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Writing your Plan for Dissemination, Exploitation and Communication – Do’s and Don’ts for PDEC

7th July 2022 at 1:54 pm

Communication, dissemination and exploitation measures have become an integral part and critical task of any Horizon Europe project. It is likely that already within your project proposal, you have committed to carrying out activities that will inform different stakeholder groups about your project, and ensure that your research and innovation results receive recognition and are being publicly disclosed for wide dissemination, while new IP is protected for exploitation.

To guarantee that project consortia funded under Horizon Europe actively plan – and ultimately implement – their communication, dissemination and exploitation activities, the European Commission (EC) demands a report that does exactly that: the Plan for Dissemination and Exploitation including Communication Activities (PDEC). The PDEC is set up to function as a guiding manual throughout and is due for submission by month 6 after your project starts.

In a recent blog post, we explained the “must-knows” behind this challenging but – if done correctly – very useful document, and showed you how to develop and structure a successful PDEC for your initiative.

The Do’s and Don’ts

Now it is time to dig a bit deeper: what are the pitfalls of the document? What should you avoid when writing your plan? And what are the small details that just might elevate your plan from average to extraordinary? Building on our expertise of being involved in numerous Horizon Europe projects, including several successfully submitted PDECs, we have gathered some of our most important learnings to share with you a few do’s and don’ts for your plan for dissemination, exploitation and communication.

A figure showing 8 do's and don'ts for your PDEC document
Figure 1: A guide for your PDEC – do’s and don’ts
  1. Don’t just copy from your project proposal. When it comes to setting up your plan for dissemination, exploitation and communication, you are presumably a couple of months over handing in your proposal and setting up your project’s Description of Action (DoA). In these, you have already covered some aspects regarding the communication, dissemination and exploitation of your project – that is great! But be careful: although these are helpful documents to refer to (see point 4), they become disadvantageous when merely used as a blueprint for your PDEC. We know, it seems very easy to save some time by just copying and pasting from your proposal or DoA. But: this will lead to your PDEC being only a repetition of already existing documents. As the EC expects high-quality deliverables, and each report is up to review, this approach will neither help you nor your project.
  2. Don’t be generic…. For your PDEC to be successful, you want it to be useful. The good news is: if done correctly, it will truly guide you in your communication, dissemination and exploitation activities throughout the project, and ultimately increase its impact within the project lifecycle and beyond. But to do that, it needs to be specific, and thus feasible. This means being as specific as possible in your PDEC. Avoid empty phrases like: “this activity will be tailored to the specific stakeholder groups” or “this activity will be carried out using the available channels” – there are better, and more useful ways of doing it. In the next paragraph, you will learn how to.
  3. …do be specific. As we mentioned before, merely copying and pasting the dissemination, exploitation, and communication sections of your proposal or DoA, and staying generic and unspecific about how you will carry out your planned activities will make your PDEC a rather low-quality deliverable that will likely not serve its purpose in guiding the consortium through their planned activities. This is wasted potential. A key rule to prevent this is to always be as specific in your descriptions as possible. Try to answer: What are the objectives? How will you reach these? What are your target audiences and their expectations? Besides investing less time into planning, and more into executing, due to dissemination and exploitation pathways this will also increase the chances for follow-up projects and potential collaborations.
  4. Do stay consistent throughout deliverables. Although your project proposal and DoA should not be the blueprint of your PDEC, they hold important information which you have already submitted to the EC. Consult these documents to double-check what you have committed to doing: What activities did you describe? Who are the responsible parties mentioned? Who is in the lead? Who is involved? You want to avoid major inconsistencies throughout your reports. Of course, things can change (and they are allowed to if it can be justified and alternatives are provided), but make sure that your PDEC builds on your initial dissemination, exploitation and communication plans – in broad and in detail.
  5. Don’t aim too high when defining your KPIs. As mentioned in our previous blog post on PDECs, continuous reporting of communication, dissemination, and exploitation activities towards the EC is required throughout (and sometimes beyond) the entire course of the project. Therefore, not only which communication, dissemination and exploitation activities you plan to implement are important in your PDEC – but also how you are going to evaluate them. Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) for your activities is a crucial part of the feasibility of your plan. However, defining benchmarks for the number of people reached is challenging – and experience shows that the evaluation of chosen metrics can sometimes be surprising. But: adjusting upwards is always better than adjusting downwards. You have outdone your expected KPI in your website hits? Great! Your hits ended up much lower than your defined benchmark in your PDEC? Not so much. Therefore: do not aim too high.
  6. Do reach out to your project partners. As the PDEC describes the dissemination, exploitation, and communication activities surrounding your entire project, your project partners play a part in that. Think about how you can most efficiently and effectively communicate and disseminate your project: what channels are available? Are there any workshops, newsletters, or conferences already at hand by any of your beneficiaries? Go the extra mile: do some research on what there is and reach out to your project partners to get specific input on how they can contribute to a successful PDEC.
  7. Don’t underestimate the layout. The PDEC can just be one of many documents developed and submitted throughout the course of your project – but it does not have to be. Consider whether your PDEC is a public or confidential document. The obligation to write a PDEC can be an opportunity for you to produce a document that thoroughly and appealingly describes how your project will effectively be communicated, disseminated and exploited. An interesting and eye-catching layout can be a way to truly elevate your PDEC. Tailor it to your project and who you want to reach. While sticking to the guidelines, there is still room to be creative. Use it! 
  8. Do submit on time. This might seem obvious – but unforeseen circumstances can always occur. Make sure that your plan aligns with your timeline. Start early enough, so you can get your partners involved without having to sacrifice crucial revision periods. Rule of thumb: the earlier the better. You have truly succeeded once you submitted your well-rounded PDEC on time. Congratulations!

Bonus: Have a designated communications partner on board. This is a bonus point, as it is not only relevant for the development of your PDEC, but important for all other communication, dissemination and exploitation tasks within your project. Planning, coordinating and executing these tasks require a lot of time and expertise which researchers often cannot – and should not have to – invest while focusing on their main business: research. Therefore, in order to achieve high-quality outcomes, we strongly recommend having a designated partner responsible for communication, dissemination and exploitation activities on board for your Horizon Europe project.

A successful PDEC – from start to finish

If you are about to start drafting your Plan for Dissemination and Exploitation including Communication Activities, we encourage you to revisit our blog post “How to prepare a Plan for Dissemination and Exploitation including Communication activities”. Together with some of the Do’s and Dont’s of this article, it will hopefully help you set up and write a successful PDEC for your Horizon Europe project.

These learnings are based on our experience and expertise within Horizon Europe, for which our track record could not have started earlier. For instance, we successfully supported the COVend proposal for the very first Horizon Europe deadline. As of now, we are involved in eleven projects approved under Horizon Europe – such as CORENET, MyPath, GENEGUT and Roadview. As accelopment, we are involved as a partner for EU project management and responsible for communication as well as dissemination.

Jamuna Siehler

Jamuna Zarah Lea Siehler
Project Manager Communications

Joanna Plesniak

Joanna Plesniak
Project Manager Communications