Not so long ago I cited the wisdom of writing guru Robert McKee who said that storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.

Well, one university in particular has been letting the world know about its work in a big way thanks to excellent marketing that translates the complexity of research into compelling stories delivered across a variety of platforms.

The University of Melbourne rightly has been praised and awarded for its marketing aimed at raising public awareness and understanding of the work of its researchers.

Melbourne’s Pursuit and Collision campaigns are excellent examples of clear and innovative communication of complex academic investigation and its results.

While the praise for the marketing is well earned Melbourne deserves plaudits for something else – it is exactly the right thing to do.

It’s a fact that large numbers of the public don’t know what universities actually are for. As Gwilym Croucher pointed out in The Conversation only around one in ten people report they are aware of the different fields studied at university.

Many folk, including business leaders, think universities exist solely to educate for skilled and professional jobs.

As Croucher said: “There is clearly scope for institutions to do a better job of explaining what they do to the public.”

Melbourne’s Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis clearly understands this and has had his teams working hard and creatively to put things to right.

Davis told The Australian Higher Education Section that the university’s own research had revealed Australians think higher education makes a big difference to the economy and to opportunities for their children.

However, “they don’t have a strong sense of what research means in practical terms. So we are showing them. This is their tax dollars at work, so they really should understand what difference that investment makes … They also often talk of research as though it is theoretical and unlinked to their lives, and we are trying to show them the way in which it (affects) their lives.”

Melbourne is doing a splendid job. It goes to show that when the ancient art of storytelling is thoughtfully and creatively incorporated into modern digital technologies it is as powerful and inspiring as it ever was.