A New Approach to Research Communication
Scholars have always been driven to have an impact outside academia, but there are now more opportunities than ever for them to do so. The internet has radically transformed the media landscape, opening up exciting ways for scholars to connect and communicate with lay audiences. Major newspapers and media outlets have broadened their channels for outside experts to contribute. Social media, blogs, podcasts, and other digitally-driven formats offer novel ways to share information.
This transformation means that academics no longer have to rely on journalists to tell their stories. Instead, they can leverage new channels to share their research and expertise directly with the public and drive the narrative about their work and its value. However, to harness these opportunities, the academic community must go beyond traditional communication approaches and adopt strategies tailored to today’s media landscape.
At Footnote, we’ve developed an approach to research communication that combines time-tested techniques with strategies for leveraging new digital opportunities. We’ve refined this model in collaboration with scholars and communications staff, and seen it deliver compelling results.
Footnote’s innovative approach to research communication:
Centers on Research. An institution’s research, scholarship, and expertise are among its strongest assets and should be the primary focus of its communications efforts. With the public increasingly confused about who to trust and how to evaluate the information they consume, there’s a hunger for evidence-based insights and expert voices. By promoting scholars as essential contributors to public discourse, the academic community can demonstrate the value of its research.
Engages the Audience. Writing exclusively in inaccessible, technical formats designed for peer researchers ensures academic work is read only by other scholars. For research to have an impact on the broader world, it needs to be translated into a format that is accessible and engaging for lay audiences. Scholars need support to produce content that combines academic rigor with journalistic techniques like story, context, and applicability.
Drives Impact and Results. Research communication efforts should be motivated by institutional goals, such as enhancing reputation, influencing key decision makers, educating practitioners and the public, and appealing to donors and funders. These impact goals will determine the appropriate communication strategy, target audiences, content formats, and dissemination channels. They should also guide how the institution leverages its communication wins to serve its objectives.
By following these principles for research communication, Footnote has helped the academic community amplify the impact of its research and harness the new opportunities made possible by digital media.