Communications Toolkit for Academics

Communicating Beyond Journals and Peers

As a scientist, scholar, or researcher, you help solve the world’s most pressing problems. Yours is the trusted voice of reason. But to truly impact others, your voice needs to be heard more broadly. You do important work, but we understand some of you may struggle to explain “why this matters” to outside audiences.

There are both lofty and practical reasons why it makes sense for you to explain your work in language that is compelling and understandable to the public. A more engaged, informed public will make better personal, policy, and funding decisions. Evidence shows that communicating can also reap the following benefits:

  • Increases scholarly metrics, including citations
  • Boosts scientific impact
  • Enhances stature and reputation among peers and students
  • Helps attract private funding and helps satisfy public funding outreach requirements
  • Helps create collaborative opportunities
  • Helps recruit postdocs and grad students
  • Counters public misperception on such issues as GMOs, vaccinations or climate change, to name a few.
  • Helps maintain public support for research funding at the national and state level.

We also understand that many academics feel uncomfortable with self-promotion. In her book, Making Peace with Self Promotion, author Liz Neely explains that “Refusing to promote yourself online is not taking the moral high ground, it is self-sabotage. Done right, self-promotion is acting in service of your ideas, not just clamoring for affirmation. Find your voice, focusing on great content, and positioning it effectively can create positive spirals to benefit your work and your career.”

Neely goes on to dispel the following arguments:

ARGUMENT: I don’t want to annoy people.
TRUTH: There is a difference between positive disclosure and bragging. Positive disclosure is modest in nature, with true facts. Bragging is aggressive and competitive. Stick to the former.

ARGUMENT: I want my work to speak for itself.
TRUTH: Undivided attention no longer exists. The public makes decisions not alone, but based on the influence of their networks.

ARGUMENT: I don’t want to overpromise.
TRUTH: Then don’t. Whether it’s a blog, tweet, or column, not every idea is perfect - sometimes it’s about getting feedback.

Beginning your communications journey

If you need help determining the newsworthiness of a particular item, don’t hesitate to reach out to your college communicator or to Communications and Brand Strategy (CABS).

To help you on the journey to better communication, please use the tools provided in this online toolkit. It will walk you through steps to effectively tell your story, as well as provide guidance and tips on topics such as blogs, op-eds, social media and more.

Also included is a monthly calendar of upcoming events, remembrances, or themes that can be tied in to your research or interests.

We encourage you to sign up for REACH, a monthly e-newsletter with tips and tricks, relevant articles, and more about effective communications.

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