Academic research can be a powerful tool to shape policy and practices when it reaches the right audiences. Many scholars want to ensure that their research is understood and applied. But, too often, individuals and organizations who could make practical use of research findings remain unaware of them.
This is where an effective media strategy comes in to play.
When approached effectively, traditional and social media can be great vehicles to bring research and scholarly expertise into the national dialogue and pave the way for transformative solutions.
Here are three strategies Collaborative deploys to amplify the expertise of researchers:
#1 Make connection to current events.
Connecting research findings to key topics of the day allows the research to take on a trajectory and lifespan of its own. Doing so requires taking a big-picture perspective and getting to the heart of the research. It requires that we ask such questions as: What is possible? How can these insights improve lives? Who can benefit from these findings?
Often, simply sending an email with these connections is not enough. It’s still helpful to speak with reporters to explain how a researcher’s findings, as well as their overall area of study, can inform the national conversation in ways that are timely, meaningful, and evidence-based. It also positions researchers as potential sources of interesting data and analysis in the future.
Monitoring the dialogue regarding current events related to faculty research areas can help you to identify specific opportunities to position your faculty’s work as useful context for reporters working to describe major developments. This work can lead to increased public awareness and policymaker action.
#2 Share information in an approachable format directed to specific audiences.
Even the most jargon-rich, technical scholarship can be translated into powerful, actionable insights for lay people. Once we have connected research to current events, we then need to map the findings to specific target audiences who will find the information most useful. In doing so, it is important to identify who can best act on this information, and what actions should they take based on it.
Once the audience and the appropriate call to action are determined, researchers are then in position to develop the outreach (such as a commentary piece) that introduces the problem/challenge to be solved, sheds lights on critical insights and findings in addressing it, and presents recommendations for action.
#3 Look beyond the usual suspects.
Get clear about your goals for promoting your researchers and their expertise. What is it that you ultimately want to accomplish for your school or institution? Once your goals are clear, then you can identify the publications and outlets that will reach the audiences who will help you advance those goals. These outlets may be the traditional, mainstream publications you have in mind. Depending on your goals, they may be trade or local publications.
For instance, when it comes to advancing state policy, the most effective placement could be a leading state publication or NPR station. And, in an effort to reach the most individuals, consider some of the more cutting-edge national publications, such as Buzzfeed and NowThisNews.
By developing a multi-faceted earned media strategy, and by building capacity among your institutional communications team to position research in new ways, the expertise of key faculty can take a prominent place in national conversations. Faculty researchers will be seen as reliable and credible resources for reporters, editors, and experts in government and policy, thereby positioning your institution to influence key conversations and drive meaningful change.