5 tips on promoting your work as a researcher
In this blog post, we will share 5 tips on promoting your work as a researcher.
These tips are inspired by Northern Power Women event (11 Sep 2019) at the Natwest Business Accelerator in Leeds.
Northern Power Women Role Model Event
Northern Power Women is a campaign that accelerates gender diversity in the North of England. It does so by transforming the culture of organisations and increasing opportunities for women.
The theme of the event was ‘the art of selling yourself’. Whether we have to write award applications, submit evidence of our achievements or simply shout about our success in everyday conversation, we can all be more confident in how we talk about what we do.
The event was organised after the recent publication of The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship. This in-depth report highlighted that women entrepreneurs struggle with a lack of self-belief in promoting their work or setting up their business (p. 63).
The panel consisted of power women who have either earned top roles in various sectors or have taken a leap of faith and started their business.
Simone Roche, Founder of Northern Power Women, emphasised the need to encourage the community of women and to not be afraid to see ourselves as role models. Joining her on the panel were Pamela Doherty, Chief Executive Officer of AxiaOrigin, Minoti Parikh, Founder of This Pampered Life and Safeena Ali, Director at PwC.
(Left to right: Safeena Ali, Minoti Parikh, Simone Roche, Pamela Doherty, Kristina McGuirk, Heather Waters)
The event was closed off by keynote speaker Kristina McGuirk, Founder of KComms Group. Kristina engaged the audience with a talk on personal branding and how it can help entrepreneurs.
The insights shared at the event were useful for the 60+ women in the room, including our team members, as all of us happen to be women.
However, beyond our own experiences, we reached out to our community of researchers and realised that promoting one’s work as a researcher can be equally tricky.
Obstacles to promoting your work as a researcher
Academics can sometimes be introverted instead of extroverted types which makes them apprehensive about reaching out beyond their circle. This can also lead to a reluctance to making oneself visible online. Moreover, from a gender perspective, academia is a predominantly male-dominated field, so it’s often possible that female voices get drowned out.
Assuming people know where to find the research
Several academics assume that if they conduct the research and they publish it, people will beat a path to their door. Unfortunately, research can often hide behind under access and language barriers and not receive the exposure it deserves.
Negative connotations with marketing
Lastly, we often hear from our researchers that the term ‘marketing’ has a negative connotation for them. They associate marketing-related activities with selling something for profit, without seeing that marketing can also be used for social endeavours.
“For some early career researchers it may be imposter syndrome or struggling to make themselves known in the field. Conferences can be very expensive and to speak at them to just a small room of people is costly, difficult and a big barrier for many.”
Ella Guerin, Mental health nurse and lecturer at the Nottingham School of Health Sciences @UoN_SHS
Despite these potential obstacles, we believe there is great benefit for researchers to be proactive with sharing your work beyond academia. As a result, and inspired by the amazing Northern Power Women event, we have compiled 5 tips for promoting your work as a researcher.
We hope these will help you expand the reach of your work and maximise your impact in society.
5 tips on promoting your work as a researcher
1. Promote what you are good at
As researchers, just like everyone else, there are fields or skills that we excel in more than others. These are skills that you have perfected and know the ins and outs to.
Projecting what you are good at will come with ease and will tend to be more natural and desirable to your audience. For example, if you excel at engaging with local communities or you have a strong network in the third sector, be sure to promote that in your profile or when you engage with people.
More often than not, there is a tendency to focus on what you need to improve on. However, this may be weighing down on your achievements and hinder you from opportunities to inspire and collaborate with other academics.
“Own your story and do not be afraid to shout about it.” Kristina McGuirk, NPW event
Developing and sharing the story of your academic career or research project can be immensely inspirational for someone who may be starting out.
By promoting what you are good at and emphasising your strengths, you encourage others to do the same in an open and positive manner.
2. Create your own personal brand and identity
The concept of branding for a business tends to be more straightforward and easy to understand. We know that businesses have to showcase their offers or work to their target market. Moreover, business leaders are used to the concept of personal branding and identity to help propel their business forward. However, as mentioned above, academics may see personal branding as superfluous.
However, we believe that Kristina McGuirk’s insight to ‘think of oneself as a brand’ can be beneficial for researchers too. This can be very handy when communicating with others (be it formal or informal) as well as when you communicate your work to others. Why is this so useful? This approach ensures that you are clear about your key messages, values and tone of voice. Equipped with this awareness, you infuse these in the content you share with others, which in turn sharpens your profile.
