If we have learned anything living in a globalized society, it is that we are always competing against other actors vying for consumer attention. Every day people are surrounded by news, not only at a national level, and not only around one specific set topic. News is everywhere and covers many subjects, from the climatic conditions in the Gulf of Mexico to the new technologies designed by Japanese investors to obtain energy from rush hour traffic.
In addition, this globalized society encourages us to work more on differentiation than on mass production. It’s not enough to become a good researcher in one topic, you should be considered as a point of reference for the national, scientific and professional communities on this topic. People have access to innumerable sources of information, therefore what you want to say should be supported by quality instead of quantity.
Create unique knowledge
I have always thought that you should not give a 2-hour lecture to demonstrate that you know something – it’s better to summarize one complex idea in an effective quote. People are better at remembering vast amounts of information when it can be classified with labels, or, in this case, quotes. Why would someone you have not met remember something that you say? The key element is to say something different, to provide a valuable and unique piece of knowledge.
I’m not saying that doing this will be easy, but it will be worthwhile. Think tanks often focus on appearing in different media forms, but they are not always capable of giving valuable content to their audiences. Aim to reach people when you have something really interesting to share.
At FUNDESA, even though we have different areas of expertise and investigation, we have different spokespeople for different topics. These people are recognized as experts in their own fields, but this is not enough. For example, we have focused our expertise and become a source of information for the analysis of the international comparison indices as well as in comparative global competitiveness measures – we want to focus on quality rather than quantity.
Creating information channels
If you want people to consume your information, you have to invest resources into diversification, making your organization the one to which people turn automatically for specific topics. This can be achieved if your staff develop remarkable insights about some topics and make information accessible to different audiences through friendly formats. This means not only generating quality ideas, but using different channels to share those ideas.
Try also to keep in mind the things that you easily remember. Quotes are a really good example because they are capsules of knowledge presented in a friendly, interesting and valuable format. It’s important that people remember a particularly captivating anecdote or story from what you have said.
To earn credibility is a process, not a goal
It’s important to emphasize the distinction between research written by researchers for researchers, and easy to read or digestible information for the non-research community. I’m sure that you are going to want a lot of people to read your work and that it will contribute to your field of interest. However, it is important that you gain some ‘devotees’ before expecting too much! To earn recognition from people is a process, not a goal. People will want to know who you are, and what your credibility is before they choose to read your arguments. It’s like dealing with wild animals before they are domesticated – you have to earn their trust first, then you will be able to demand more from them.
As a general conclusion, I want to emphasize one idea. People will consider you a reliable source of information only if you produce valuable content in a friendly format for consumption. This is the first step to gaining an audience that will also read your more technical papers. You should attempt to capture people through clever, memorable ideas. If you succeed, you will also have their attention for the more scientific-technical findings and they will view you as a good investment when they have a few moments of their valuable time to spare.
If you would like find out more about how the ‘Strengthening Institutions to Improve Public Expenditure Accountability’ project developed policy options and created a tailored approach to research communication visit the ‘Strengthening Institutions’ mini-site. You can also stay up to date via RSS.