ETRO – Department of Engineering in ICT & Electronics at VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussels)

Setting

As early as 1975, advisory bodies urged the Belgian governments to improve the image of engineering to deal with declining student numbers. Due to the rapid evolution in technology, and the competition for math-whizzes by management and business schools, in 2020 the demand for engineers in ICT & electronics is skyrocketing and educational instances fail to find qualified students. While global large scale STEM-initatives are now hasting to fill economic gaps by attracting international students, and warming women for STEM, the global war on talent is fierce, and small departments have a hard time keeping up.

ETRO – engineering department in ICT & Electronics – has talented people, lots of stories, but a technical mindset, an academic way of communicating complex topics, and many of them no experience, or even a distrust in storytelling (read ‘marcom’).

How to increase student numbers? And how to translate these topics into compelling science stories for broader audiences? How to warm an academic audience to storytelling (and marcom)?

Challenge

Improving the image of engineering in the general public and future students, engaging a technical and academic audience with storytelling and marcom, and boosting student numbers.

Scope

  • Market Research
  • Auditing & Strategy
  • Cocreation
  • Content Creation
  • Branding
  • Prototyping & Web Design

Time

  • February 2018 – now.

Our approach: repositioning ETRO & engaging the entire department to participate in science communication

Exploring the playfield: current and wanted position

The project started by doing market research: a competitor and target audience analysis gave us insight in the playfield, our target audiences and their desires, and competitor-communication that works.

Through brainstorming and cocreation sessions with professors, PhDs and often with Levuur (experts in participation), we investigated ETRO’s identity and story.

The result: a new position with a strategy how to reach it, a new slogan and revised identity, and a new company culture around science communication.

Strategy & Creation

The creation and launching phase, we codesigned a new website the engineers are building, and set up a content strategy and governance structure so the teaam itself can communicate technical matters. With young, talented, and tech savy PhDs in-house, ETRO aims to set up an influencer culture to inspire future generations.

1

Market Research

Competitor & Target Audience Analysis to understand the playing field, and ETRO's current position.
2

Brainstormings & Cocreation

Brainstormings & Cocreation Sessions to determine ETRO's identity and its position.
3

Strategy

The result: a marcom-strategy with a new position, identity and strategy.
4

Creation

Cocreation sessions to design the new website, and set up a content strategy in which the department members themselves create content.
5

Launching, Testing, Monitorring & Iterating

Coming soon.

Project Outcome

A mentality-shift: internal science communication team & PhDs as STEM-influencers

Based on our findings that the industry require more soft skills and communication skills from their engineers, and our findings that it would be a competitive advantage over other engineering departments, who are barely communicating, we proposed to cultivate communication skills in future engineers, and to have it as a differentiating position to set ETRO apart from its competitors, and as a main attractor for a solid career. Every member of the department is now encouraged to promote their research in a compelling way (due to the succes of video to reach out younger audiences as future engineers, mainly in video), and young engineers are encouraged to become influencers.

On the new website the team is developing following the prototype that resulted from our cocreative sessions, each ETRO-member will have his/her own platform to disseminate their research – preferably through video (we arranged for camera training). An internal marcom-team and governance structure is now in place: people have been assigned roles, so the department itself is fully engaged in science communication.

Following findings from the competitor study, ETRO now has designated a STEM-responsible who is especially assigned for STEM and attracting future generations.

“The brainstorm sessions helped us knowing better how we are as individuals and as a group. They also helped understanding how ETROs wide expertise could/should be integrated as a whole.”

Participant SessionPhD at ETRO
43
PhDs & Professors collaborated actively in 6 sessions
13
Got an active role in the new communication team

“Splintered provided a well-substantiated strategy as closure for 2019, and a positive source of energy for ETRO in 2020.”

Prof. Dr. J. StiensDepartment Head ETRO

Experience marketing: immersive storytelling ideas & branded visuals

Experience marketing became the hallmark of the new strategy.

How better to have people experience ETRO and its technologies, than by immersive digital storytelling?

Venture into the future, with the slider below.

EXPLOREarrow_right_alt VENTURE INTO THE FUTURE
ETRO WITH CLIMATE SENSING
EXPLOREarrow_right_alt VENTURE INTO THE FUTURE
ETRO WITH SMART CITIES
EXPLOREarrow_right_alt VENTURE INTO THE FUTURE
ETRO WITH CLIMATE SENSING