Last week I was invited to a workshop by Dr Caitlin Kight (former biologist and now academic developer), from the University of Exeter. The topic of the day was ‘Multimedia Research Communications’, inviting us to think about research communications more strategically, by:
– Exploring how research communication can benefit our scholarly activities.
– Identifying which aspects of our research are likely to get the most interest and response from external audiences.
– Looking at appropriate methods and platforms for interacting with different audiences.
– Building evaluation techniques into communications to assess impact.
– Providing advice on utilising specific types of media.
The workshop tied together themes of creativity, public engagement, accessibility, and probably what I appreciated hearing the most – taking the leap and trying something different. This can be hard when you see tried and tested ways of doing things that achieve results… but what if those results can be better and we have just not been brave enough to try? Here are the top 10 tips I took away from Caitlin’s workshop:
- Ask yourself questions – what do I enjoy?
Linking your research to other activities you appreciate can help ignite creative ideas for communication, and make it more fun for you too. Do you like the theatre, or crochet, or music, or print-making? There will be a way of combining your loves to form a unique communication opportunity!
- Expand on what you do/create/communicate?
Reframe your research and look at it from different dimensions. Could it be represented in an immersive space? Could you demonstrate your data with an interactive session? Could you make people laugh? Could you wow them?
- Think about the best examples of research communication you have seen
How did this reach out to the audience? Why did it stick in your head?
- Tell a story
Storyboarding and adding a narrative form to what you are communicating can draw people in and capture the imagination.
- Give it personality
Information delivered by a voice can have so much more impact than just reading a piece of text. Imagine if Morgan Freeman was reading this to you now!
- We are emotional beings
We become emotionally invested in things as long as we’re provided with something a bit more than just the facts. Emotion = impact, so think about how to get your research across with a little bit of heart.
- Data > filter > visualise > story
Remember your data is most likely very complex, too complex for most people. Summarise and tailor this for different audiences, making it relevant to them.
- Have a clear communications plan
What is your product? What is your niche? What is your brand? Who are you? Who is your audience? How will you connect with them? What do you hope to achieve through this connection?
- People want to know
We are naturally curious. People want to know how things work, and if you give them a chance, they’ll help you communicate your findings even further. Make it accessible and they’ll be your biggest supporters.
- Enjoy and make connections
Being creative can mean walking into the unknown, but remember to take advantage of the people around you who can help – both officially (PR teams etc.) and unofficially. Taking that chance to share your research and make it extra memorable will give it all the more meaning both for you and those who want to know more.
Caitlin mentioned a couple of books in her workshop which you may wish to check out – Conscious Creativity by Philippa Stanton, and Social Media for Academics by Mark Carrigan.