The future of think tank communications

Hello and welcome to the WonkComms blog! Over the coming months, I hope to have this blog filled with insightful articles and commentary on the future of research communications and communications in think tanks.

To kick us off, I wanted to bring together a few resources and views published around the event organised by the Social Market Foundation last Friday at the Overseas Development Institute. Firstly, we have the actual videos of the event:


Leonora Merry, Social Market Foundation, introduces the topics to be discussed


Richard Darlington, Head of News, IPPR, discusses how think tanks can adapt to an ever changing communications environment and how to ensure that ideas continue to cut through despite stiff competition and scarce resources.


Nick Scott, Digital Manager, ODI, asks whether think tanks can move from being ‘digital by design’ to ‘digital by default’?  The full transcript of his talk is available on the WonkComms blog.


John Prideaux, Homepage Editor, The Economist, outlines the experience of the Economist in moving to a more digital output.


The Q&A session.

There are also two Storifys available – one by ODI containing a report on the event and another by Sofie Jenkinson of the Fabian Society.

Leonora Merry, of SMF, chaired the event, and has written a blog on ‘the three things she learned from our #wonkcomms event‘:

1) Professional communicators know how to work Twitter

2) Digital drives collaboration as well as strengthening competition

3) Multichannel communications works

Finally, Jonathan Tanner of ODI has written up his views on the event on this WonkComms blog. In ‘To create or to disseminate, is that the question?‘, he asks whether:

The challenge for think tank communicators [is] as much about clever content creation as it is broader dissemination… Could we see a future think tank in which the core research outputs are digital? Where the research process has been designed from day one to produce digital content? Proper collaboration between research and communications staff from day one? A world where a finished project is not just a pdf but tailor-made data tools or video content?  I hope so but it won’t happen overnight.

Lots of food for thought, and lots of avenues for further exploration… let’s hope this is the start of a very useful collaboration between think tank communicators!

I am Digital Manager at UNISON. My core area of interest is in digital tools and content strategy. As Digital Manager at the Overseas Development Institute, I developed a digital strategy awarded Online Strategy of the Year at the Digital Communications Awards 2012. I have written extensively on digital strategy and monitoring and evaluation, primarily on how they can support research communications with impact. I am also a founder of WonkComms, a popular community of practice for think tank communications staff. In this capacity, I am a member of the blog editorial board, commissioning and editing blogs and regularly formulate, speak at and chair events held at various UK think tank HQs in London and more widely.

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11 comments on “The future of think tank communications
  1. […] addition they have set up WonkComms blog, a LinkedIn group and a Twitter handle, which aim to provide a space for research communicators […]

  2. Tom Berry says:

    Great initiative – I look forward to following

  3. […] A few resources and views published around the event on the future of think tank communications organised by the Social Market Foundation last Friday at the Overseas Development Institute.  […]

  4. […] Two months ago, a group of UK based think tank communicators organised an event on the future of think tank communications. […]

  5. […] setting the scene on the future of think tank communications in our first event this April, the last three WonkComms events have considered the ‘why’, ‘what’, […]

  6. […] setting the scene on the future of think tank communications in our first event this April, the last three WonkComms events have considered the ‘why’, ‘what’, ‘how’ and […]

  7. […] setting the scene on the future of think tank communications in our first event this April, the last three WonkComms events have considered the ‘why’, ‘what’, ‘how’ and […]

  8. […] home, I gave a talk on ‘the future of think tank communications’ back in 2013. Two colleagues at other think tanks spotted the live tweets. Together, the three […]

  9. […] home, I gave a talk on ‘the future of think tank communications’ back in 2013. Two colleagues at other think tanks spotted the live tweets. Together, the three […]

  10. […] and to explore what the future would bring was behind the genesis of WonkComms – after all, the inaugural WonkComms event was entitled ‘the future of think tank communications’. So as 2014 fades into the past, it […]

  11. […] and to explore what the future would bring was behind the genesis of WonkComms – after all, the inaugural WonkComms event was entitled ‘the future of think tank communications’. So as 2014 fades into the past, it […]

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