Nine years of EMBL – what have I achieved?

Nine years is a long time. As my time here comes to an end, it’s as if I’m standing on the brink of a new era, standing on the clifftop looking out to sea and wondering what awaits me. I’m so eager to see what will come next, that looking over my shoulder to take stock of what I’ve done over the last few years seems more of an effort than leaping off that cliff edge. Continue reading “Nine years of EMBL – what have I achieved?”

Start up life science

Sometimes it takes someone to ask the right question to arrive at an important piece of information. And often these questions are asked by new people, who challenge the assumptions you take for granted about the place where you work. Shortly after Dan and I started working together to lead strategy and communications he asked me what I thought was special about EMBL. Like most other people that he had asked before, I struggled to distill the gist of what EMBL is down to one sentence. But he continued asking and after several rounds of ‘I don’t buy it’ and ‘you don’t get it’, we arrived at something we both thought was a very powerful concept. EMBL is an incubator. It recruits the very best scientists worldwide and gives them almost complete freedom and the conditions to do something great … after they left EMBL.
Continue reading “Start up life science”


As others in the team are settling into their new roles, I am fast approaching the exit sign. My nine years at EMBL are almost over, and with just a few months to go, it’s time to take stock of what I have achieved during my time here. And actually I’ve learnt and done a lot. I’m really grateful for all the opportunities and support I have had here and I will really miss my wonderful colleagues when I leave. But for all the things I have achieved there are those ideas and projects that I didn’t have time to explore or follow up. So what else would I like to do, if I had the time? Continue reading “Time”

How to pitch a story

Every Monday at 10.30am we run a meeting to gather ideas for stories we should be telling via EMBL’s channels. You are welcome to come along to these story meetings (usually held in room B18 in the ATC – accessible via video conference if you’re not in Heidelberg) and to pitch your own ideas. Please be prepared to explain:

  • Key message
  • Audience
  • Hook

Let’s go into each of these in some more detail. Continue reading “How to pitch a story”

After the coffee… social media two months in

When I walked into the office on the first of September I fired up the laptop and checked my emails and social media accounts. And then I posted…

As Dan has already described, by the next day, I was already out of date. @EMBLorg was dead, long live @embl. Social media is everywhere and it is fast. I’m here to make sure EMBL is as excellent at social media as it is at science. As with everything we’re going to be trying over the next months, I want the changes I make to be open (hence the blog) and evidence based.

Continue reading “After the coffee… social media two months in”

Formats for editorial content

We often talk about ‘stories’ and ‘articles’ as if they were interchangeable, but they are not. To ensure that we all speak the same language, Adam has been developing some standard formats for editorial content. These include:

  • Announcement
  • Update
  • Feature
  • Opinion
  • Explainer

Some more on each of these below. Continue reading “Formats for editorial content”

Refining our editorial processes

We have been having editorial meetings every Monday since April. These involve audience stakeholders (our colleagues from the Office of Resource Development, for instance, who work with potential donors to EMBL) and content producers within our team. The idea is that everyone can pitch stories and then we figure out how best to handle them.

These meetings are a good start, but they could be a lot better. Some of the things that aren’t going so well include:

  • Unclear story commissioning
  • Poor feedback on production
  • Poorly defined audiences
  • Ad hoc formats
  • Editorial cycle dominated by EMBLetc. production
  • Structural and role changes in Strategy and Communications

To help address some of these issues we’re going to split the editorial meetings in to 3 distinct meetings: Continue reading “Refining our editorial processes”

@embl Twitter handle

On 1st September Twitter granted EMBL the use of the @embl Twitter account.  This account had been registered by an individual a long time ago and had remained dormant, which meant that EMBL was using the @EMBLorg handle. This was causing confusion, with many people naturally mentioning @embl, and many potential conversations being cut short.

Acquiring the @embl handle was a process that began in February. Big thanks to our colleagues in legal services, notably Amaranta Amador Bernal, who did a huge amount of work behind the scenes, including acquiring trademark protections for EMBL’s name in terms that are easily recognised by US-based companies such as Twitter.

The timing of the name transfer couldn’t have been better: on 1 September Laura Howes (@L_Howes) joined the Strategy and Communications team from the Science in School team as EMBL’s new Social Media Manager. Watch this space for how she goes on to develop EMBL’s social media strategy. Priorities for now are:

  1. increase the frequency of social media posts; and
  2. engage with people who ask EMBL questions via our social media channels.

Hello people!

In April 2016, EMBL’s Director-General, Iain Mattaj, announced a restructuring of the organisation’s communications functions. Separate units that were previously quite independent – namely the Office of Information and Public Affairs (OIPA), Strategy and Analysis and the External Relations team at EMBL-EBI –  would be brought together into a single team called Strategy and Communications. The tasks this new team was set were:

  1. be more proactive in communicating on EMBL’s behalf;
  2. engage more effectively with stakeholders;
  3. coordinate EMBL’s communications to ensure that our voice and messaging are consistent.

The ambition we were set was to raise EMBL’s profile: to ensure that people across the world had heard of this unique organisation and the amazing science that is led from here.

Since Iain’s announcement, an awful lot of work has gone on behind the scenes. We want to share that work with you and open a dialogue on the development EMBL’s communications. That is why we have opened this blog.

I think that we need to be open with what we are doing not merely to trumpet how great we are (there are no doubt many things that we will get wrong as we go forwards and I want to be open about mistakes too), but because I firmly believe that we can only deliver great communications for EMBL by being open about how we are approaching our work and involving everyone (yes, everyone!) in it. We need to collect the best ideas, and we need feedback – especially when it’s critical. I hope you will occasionally take the time to give this precious feedback to us, whether in person, by email, social channels or by leaving a comment on this blog.