An Introduction to Promoting Your Research

Last updated on February 15, 2023 6 min read Communication & Dissemination - An Introduction to Promoting Your Research

Communication is vital to scientific and scholarly endeavors, and at Boston University we strive to empower our faculty and community to communicate their research in effective and compelling ways. The more clearly you can talk about your work, the more accessible and usable your findings will be for reporters, policymakers, funders, and other key audiences. Here’s a list of steps you can take to broadcast your findings.

Define Your Audience

Not all research findings requires the same level or type of promotion. Spend some time thinking about your key audiences before you launch into promotion tactics. For example, if your research has the potential to change the way your peers do future research in your field, promotion to your peer networks will be more important than media outreach. If, on the other hand, your findings have broad implications for policy, you will want to think about how to get on the radar of policymakers and journalists.

Write Your Pitch

When you are ready to begin sharing your work, it’s helpful to have a concise statement of your research findings that quickly explains what you did, what’s new, why it matters, and why it especially matters now. You can use this pitch to share your research with colleagues, journalists, and other key audiences. Think about how you would explain the research in a short phone call to your grandmother.

It may be helpful to use the following questions to structure your pitch:

  • Using simple words, what is the main finding of your study? Why is it new/novel?
  • Using simple words, how did you conduct the research?
  • Using simple words, why should the finding matter to the general public?
  • Does this study have any exciting implications for societal betterment or improving people’s quality of life (e.g., the treatment of diseases, disorders, and/or injuries)? If so, please explain using simple language.

Share with Your Networks

Academics who are successful in broadcasting their research are typically doing promotional work themselves behind the scenes, starting with their own networks. New research is almost always worth sharing with your immediate circles, as these are people who care about you, your work, and may also share a specific interest in your field or research areas.

Sharing with your networks may include:

  • An email or phone call to any colleagues you want to make aware of your findings, including peers, collaborators, funders, contacts in relevant centers or departments, University leadership, etc.
  • Sharing a link to a new publication or op-ed via social media. You can use a shortened version of your pitch as a lead-in to the link and tag (@ mention) colleagues, institutions, affiliated organizations, etc. You can also use visuals (photos, videos) from your research to build buzz.
  • Posting about your new research on your personal website.
  • Presenting your research at conferences or on Zoom calls.
  • Looping in BU communicators who support your department, school/college, or center (see below). BU communicators, including BU PR | Social Media and The Brink, will respect paper embargoes, so it’s worth reaching out well in advance of your publication date.

Create Original Content

One way to begin promoting your research beyond your immediate networks is to write an op-ed or develop original content related to your research findings. This can take many forms:

  • Post a short, widely accessible summary of your research findings on Medium, an open platform for users to share original content.
  • Post multimedia content of your research in action to social media or YouTube.
  • Pitch an opinion piece to BU Today, The Brink, BU’s Medium blog, or The Conversation, an international news site aimed at providing opinion pieces grounded in scholarship and research.
  • Host a Reddit AMA (“Ask Me Anything”), a Q&A designed to bring an authority on a subject to a community of interested people.
Learn more and get support for writing op-eds and original content on the BU PR | Social media website

Reach out to “Friendly” Journalists

If you’d like to promote your research far and wide, you’ll want to consider supplementing your original content with targeted media outreach. A great first step is seeking out stories related to your specific area of research and getting in touch with the journalists who reported those stories. Keep in mind that 94 percent of journalists in the US use social media for their jobs, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey, so social media can be a useful tool for this type of outreach (i.e., sending a direct message on Twitter), as can email. While it’s fine to pitch journalists at major publications, also consider local outlets and specialized/trade publications.

Keep your email or direct message very short (about 3-5 sentences) and jargon-free. Go back to your pitch and make sure you’re sharing why your research is new, significant (to real people, outside of your academic field), and timely. Your goal is to get the reporter interested enough to respond, not to offer a comprehensive description of your work. You can always offer additional details later if they take the bait.

If you have a paper coming out, ideally you’ll reach out to the reporter in advance so they have the chance to run their story around the same time your paper publishes. Connect with staff at the publishing journal to make sure you’re clear on their embargo guidelines. BU Public Relations | Social Media can also be a resource throughout this process.

Loop in BU Communicators

At every stage of this process, it can be invaluable to loop in communications professionals around the University for assistance amplifying your research and expertise. Here are some of the contacts you may consider reaching out to, depending on your goals:

Start here: Communicators embedded in schools, colleges, centers, and departments are a great first contact. They are connected to other communicators around BU’s campuses and have a broad view of the channels and resources available to get the word out about your work. Start with:

  • Communicators at any centers, institutes, or initiatives where you are affiliated
  • Communicators at schools and colleges

Visit the Communicators Across Campuses list to find contact information for your “local” BU communicators.

Have something huge to share? There are central teams that can help create and push out news and stories internally and externally when you have something to share that’s of broad interest to a general audience. Consider looping in:

More Resources

There are a plethora of resources available around BU to help you build your communications toolkit. Here are few to explore as you’re getting started:

  • Strategic Communications Series: These workshop recordings focus on building communications skills to help promote research and scholarship. They continue to be offered twice a semester for faculty, students, and staff, and upcoming events are included on the Research How-to listing.
  • Research PR Case Studies: Case studies about successful research promotion at BU.
  • Create a Website: If you haven’t already, it’s worth setting up a website to showcase your scholarship. BU has templates available to both faculty and research initiatives.
  • BU PR | Social Media offers direct support to faculty, media training, and a library of best practices on PR and social media.

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