Communications architecture

CERN´s mission is not known at all. Council delegate

The foundation of any effective communications strategy is a clear and concise mission statement. From it the organization’s positioning, strategic themes and messages can be developed to tie in to story angles that are then used in all communications activities.

One of the objectives of the workshop run by the communications and leadership agency LEIDAR with CERN’s Extended Directorate on 3 May 2011 was to define CERN’s mission, and agree the strategic pillars for the communications architecture.

CERN’s mission statement, as agreed by the Extended Directorate, is:

CERN exists to understand the mystery of nature for the benefit of humankind.

The mission statement describes CERN´s reason for being. Its formulation is based on the terms of the Convention and was unanimously supported by the Extended Directorate. It forms, together with the positioning statement that explains in one sentence exactly what CERN is and stands for, the foundation of the communications architecture shown in Figure 1.

Image showing how mission, positioning, themes and projects inform one another

Figure 1: Information architecture

Three strategic themes - “Discovery by science”, “Innovation through technology” and “Diversity in people” - carry the platform for CERN to pass its messages and tell its stories. These three pillars are not only the thematic cornerstones for publications and events. They can be the guiding principles for every professional conversation about CERN, whether in the form of speeches, presentations, the website, exhibitions, roadshows, or any other communications activity.

CERN’s mission and the positioning lead naturally to a tagline that we propose adopting for CERN’s logo/visual identity whenever it is used:

CERN – Exploring the frontiers of knowledge


In Table 1 the three thematic pillars from the communications architecture have been translated into key messages backed up by sample proof points. Proof points are included as examples only – there are many more – and will be revised and updated on a regular basis.

Table 1: Key messages and proof points

Key message

Example proof point

Discovery by science: CERN is the world’s leading centre for fundamental research in physics

From an initial 12 European Member States, CERN’s membership has grown to 21 with several more countries set to join. Furthermore, CERN has collaboration agreements with some 40 other countries.

Discovery by science: CERN has contributed greatly to our understanding of nature for over 50 years.

The achievements of CERN scientists have changed our understanding of nature at the fundamental level, and have been rewarded with some of the most prestigious prizes in science, including the Nobel. CERN also attracts leading scientists, including many Nobel prize winners from around the world: over half the world’s particle physicists work here, and CERN provides a vital role in training young scientists.

Discovery by science: CERN is poised to bring great advances in our understanding of nature over the coming years.

CERN’s flagship facility, the LHC, is the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, allowing us to explore the universe at the microscopic level more completely than ever before.

Innovation through technology: Basic science drives innovation in ICT.

The needs of CERN’s physics community in the 1980s led directly to the development of the World Wide Web. CERN’s open approach to knowledge sharing ensured that the Web became an open standard.

Innovation through technology: Basic and applied science form a virtuous circle.

The development of PET as medical imaging technology has proceeded hand-in-hand with particle physics at CERN since the 1970s, with technology repeatedly passing from CERN to industry and back.

Innovation through technology: Basic science drives innovation in a wide range of areas.

Particle accelerators are used in many walks of life ranging from the production of tyres to ion implantation in the semiconductor industry.

Diversity in people: By working towards a common goal, differences of nationality and religion are overcome.

People from all over the world work together harmoniously at CERN, representing all regions, religions and cultures.

Diversity in people: CERN plays an important role in bringing nations together.

Throughout the cold war, CERN provided a diplomatic bridge between East and West, having strong ties to the scientific community in the East. It was at CERN that the first links between the East and West German scientific communities were forged, for example.

Diversity in people: CERN strives to engage people from all over the world.

CERN runs professional schools in physics, accelerator science and IT. Although these began in Europe, CERN schools are also held in the developing world. A notable success is the African School of Physics, which has spawned a physics education network on the continent. CERN’s high school teachers and summer student programmes similarly reach people from around the world.

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