A researcher’s work does not stop when the work gets published. Today’s scholars are increasingly expected to initiate and be involved in post-publication processes aiming at an increased impact. We wanted to share some hints on how to do it wisely.
Outreach, impact, accessibility – all these dimensions belong to the “excellence of research” that funders are expecting and many scholars have internalized.
For many scholars, the burden of the promotional work – beyond the most obvious that it takes time and effort – lies in the self-centrism of the act. However, instead of adopting the idea of being too self-centric or selfish and regarding promotion as self-PR, the post-publication work can be envisioned as audience work. Such work ensures that the work published will find relevant audiences, ideas are implemented into practice and the research finds its way into the world.
In principle, promotional work can be led by existing communities such as media or user communities, or by the scholar themselves. Both ways typically require something from the author of the original research work: the work must be communicated to these media or community actors, which requires some re-thinking and input from the author who knows the work best.
Promotional work can be led by media or by the scholar themselves.
For a scholarly-led promotional work, the outcome may be press releases, personal newsletters or attention e-mails, posts in social media groups, policy briefs, articles in academic online or professional magazines, letters-to-the-editor in newspapers, guest columns or guest blog posts, blog posts in a blog of one’s own, podcasts or podcast series (by involvement in an existing one or creating one’s own), and recorded talks in video or webinar talks. The most creative and determined promotional work may even result in more far-flung spin-offs such as media programmes like documentaries, pedagogizations such as online learning materials, products and patents, as well as networks, associations or organizations. Collaboration with practitioners and experts in other fields makes it possible to mediate ideas from your research to fields where they can continue the life of their own. For example, lesson plans, courses, software or theatre plays can be created out of your original work.
There are also many different intentions, and not all content must transmit information: raising questions or addressing everyday problematics found in research may engage people, and entertaining or humorous content may arouse interest in important research issues.
Whatever the channel and approach, there are three overarching principles:
Promotion is continuous, long-term work.
Promotion should be continuous, stable work with a long-term vision. When the need arises, you cannot build up an interest or stakeholder community within a day – there is no audience available. In particular, researcher-led promotion should be conducted in small steps, slowly but surely. If done regularly, the promotional work can even be spread across the entire research process, addressing its different stages.
Learn to identify the news value of your work.
As demotivating as it may sound, the world is not as enthusiastic as you are about the fact that a new publication has come out. Far too many scholars are posting links to published articles, saying, “my new publication is out there”. Instead of stating the obvious, you should try to identify what is the most important, timely or puzzling question to a specific group of people in your research network and connect your piece of work to that. Instead of asking people not familiar with academic language and concepts to familiarize themselves with long scientific texts, you should help them to find the connections.
Better to be there than to be square.
The reason for us most to not be online is the amount of work it requires if you become active. But the advice is: it is better to be there for potential attention than to not exist online at all. Even if you establish an account, you can always communicate to those interested in your work that you are not posting actively and regularly, and how to reach you for inquiries.
More concretely, what to do?