Thinking about giveaways for my scicomm consultancy for April’s #scicommchall

Be warned — this is a long blog post without a real conclusion at the end. You are very welcome to read it, but I’m writing it mostly for myself and for a friend who has offered to help me work on this (The amazing Ronja of Treibholz. Thank you!). Once I have a real conclusion and have settled on a giveaway that I actually want to produce, I’ll let you know :-)

How can giveaways be designed in such a way that they serve a scicomm purpose?” — that’s April’s #scicommchall. And as I have never been shy to admit, I set #scicommchalls such that they motivate me to do something I’ve been wanting to do anyway but needed a little extra nudge to get around to actually doing it, like developing elevator pitches or doing kids scicomm books.

I’ve been thinking for quite some time now about a giveaway for my ocean science communications consultancy, fascinocean. Let’s go through goal – audience – message and see what we can come up with.

Goals I want to achieve with giveaways for fascinocean

Ultimately, I want my giveaways to remind happy customers about how awesome I am, and bring in new customers for the kind of services I offer with fascinocean: developing and conducting science communication strategies and products on ocean and climate topics as well as training ocean and climate scientists in scicomm.

For that to happen, though, I have different sub-goals:

  • become visible as someone who offers such services
  • give an impression of what my products are like
  • give easy access to more information about my services and my portfolio
  • give people something they enjoy, like to keep, like to look at or interact with
  • make it easy for people to share their excitement for fascinocean (plus all the necessary information for others to find out more & contact me)

Audience to be reached to achieve that goal

The audience I want to reach are ocean and climate scientists who are interested in scicomm, but either don’t have the time to do it all themselves or want support to do it even better than they already are.

I want to ideally reach them directly (so if I meet someone who’s doing interesting research and who I like as a person, I would like to be able to hand them a nice giveaway), almost directly (so for example sending out a small item to people I have worked with that have been supportive or that I would like to initiate collaboration with), and indirectly (like people I work with well want to hand my information on to someone else who they think I would be a good fit with collaboration-wise). But the giveaway is definitely not something that I would want to leave randomly in places where oceanographers and climate scientists gather for them to learn about me to recruit business with total strangers that haven’t come to me either through personal connections or that have found me through previous work I’ve done with others.

The situation in which I want my audience to be reminded of me is when they are sitting at their desk, staring into space or at their pin board above their desk. (Clearly, fascinocean needs to be easily googlable, too, but I would almost prefer to have people think of me first and then google for my contact info second because, as I said, I am going for people who I have already interacted with personally, or a friend of mine has, or who know my work)

Emerging criteria for my giveaway

So thinking about the goal and audience, three things have become clear:

  • I want something that is small enough to carry in my purse at all times in case I meet someone that I want to give a business card (of sorts) to, or to mail without being prohibitively expensive
  • I want something that people will have somewhere in their office and stare at when they need to stare at something
  • I want something that carries all my contact information plus a tiny glimpse at what I can do for them (so that people who know what I can do are reminded of it, and that others get an impression that is intriguing enough to check out my website)

Message to be sent to achieve that goal

This is the tricky bit. I’ll come back to this a little later.

Developing ideas for a fascinocean giveaway

What inspired me to think about giveaways in the first place

I have to confess: I went into this whole exercise really fancying the idea of having fascinocean postcards. I have over the last year or so come across two different campaigns that really left a big impression on me.

The first one was a campaign on ocean conservation by the German Federal Environmental Agency. They had about five different cards with motives and messages related to protecting the ocean (you can see them here) which I loved so much that I decorated my old office with them, and I recently saw them on the wall in a friend’s office, too, after I had sent them to her.

The postcards aren’t actually visible on this picture of my old office, because they weren’t up yet when I took the photo. But they were later added to the cross-piece in the window right in front of my desk, so they were the first things that came into my view when I looked away from my screen to think.

The second postcard I really liked is the one that the german podcast Treibholz with Ronja and Maxie uses to advertise the podcast. (And for those of you who don’t remember that I visited their podcast, you should check out this blogpost).

And here is what their postcard looks like (pasted on the cute gift bag they gave me when I was guest on their podcast). It says “Magst du Meer?” (“Do you like the sea?”) and I think it’s perfect: It’s intriguing and makes you say “yes!” and flip the card over to see what’s it all about, and also the essence of Treibholz is really this huge love for and curiosity about the ocean — those two definitely do like the sea! I love how simple the card is with this very easy beach-ocean theme going on, yet how cheerful and colorful and happy.

“Magst du Meer?” (“Do you like the sea?”) postcard advertising the podcast “Treibholz”

On the back of the postcard, there is the URL of the podcast as well as a “stamp” with Ronja & Maxie’s picture on it. The postcard takes up design element from the banner they’ve designed for the podcast (see below).

Me as a guest on the Treibholz podcast

When they gave me a bunch of their postcards, I realized I really wanted something like that for fascinocean, too! I’ve actually used the Treibholz postcards a lot to write notes to people, so I know that I actually use this kind of stuff it it’s around and pleasing to look at.

So is it postcards or something else?

I am not quite sure if I am so set on postcards as my giveaway because of the two examples I mentioned above, or because postcards really suits my purpose well. I think it’s the latter: They are easy to distribute, can carry all the information, give a glimpse at what I can do, and are easily displayed in offices to always remind people of fascinocean.

