researchers who cooperate on the project. Everybody’s buying this is what we all believe in and where we want to collect the results and then contribute to the best of our capacities to make this a success, to serve whatever they’ve identified. 

Jo Cowper: Yes, it gives people something to get on board with, whether it’s your internal stakeholders or your external stakeholders. The best way to assure the success of your project that it will obtain you that the best, the best collaborations, the best partners, the best funding is to be able to communicate it in a way that’s clear and energizing, that shows people that if they participate in this, they’ll be participating in something worth believing in, I guess is the key. And so it can be easy to kind of dismiss the idea of marketing or communications as being all about vanity and shouting out there on Sunday. I’m just in the middle of writing about a bit today actually. In fact, the most useful mindset shift to make on this is that you are helping people, you are helping people to find the thing they want to engage with. And so you’re helping your stakeholders, your collaborators to understand or to believe in the purpose of what they’re doing. Everybody wants to work on something that’s purposeful. And you’re helping your potential founders, your potential, I don’t know, your external stakeholders to understand again that this is a choice that they can really feel good about, they can get enthusiastic about and without the knowledge, without the proper understanding of what you were trying to achieve with the thing, what the purpose of the thing is, they have no basis to make that decision. 

Jo: Sure. And that also brings a lot of joy back to the table for everybody to partake in and then intrinsic motivation to get out of bed for everyone every morning of the week. Wow, okay, so I think it’s a great closing remark having heard that from you. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Let’s end this with the remark we just made, but also how people can find you. We will place your website, your communication channels in the show notes and the related blog post to this episode. Are there any upcoming programs where people can sign up for any access point? Would you be willing to work with research departments in the first place? Would this be interesting? 

Jo Cowper: Absolutely. I’d be delighted to help anybody who wants to get clearer about what they actually want to communicate in order to make a bigger difference. I’d be delighted with what people expect from that kind of work. So the best at the moment, I work a lot with people on a kind of one to one basis. Starting from January, I will also have a kind of guided program in order that you can find your own clarity through a six step process. And so if that’s something that interests you then by all means do just get in touch. And on my website there is the opportunity to do a quiz, a brand quiz where you answer ten questions and it helps you identify the first three steps that you need to take to find greater clarity. That is very much designed with a business setting in mind. But as I think about it now, it is equally applicable and the terminology may not apply, but the concept that would apply to an academic setting. And so by all means, if that’s something you’d like to see your first three action points to take, then please do fill it in and I will send you back a set of recommendations. Please. There you go. But thank you so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure. I really enjoyed that conversation.

Jo: Thank you so much and please probably see you soon again here or in another room. Thanks Jo.