5 Tips for Getting Your Research Noticed
Business school faculty frequently publish interesting research, but it doesn’t always get the publicity it deserves. Demonstrating impactful thought leadership is also part of AACSB’s accreditation standards, and research that receives media exposure can achieve greater impact. So how do you get press coverage for your academic research?
As senior editor of BusinessBecause and GMAC Media, my email inbox is packed full of press releases, interview proposals, and article pitches, with topics ranging from macroeconomics and complex management theory to the world’s best-selling dog treats.
These stories and ideas compete with one another, alongside an already busy news cycle and our pre-planned content calendar. At the same time, I’m commissioning articles, coordinating writers, setting our SEO strategy, interviewing, and meeting with business school clients.
If you’re managing a business school’s PR efforts, pitching to journalists and editors, getting your school’s academic research picked up is a challenge, but it’s not impossible by any means. Here are five ways to get your school’s research noticed:
1. Know Your Audience
When pitching academic research, knowing whom you’re pitching to and what kind of content fits with the publication and its audience is key.
You stand a much better chance of success if you send a tailored pitch directly to select journalists, rather than sending the same email out to a database of media contacts.
Think about our goals and priorities as journalists and editors: in digital media, we need our content to get views; we want to keep our audience engaged and coming back for more. We want something that’s newsworthy, that offers new data and insights on a topic that’s important to our audience.
Even before putting your pitch or press release together, research which journalist contacts would be the best fit. You can use tools like Muck Rack to search for relevant journalists and monitor breaking news stories, or you can use social “listening” tools like Meltwater to monitor social media posts related to your school and find out which journalists are covering those stories.
“You could have an incredibly descriptive, well-written and easy to understand research summary, but if you don’t send this to journalists who work in that field, it’s completely pointless,” notes Peter Remon, account manager at BlueSky Education, a PR and communications consultancy for business schools.
“Just as important as interesting and simple text is doing your research into journalists, what they write about, what areas they are interested in, and whether your research is relevant to their publication.”
2. Make It Timely
It might seem like the best time to publicize faculty research is right after it’s published, but that often not is the case. To get noticed, you should wait for the right time to place your research into the wider news context.
Sure, competition is higher during an election campaign or an economic crash when multiple outlets are receiving pitches related to the same topic, but know that journalists are writing about, looking for, and expecting this content.
If you can make our lives easier by providing the right content at the right time—and it offers a new angle on a topic we’re already writing about—you’re much more likely to get your research picked up than by pitching in a news vacuum.
Samiha Khanna, media relations manager for faculty research at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, taps into the changing news cycle by staying in touch with faculty and keeping tabs on events and topics to which their research applies.
“You can also set Google alerts for certain topics that are jumping off points for faculty to discuss their research,” she says. “At some point, the stars will align—the topic will be in the news and the researcher will be available to comment, and all that preparation and pinging of professors will pay off.”
3. Keep It Simple
For most journalists and editors, there are never enough hours in a day, and having to work hard to understand a pitch can discourage a reply.
Remember that we’re not subject matter experts; our role is to absorb information quickly and present it to our audience in a simple and easily digestible way. If you can make that job easier, then your pitch has a greater chance of getting noticed.
“Offering some insight on what your findings mean for businesses, managers, employees, or the economy brings a greater level of interest to the research.”
When preparing your pitch, write how you speak, making sure to avoid academic jargon. Be short and concise; around 300 words works well—if we want more information we’ll ask. Put key information in bullet points at the beginning of your email, provide quotes, and include data and figures that are easy to understand.
Keeping it simple is also about making academic research relevant and interesting to the general public. “Offering some insight on what your findings mean for businesses, managers, employees, or the economy brings a greater level of interest to the research,” notes Remon.
Khanna, from Duke Fuqua, suggests asking your faculty: Would the average person care about this research, and why?
“No matter how you dress it up, there is some research that is so abstract or esoteric, few people other than practitioners will be interested,” she says. “Could the researcher explain the findings to someone at a dinner party in three minutes or less?” If not, the research has value for practitioners but isn’t a good fit for media coverage.
4. Provide Images and Visuals
Finding good, royalty-free images can be a pain for editors and journalists. If you can provide us with real-life images that relate to the story you’re pitching, that’s a real bonus.
Providing visuals like graphs and infographics is also a helpful way of communicating your research both to us and our audience in a simple way. But you should think carefully about how complex data might be presented.
“In most circumstances, the tables and charts at the end of the paper are not going to make sense to most people,” Khanna explains. “However, eye-catching visuals can help garner interest in faculty research.
“Try to think more generally about what the research is saying. For example, inflation might look like a line graph going upward. Or, more tangibly, it might look like the things we buy every week, such as milk or gas, which are going to start costing more.”
5. Tap Into Social Media
While email remains the preferred method of communication for most journalists, using social media to both reach out to reporters and publicize your school’s academic research can help support your PR efforts.
Schools should have a coordinated social media strategy for academic research.
I’ll often land on an interesting story when scrolling casually through my LinkedIn feed, for example, while some journalists welcome direct messages on Twitter.
Jennifer Grady Burgos, assistant director of media relations at MIT Sloan School of Management, says schools should have a coordinated social media strategy for academic research.
“Coordinating across multiple stakeholders and multiple platforms can help better position your school’s research to be seen far and wide.
“Whether that’s between institutes or across one single school, think: What hashtags are you using? Do you have a compelling visual image? Social media can be an important tactic for getting out in front of press, just as much as an email pitch,” she says.
Finally, be responsive. There’s nothing worse than being interested in a story, taking the time to email a PR contact for more information, and not hearing back.
Keep us in the loop on the latest news from your school, answer fast when we ask for interviewees or additional comments, and you’ll be sure to get your school’s academic research the best media coverage possible.