Specifically relating to one’s online persona, we previously talked about social media and academia in our post about communication tips for academic researchers (Tip 4). In terms of creating your personal brand, Twitter is a fantastic tool to amplify your message and expose your research to wider audiences.
A key aspect of maintaining your personal brand is to remain consistent and authentic. Speaking at the NPW event, Minoti Parikh stated that, “in order to sell yourself, be authentic and show up as you are.”
Thus, when promoting your work, stay consistent and true to your identity. In that way, your work will reach the right audience and have maximum impact.
3. Create an emotional attachment with your audience
As researchers we tend to focus on logic and rationality due to the nature of our work where we communicate data, facts, findings.
However, we should not forget that in order to communicate our research effectively, it is our job to interpret it in ways that are comprehensible to others.
It’s important to tailor your approach to your audience, but, indeed, remember you are ultimately trying to connect with people with feelings and emotions 👀 https://t.co/kTuZZpYVyg
— Research Retold (@ResearchRetold) September 18, 2019
Speaking of effective communication, Kristina affirmed that, “a successful brand does not trigger a logical response but an emotional attachment.”
Therefore, it is important to create a personable connection with your audience. This applies to the way you engage with your online community on social media, by being open and approachable during events or by encouraging those around you.
Moreover, it is often said that facts alone often do not have the ability to change people’s minds and hearts (Kolbert, 2017). It is therefore imperative to think of ways to emotionally connect with your audience and bring them into the world of your research by appealing to their emotions. Remember:
“A careful blending of rhetoric and facts, woven into the right story, can change minds.” (Baldoni, 2011)
4. Build a strong network
Selling your work does not always mean being at the forefront, pitching ideas and shouting about your accomplishments. It also means listening and learning, finding ways to improve and bouncing off ideas with other researchers.
Building a strong network also gives you an opportunity to help others and create new collaborations. Mentoring is a great way of doing this.
While speaking amongst the panel, Pamela encouraged this and expressed the fact that the more time she gave in mentoring others, the more she felt fulfilled in the work that she was doing.
As an academic, mentoring your peers can be a fantastic way to give back and build your network. In the early days of one’s career, academics need support in order to grow and boost their work. It doesn’t matter how well established you may be, there will come a time when you will need assistance from others.
Building a network generates visibility. In turn, this also enables you to connect with the right people and allows you to make your work known to broader audiences.
“Sometimes you do not need a lot of time to sell yourself. Just build a strong network.” Pamela Doherty, Chief Executive Officer of AxiaOrigin, NPW Event
5. Get professional help
As mentioned, it is important to gather support from the networks you build. This support is crucial to encourage you in what you are doing.
During the event, Safeena affirmed that, “there is something powerful about having someone around you to give you positive feedback.”
However, it also means that you will not always have the right answers, skills or tools. Make yourself known to those in the different fields as well in order to seek help and support in areas outside your expertise. .
A division of labour approach is needed for success.
As Research Retold, we collaborate with researchers to communicate their findings in accessible and visual formats for desired stakeholders.
For example, when researchers need to communicate key findings to busy policymakers, we help them by producing an effective visual summary that captures the key findings of their message.
This maximises the time they have with their audience, offering a practical takeaway and boosting the chances for a follow-up.
Beyond our services, there are other companies that offer professional assistance in various aspects of communication:
- CampusPR – helps secure high-quality media coverage and PR opportunities for higher education institutions and researchers in order to connect with specific target audiences.
- Dotkumo – provides social media and web content expertise by managing social media channels and collaborating on various projects, with a focus on research projects and public sector work.
- Ready Salted – offers strategic planning, design and development to help academic institutes and other organisations launch projects, ideas and applications.
We hope you enjoyed reading our 5 tips on promoting your work as a researcher.
Keep in mind to promote what you are good at, create your own personal brand and build a strong network.
Lastly, remember to create an emotional attachment with the audience and to get professional help in achieving your goals. Regardless of the method, it’s important to think through what works best for you and to find your own voice and style.
Many thanks to Grace Maina, our Content and Communications Coordinator, for contributing to this blogpost with research, writing and editing.
A special thanks for the Natwest Business Accelerator for hosting the event and for the Northern Power Women team for the inspiration to write this piece.
Baldoni, J. (24 March 2011) Harvard Business Review, Using Stories to Persuade
Karrera, M. (10 May 2017) Career Addict, 10 Important Benefits of Networking
Kolbert, E. (27 February 2017) New Yorker, Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds
Thiefels, J. (5 February 2018) Glassdoor, 8 Habits of Employees That Get Promoted