‘A killer stat’ and ‘one key message’ are phrases that strike fear into the heart of many a researcher. Having spent months designing, carrying out and writing up your carefully crafted research, you now need to find a media hook or a soundbite; something that can get the message across quickly and easily. This was true before the digital age but it is even truer in today’s social media-savvy world. We might fear it but we can’t ignore it. You know what? It might just be time to embrace it as a way to ensure good quality research reaches its intended audience.
Last week I attended an event, hosted by JRF and part of the #WonkComms movement that focussed on the future of think tank research communications. Here are some things I will take away from it:
The way people consume information has changed
It really has. People are time poor, with a multitude of media vying for their attention. It is a crowded space. It is commonplace for journalists, policy makers and even academics to consume information via social media, on the move or whilst doing other things. We have long debated who really reads full research reports and the debate is even more important now. We need to understand how our audiences consume media.
Consider the balance between strategy and innovation.
At an organisational level – decide how you will approach digital and social media. Why are you doing it and what do you want to achieve? At an individual level: give it a go! Try out new ways to create content, engage and interact with your audience. There are lots of tools and techniques out there which are free or inexpensive to use.
Research quality is not jeopardised by digital comms
There is still a need for robust, high quality research; the product which sits behind the tweet, podcast or infographic is still of central importance. There is a lot of information out there but quality still counts. As well as getting a central message across, communications tools should be seen as a way into the detail.
The best way to have impact is to ensure experts in research and communications are working work together! And collaboration is best done from the beginning of a research project.
Let’s remember why we are doing this: we want to change minds, encourage action and make a difference. Whether you work in research or communications that is certainly a common goal we can surely all agree on!
Head of Ageing Society Research Team, Joseph Rowntree Foundation