Making Time for Research Communications
As a researcher, you may have the most profound ideas and fascinating discoveries, but if you can’t communicate them effectively, they may not reach their full impact potential. Communication is the fundamental ingredient that makes research dissemination sizzle. And just like a great meal, there are many ways to serve it up. Whether you’re sharing preliminary data with colleagues, engaging the wider public through social media, promoting research outcomes at a conference, or influencing policymakers, effective communication is essential to increasing the impact of research (REF).
Researchers should chart a communication strategy to maximise the benefit of their communications to their research and career. They first need to free themselves from the attitude that they should fear communicating to lay audiences because of the inherent imprecision of lay communications. Also, they should overcome the fear of communicating beyond their peers because their peers might judge them harshly. They should have a “do-tell” strategy that they communicate as much as possible about their goals and research advances.– Explaining Research. Second Edition. Dennis Meredith, Oxford University Press
With communication a clearly elemental part of successful research, why is it that not having enough time is a common refrain from researchers and research teams when it comes to marketing and communications? We’re here to tell you that it absolutely is possible to fit effective communications into a busy schedule – it’s not about finding more time; it’s about making the most of the time you do have. All it takes is a little bit of creativity, resourcefulness and planning.
Build a plan
Developing a clear, manageable plan will help you to feel more in control of communications and enable you to focus on and prioritise core activities. Even a straightforward and simple communications plan that considers the below points is better than no plan at all!
What are your desired outcomes? Having an idea of what you want to achieve will help you to measure impact. Are you looking for increased awareness around your subject, for people to take action or something else entirely? Defining these goals is essential in gauging success down the line!
Who are you trying to connect with? Whether policymakers, the wider public, or other academic communities, whoever you want to influence, the more you understand your audience and who you’re speaking to, the easier it will be to engage them.
What are the key points in your process? Are there any key dates and times you can build content around?
Make sure your project stands out – give it a look deserving of its value! Crafting a visual identity to accompany your work can help to make your findings more engaging and attention-grabbing.
With all of this in place, it’s now time to structure activities, assign roles and allocate resources to make get your work out there and make it irresistible. This is where you and your team can get your creative juices flowing and create content that stops publications and journalists in their tracks. From animated videos and podcasts to infographics and visual artwork, be playful, get creative, and make it fun!
Measurement and Analysis
Which KPIs are you going to track, and why? Metrics are more than just numbers – they’re critical insights into your audience and their behaviour. Without them, it’s hard to see if your time and budget were well spent, if you need to reallocate resources into a better-performing area, or if you need to change tack altogether.
Create a Window into Your World
All too often, communication is seen as an add-on activity for the latter stages of a research project. However, successful communication is not just about the findings you share but a reflection of how you show up every day. It should be embedded throughout the entire project’s lifecycle, from initial research to final dissemination, and don’t be afraid to be yourself and your personality along the way! Good communications require creating and disseminating persuasive messages that resonate with people, and self-censorship can lead to a watered-down or overly cautious message that fails to engage or inspire.
When communications are incorporated into the day-to-day (through media like audio, video, and photos) and paired with a strategy, an authentic voice and a clear set of objectives, deep connections with audiences can flourish.
Build up a content bank
Building a bank of content is one of the smartest moves you can make.
When you have a bank of content, you have a reserve of material you can pull from at any moment. Instead of scrambling to create content on a tight deadline, you can instead dip into your bank, schedule them out in advance and have content ready to go for weeks or even months in advance. This saves you from having to come up with new ideas every time you need to post something.
Building a bank of content takes time upfront, but it’s an investment that pays off in the long run. It allows you to be more efficient with your time, stay ahead of deadlines, and maintain consistency in your content creation. So, if you haven’t started building your bank of content, it’s time to get cracking. Your future self will thank you!
Recycle and reuse
If you find that idea generation is the biggest time sap when it comes to communications, then become a content chameleon and transform your existing material into different formats to maximise reach. However, copying and pasting text from your blog onto social media isn’t going to cut it – the best repurposed content is tweaked to match each marketing channel. Could you put a more conversational spin on a blog post you’ve written and turn it into a script for a video? Or take engaging soundbites from a podcast, and turn them into short and snappy social media posts? With content repurposing, the possibilities are almost endless, and a handful of great ideas can be communicated in multiple ways with very little time and effort.
Let your audience do some of the legwork
Want to engage audiences without spending tons of time? UGC, or user-generated content, is your secret weapon! Crowdsource vibrant and real content from the people who matter most – your audience and stakeholders. Whether it’s through encouraging your audience to share photos or videos related to your research project using a certain hashtag or encouraging people to share their own stories and perspectives to motivate stakeholders, UGC is an effective method of building a meaningful community.
Turn commitments into habits
When it comes to content creation, timing is everything. Pinpoint the time of the day when your brain is the most productive and creative. Dedicate that time to communications activities leads to content ideas that are more unique and engaging. However, it’s important to commit to a time and stick with it! Commitments lead to habits, and for your comms to reap the rewards, consistency is key!
Delegation, delegation, delegation
Far too many great communications intentions get pushed to one side when the ‘real world’ intrudes. The key to stopping your comms tasks from remaining on a to-do list forever is to create clear roles. Allocate responsibilities to different team members and make sure they’re accountable for what they have to do. That way, your team can work more effectively and complete more activities that move the needle.
Take advantage of tech
Creating, distributing and promoting content can be an effort-intensive process – but it doesn’t have to be. From productivity-boosting tools that aid in project management to time-saving tools to help you schedule content ahead of time, there’s a tool for almost every comms activity that you can think of. In the competitive world of research comms, using your time effectively is essential, and the more productive you can be, the more likely it is that you’ll put your ideas into action.
Ask the experts
Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and admit there are some things you just can’t do single-handedly. Don’t be afraid to partner with a specialist agency to help form and shape a strategy and to create content. Many researchers entered their field because they wanted to make the world a better place. By partnering with communications experts, you can extend the influence of your research far beyond your fellow academics.
Ready to make time for research communications?
Let us get your project’s comms strategy moving. Get in touch with us today to see how we can spice up your research dissemination with killer communications!