Experts on demand

The brief 

It has historically been difficult for businesses to access PhD-level scientific skills. Collaboration between businesses and academia has been driven by big companies — smaller businesses often lack the budget to hire a specialist full-time or struggle to access skills locally.

Kolabtree is a freelancing platform that connects businesses that need scientific skills with a highly qualified knowledge professional — businesses register their project on Kolabtree and expert freelancers bid for the work.

The overarching objective of the PR campaign was to achieve organisational change — increase the number of projects registered to the Kolabtree site by 30%.

The secondary organisation-level objective was to increase the number of freelancer registrations to the Kolabtree platform by 30%.

We broke the organisation-level objectives down into SMART objectives:

  1. Achieve seven mentions per month in targeted trade media to improve brand awareness
  2. Identify Kolabtree’s key project areas and use strategic keywords to improve SERPs, identifying target keywords for every quarter
  3. Achieve an average domain authority of 40 for online clippings
  4. Achieve at least one piece of prestige coverage, in a pre identified publication, to position Kolabtree as gig economy leaders

The budget was £1,400pcm, totalling £16,800 for the campaign year.


Strategy and research

To encourage more businesses to register projects on Kolabtree, we needed to build a digital and print profile showcasing how the gig economy can work in science.

We did extensive research, using reports and surveys from the EU, CIPD, BBC and ONS. This gave us a clear understanding of the gig economy landscape and the challenges businesses and early career scientists face.

We gained insight into the benefits for businesses; accessing skills regardless of geography or time zone, predictable cost and no need to hire additional full-time workers.

We developed an understanding of the motivations for freelancing including unstable academic careers and desire for flexibility.

Analysis showed that Kolabtree’s projects can be broadly categorised as: food science, healthcare, life sciences, chemistry (often cosmetics) and medical devices.

We drew up detailed personas for these categories based on prior Kolabtree projects. For example, medical device companies looking for statisticians to help with clinical trials, meta reviews or data analysis.

We then identified suitable keywords for our quarterly campaigns using SEMrush, Google Search Console and Ahrefs and from previous Kolabtree projects. For example, freelance formulation chemist, freelance medical writer, freelance data scientist and freelance biostatistician.

We identified relevant trade media to match our personas and formed tiered lists.

For example, for chemistry titles included: Speciality Chemicals, Laboratory News, Pharmaceutical and Cosmetics Review, Manufacturing Chemist.

We also identified our key prestige publications in science, business and skills/education outlets: Times Higher Education, Science, Nature and Forbes.


"Stone Junction is one of the most proactive PR agencies we have had the pleasure of dealing with. It has been consistently effective at increasing our visibility amongst our core audience and instrumental in raising our brand awareness and driving new customer growth."

- Ashmita Das, co-founder and CEO at Kolabtree.



We created content for each persona, using our target keywords, balancing specialist scientific topics with broader scientific issues to ensure quality and quantity of coverage.

Thought-leading articles made up the bulk of our campaign. For example, a piece on data analytics in healthcare for our healthcare persona seeking a statistician, and a piece on trends in skincare for our cosmetics persona seeking a chemist. Each article was placed exclusively for sector-specific coverage

We also produced tailored content to encourage freelancers to register. For example, content on working as a freelance statistician.

We contributed comments from Kolabtree to wider content, for example providing quotes on nanotechnology in food to Food Processing Today.

We responded to news stories as they broke, for example, a story on scientific funding after Brexit.

To target prestige publications, we pitched an interview with Ashmita Das, Kolabtree’s CEO, on science and the gig economy.

We released news, such as announcing when Kolabtree reached 10,000 freelancers, to build brand awareness to a wide range of titles.

We also produced design assets - such as an infographic on medical incubators.

Creativity and originality 

The gig economy in science was a relatively new topic. A Meltwater search showed only 229 articles mentioning both “gig economy” and “science” in the previous year. The gig economy is traditionally written about in low-skilled, non-knowledge professions. Think Uber or Deliveroo.

We needed to demonstrate, firstly, that these scientific skills were available to small businesses. Secondly, we needed to showcase the types of freelancers available and their areas of expertise.

We decided the best way to do this was to share content directly from Kolabtree’s freelancers, rather than its employees.

Rather than talking directly about gig economy issues facing the company directly, we tapped into Kolabtree’s skilled pool of researchers to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise.

We based our content on Kolabtree’s customer’s projected future careers, rather than attempting to leverage business news about the company. Our content was about key industry themes, based on issues our identified personas were facing — we positioned Kolabtree’s freelancers as an expert on these topical issues.

For example, for our medical device persona, themes included include systematic reviews and meta analyses, EU medical device regulations and FDA regulations.


"Stone Junction’s PR initiatives, ranging from opinion pieces to rapid response campaigns, have translated into positive measurable impact. With their help, we’ve been able to expand our media coverage in publications specific to our target audience across at least four industries. That we’ve been able to get consistent coverage during the last year in spite of the pandemic is all credit to the team."

- Ramya Sriram, digital content manager at Kolabtree.

Results and evalutation

Objective 1:

87 clippings, 7.25 per month; 65 backlinks, 1,640 social shares and estimated views of 633,000.

Coverage across all key sectors, including: Scientist Live, Manufacturing Chemist, Digital Health Age, Innovations in Pharmaceutical Technology, Positive Health Online, Food Processing Technology.

Kolabtree achieved a 100% year-on-year increase in branded online traffic.

The organisers of Lab Innovations, a leading scientific trade show, requested that Kolabtree speak at the event in October 2019.

Objective 2: 

Kolabtree saw 160 project requests for chemistry in 2019, generating £17,500 of revenue, which Kolabtree directly attributes to content using the keyword “freelance formulation chemist”

Kolabtree saw an increase in cosmetics projects, following the publication of an article published in Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Review, resulting in projects worth £11,700. Before this article, Kolabtree had received 3 cosmetics projects since November. Following publication, it saw 21 in the following month.

Objective 3:

Average domain authority of coverage was 47.

Objective 4:

Kolabtree appeared in five articles on Forbes, who now turn to Ashmita, it’s CEO, as a gig economy leader.

Kolabtree appeared in print and online in Nature, which caused spike in web traffic, resulting in 3.1k new visitors, an 82% increase on the 1.7k monthly average. There were 848 new users on the site on the article publication date alone. 

About the author

Richard Stone
Richard Stone - CHART.PR, MCIPR

Stone Junction is managed by Richard Stone, a chartered member of the CIPR whose previous experience includes campaigns for Arup, AIT Plc, CIENA, Parker Hannifin, Schneider Electric, SIG, SKF, Roche and WorldCom.

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