There are alternative formats who could do the same thing, though, for example

Business cards

They are essentially the same thing as a postcard, except a lot smaller, right? Their smaller size makes them easier to carry for me, and stow away if recipients are given it at e.g. a presentation and don’t have a bag with them. On the other hand, they also get lost a lot more easily. People are also a lot more used to be given business cards than a postcard, but then I think I’d prefer the element of surprise with the oversized-business-card postcard.


I REALLY like the idea of having fascinocean stickers, and I might have to do them just because I want them (is that how universities end up with pool noodle giveaways?). My poster tube is completely covered in stickers of meetings and institutions I have visited with it (come to think of it — I think my poster tube is the most travelled item I own, because everything else, from passports to handbags to phones to jewellery, has been replaced at some point or other. Fascinating.), and I definitely add any cool new sticker I can get. If stickers are very pretty (like the one the German team used for the International Physics Olympiade used for their 2018 event in Portugal, which I liked so much that it’s still on my bullet journal [it features a lighthouse! Do I need to say more?]), I also use them in other spots. Like the new EGU journal Geoscience Communication‘s one, or GEO-Tag der Natur’s… So I clearly really like stickers.

And maybe it’s possible to produce stickers that are stuck to a postcard, so that there is still space for my contact info etc on the back? On the other hand, that postcard will look really crappy once the first sticker (for some reason I am thinking of having four smaller ones on the postcard) has been removed. And do I really want my giveaway look like that as soon as it’s being used?

Window art

This might seem random, but as I am sitting on my sofa staring out of the window (instead of at my desk, staring at a pin board) as I am writing this, maybe a really cool window art (maybe some film to be stuck to the glass?) might also be an idea? This is kinda similar to stickers, but on the other hand more restricted in its use. If it’s really suited well for windows, it’ll be too large to be used as stickers on other things and also probably use a different kind of glue. And window decorations seem a lot more personal and permanent and thus might not be something that people put up as easily in their offices as sticking a postcard to a pin board? Also if it’s plastic that’s maybe not the best material to be used…

Message to be sent

Maybe the options above aren’t so different (after all they are all flat and printed) and I should think about the message more. Btw, I did follow my own advice and went through some rapid ideation for forms and functions related to fascinocean. Lots of cool stuff there, but most of it will have to wait until I have a larger budget for giveaways, and it also doesn’t match my “must be easy to mail/carry around” criterium.

But some things I like:

Providing a glimpse into my portfolio — how about motion cards?

Motion cards (“Kippkarten” auf Deutsch) are the kind of postcards that show two different motifs if you look at the card from different angles. And something like that could work super well for my purposes: Kinda like a gif that I use to annotate wave pictures, except you can hold it in your hand! This doesn’t show scicomm consulting, but it is a visualization that I use quite often when I am talking about #wavewatching.

This would be really neat and show at least the wave watching side of things quite well. And, as far as I am aware, in a really unique way. On the other hand, producing those cards isn’t the cheapest option…

A different glimpse into my portfolio — #scicommchall

#scicommchall is actually something fairly typical for how I work: In order to keep trying new things regularly, I give myself monthly challenges (this whole blogpost being an example of April’s scicommchall on designing giveaways that also serve as scicomm props) and invite other people to join me. #scicommchall is also (I believe) actually useful for anyone with the same goals as me, i.e. my ideal client :-) Should this be a year’s worth of challenges that you can tick off? (Except I usually only think about the next challenge a day or so before it’s due…)

Another glimpse — “motivation! take some, it’s awesome!”

I try to be supportive and encouraging of my colleagues, and one thing I did when I was still living in Bergen (and I moved away 5.5 years ago) was to put a post-it on the mirror in the lady’s bathroom, saying “Motivation! Take some, it’s amazing” (or something similar) and then at the bottom of the note, had written “motivation!” over and over again and cut in between the individual motivations such that you could pluck one of and take it with you. They were gone within minutes, and I was recently reminded of this when I saw this note stuck to my friend Elin’s old computer that she brought with her on the student cruise. Clearly this was something that worked super well — how could I have a similar impact with a giveaway?

Why not my books?

Now that I am thinking about it, when my book on wave watching was new, I actually gave a lot of copies to friends and colleagues and that definitely had an impact similarly to what I want to achieve now with this giveaway. Except that continuing to give away those books to everyone I want to remember that I do cool scicomm is just too expensive, so I need something that is cheaper to produce.

What’s missing?

All the ideas above showcase my own scicomm products, but not the consulting services themselves…

So what is it that I really want?

I want my giveaway to be

  • probably a postcard, possibly a sticker or something similar — small and easy to carry/mail
  • fun, authentic
  • providing value in itself to people, even if they don’t decide to become my clients (yet)
  • providing a tiny glimpse into fascinocean‘s portfolio
  • making it clear what fascinocean stands for, and providing contact information
  • inexpensive in production
  • environmentally friendly!


I need to think about this a lot more! And I do like the idea of motion cards… :-)

And if you have read all of this (really? Thank you!) what are your suggestions? I’d be grateful for any input I can get!

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