ARIT 2017 Poster Session Feature: Stefan Tschauko

Going beyond pure text, bridges will feature Austrian scientists from a new perspective in 2018, taking creative cues to communicate their science in a different light, tone, and color.

Discover the work of Stefan Tschauko, our eighth scientist featured in the ARIT 2017 Poster Session Showcase.  

What do I want to achieve with my research?

Rather than with text, our scientists, answer this essential question using an image, emoji, cartoon or limerick.



"How does my research make others feel?"

Our scientists mimics speak stronger than words! 

Your Science in Action:  Should the United Nations Have a Brand-New Brand?

The English word “brand” has multiple meanings: a burn scar to mark cattle; a flaming piece of wood; or the symbol or reputation associated with a business, school, or other entity. Stefan Tschauko, a PhD student in international affairs at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, thinks a lot about this last meaning,

Having studied information management and international management, Tschauko began reflecting on the current state of brand management in the UN system; key challenges in managing the UN brand; and whether a broader system-wide approach to UN branding should be developed.

The United Nations system comprises many organizations, the United Nations being only one of them. Each organization may consist of different types of actors:  political bodies like the Security Council, operational bodies (e.g., humanitarian actors providing shelter to refugees), and partners such as UN peacekeepers (the “blue helmets”). Public knowledge about the UN system comes from many sources, the news media foremost among them, making it difficult to project a consistent image for public perception.

“It’s generally known that we as a global society face many challenges: conflict, climate change, poverty, etc. Many parts of the UN system were designed to address these issues. Yet, the public has only a vague idea, and sometimes even negative perception, about what the UN is and does,” says Tschauko. “That’s not only a shame but also a real problem, not least because national politicians need the public’s support to justify funding the work of the UN.” Noting the gap between what the UN is and how it is perceived by the public, Tschauko wondered whether branding methods could enhance public understanding and political support of the UN and UN system.

Intrigued by this under-researched topic, he surveyed UN employees and associated contacts for his 2017 master thesis. Semi-structured interviews, with 30 communication experts in 10 organizations within the UN system, were followed by 33 interviews with individuals (many outside the UN) to flesh-out his findings about the importance of UN branding.

His findings include: The UN system currently uses multiple brands – most obviously in logos that differ by symbol, color, or typeface – and only loosely controls the image represented. A key challenge in managing the UN “brand” is the limited direct contact between the UN and the general public. Contacts are usually via news media, which often focus on less-positive aspects of the UN’s work, such as the Security Council’s failure to reach agreement. Sometimes the general public doesn’t realize that agencies such as the World Health Organization or UNICEF are in the UN system. Many actors across the UN system shape its reputation, and efforts to project a coherent UN brand are limited. But is more coherent branding really desirable? Tschauko assessed this using a branding framework, the “brand relationship spectrum.”

Respondents were asked where the UN system fell along the spectrum from several non-related brands to a branded house (overarching brand). A majority placed the current UN system near the “non-related” end of the spectrum, but nearly all felt the UN system should move to the middle (“endorsed brand”), or even the “branded house” end. Nearly 80% of informants favored a system-wide UN branding strategy, although not necessarily a single UN brand.[1] And 75% felt that target audiences don’t need to distinguish between the UN and UN-associated entities.[2]

While these results indicate a certain trend, Tschauko recognizes that this issue has no simple solution: “On the one hand, there are good reasons why many agencies currently seek an independent identity. For example, UNICEF, although not always recognized as a part of the UN by the public, has developed a very strong brand which positively contributes to its funding efforts,” said Tschauko. “On the other hand, a more consolidated approach might better clarify the roles of individual agencies. An example of this is UN’s environmental program, UNEP, which has recently transitioned to calling itself ‘UN Environment.’ The best solution probably lies somewhere between,” Tschauko notes. He plans to pursue the answer as part of his PhD research.

[1] 15 out of 19 UN communication experts said “Yes” to the question if there should be a UN-system-wide brand strategy.

[2] 9 out of 12 UN communication experts said “No” to the question if the UN’s target audiences, particularly the general public, should distinguish between the UN and the entities of the UN system.

My favorite scientist:             

I don’t have one favorite thinker or (social) scientist. But among those whose work has had an important impact on my thinking throughout various stages of my life are Stephen Hawking, Stephen Covey, Dietrich Schwanitz, Naomi Klein, Robert Bringhurst, and Didier Eribon. Most directly related to my current research is Nathalie Laidler-Kylander’s work on brand management in nonprofit organizations.

If you read one science website/ blog/ book, it should be:   

A social scientist whose expertise is related to my current research interest is Paul Watzlawick. His book How real is real? and his work in general – probably best encapsulated in the dictum “One cannot not communicate” – have strongly influenced my thinking.

Watzlawick’s dictum is also related to my research: Even if organizations don’t think of themselves as brands or have no conscious brand management in place, they are still being perceived as brand – and their brand, as in their reputation, is shaped not only by their own actions, but also by other actors such as news and media.  

Without science, I would be: 

… a barista or host, running a café, bar, or small restaurant. I enjoy hosting friends for dinner, making sure everyone is having a good time and no one is running out of food, wine, coffee, tea, and good conversation.

My Eureka moment was when: 

Eureka moment almost implies that I have found an answer to a question, or a solution to a problem. I’m not sure if that’s applicable in my current research, as I am still in the process of trying to answer some of the critical questions.

But the most crucial moment was when I became interested in branding in the UN system. Six years ago - and after working for five years in a branding company - I decided to pursue a graduate degree. Looking into potential programs, I discovered a program that had a partnership with a UN organization I had never heard of before: the UN Alliance of Civilizations. That triggered my interest in the UN. I then discovered the complexity of that system (for example, as illustrated in the UN system chart) - and was faced with my inability to understand this complex system.That complexity made me think of something my boss and mentor Peter Deisenberger used to say about branding: “Branding is a tool to reduce complexity." That thought was the origin of my research, and I am now exploring how branding can contribute to inspiring more people to understand and support the UN (system).



The ARIT 2017 Poster Session Showcase will highlight select Austrian scientists of the Research and Innovation Network Austria. These scientists all participated in the coveted ARIT 2017 Poster Session, after having been selected by an expert jury from the ASCINA network and the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation


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Friday, 17 January 2020