Information overload is a problem of the modern age. So, as a research communicator, how can you cut through the barrage of info and not only reach your target audience, but also engage with them?
It’s a challenge for any organization, but it’s a significant struggle for those in research communications, specifically. You’re trying to spread the word about your institution’s research endeavours, and in turn how fantastic and forward-thinking your university is, but the fight to be heard is a formidable one. Plus, you must walk the line between informing and overwhelming your audience with details about research studies. Oh, and you must maintain consistent messaging and regular contact with your audience when your research magazine is only published, say, two or three times a year.
So what’s the solution? I believe it’s a blog.
Now, blogging is a big topic, so I’ll cover its various facets in future posts. Today, though, I’m making the case that a blog is a good thing. As a communication platform. As a way to build relationships with your community. And as a tool to understand what your audience really wants.
Constant stream of content
Research magazines are a beautiful thing. But they also take quite a long time to produce. And there are always more research stories to tell than space in your publication to share them.
A blog can help. It can fill in the gap during the down-times in your production schedule. It can enable you to explore different angles of an existing story. It can allow you to tell even more research stories. It can help you maintain the voice of your publication or it can let you adopt a more casual, conversational tone.
No matter what, a blog provides more opportunities to connect with your audience. Just make sure you promote your blog appropriately – for example, through Twitter, Facebook and even in your own magazine. That’s because potential readers aren’t likely to visit your blog if they don’t know there’s something new to see.
Building a community
In her book Power Friending, author and social media expert Amber Mac writes this about blogging:
“The corporate world has discovered that blogs can be an effective way to convey a company’s message, often replacing the traditionally stuffy press release. At some companies, blogs are now a prime destination for an organization to get information about what it does on the inside to the outside world, which also leads to community-building efforts…”
That last line has particular relevance in research communications. At the best of times, readers may struggle to understand the finer points and purpose of your research projects. A blog gives you another “kick at the can,” so to speak. In addition to your print (or online) magazine stories, blog posts provide more opportunities to share your unique stories and offer readers an authentic experience of your school’s research enterprise.
In turn, this experience helps generate a community of followers – people who think, “Wow, really amazing things are happening at Awesome University, and I’m going to share them with all my friends, colleagues and co-workers.” Or, something to that effect, anyway!
Yes, blogs deliver content. But they also invite feedback from readers and encourage them to explore stories on a deeper level.
Here are just a few examples to explain this interactivity: you can ask for readers’ comments; you can post supplementary material (e.g., a video); and you can invite readers to submit questions for a Q & A with a researcher.
From an evaluation perspective, a blog’s statistics tracker enables you to see what stories resonated with readers. Which posts, for example, did they share with friends on Facebook or Twitter? Which stories generated the most comments? And what types of stories do readers most often click on?
That’s a lot of helpful insight. And it can be put to good use in your communication plan and story line-up. Or even in a future blog post.
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