Your research will only have real world impact if it reaches the right people. Before you begin your communication plan, think about what you want to achieve. Who are your target audience(s) are and how you will reach them? What channels will be the most effective and what tone/angle to do you need to employ to be effective in reaching them? Non-specialist audiences will need the work to be translated into a format that is easy to digest. Remember that ‘the general public’ is not a homogenous group. Who specifically are you addressing and why? Policy and practitioner communities may have greater technical knowledge than others but will each require a different approach.
Think about your narrative arc: what is the problem your research is trying to address; why is this important; how has your unique research insight led to a positive change; and who has benefitted and how? Keep asking yourself ‘so what?’ to make sure you are focussed on why your impact matters and why people should be interested.
Think about the reach of your impact (the variety and extent of beneficiaries, relative to the potential pool of beneficiaries) and the significance (the degree to which the impact has informed, enabled or influenced behaviour of the beneficiaries). Make sure you are clear, specific and don’t undersell yourself.
Prioritise your list of communication activities, relative to your objectives, and ensure you have the skills and resources to deliver them. These could include:
- Traditional PR activity – press releases; newspaper, magazine, radio or tv appearances
- Social media – Twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, even Pinterest may provide opportunities for promotion
- Data visualisation, such as infographics, charts, maps, timelines etc, which can be circulated in print or digital media
- Videos, or audio podcasts
- Exhibitions /workshops – standalone or integrated with existing events
Don’t forget to promote your work via Oxford Brookes’ internal channels too. Faculty newsletters, Onstream, etc, are a great way to have your work recognised.
The ODI REF Impact Toolkit advises:
- Create packages not publications. Your impact will be limited if you just produce one product; you need to tailor outputs and activities for different audiences.
- Be strategically opportunistic. Identify policy windows and plan your research timetable to make the most of these opportunities. However, unexpected or unplanned opportunities will also emerge and you need to be ready to respond.
- Don’t forget the messenger. Sometimes you may not be the appropriate messenger. For example, you may not have the right profile, access or skills. You may need to partner up with other organisations or individuals.
Oxford Brookes’ Communications Team can help with PR, and internal and external communications.
Oxford Brookes’ Scholarly Communications Team can provide advice on academic publishing, data management, copyright issues, etc.