How Research-Driven Organizations Become Thought Leaders

25 Communications Things Researchers Should Know (But Often Don’t)

  1. Why my organization still wants me to blog in 2019, ten years after blogging died.
  2. Whether the personal story I’m supposed to begin my talk with will actually work or just embarrass me.
  3. How to write a pitch for an op-ed.
  4. How to write an op-ed.
  5. Why I should write a pitch first for my op-ed instead of sending in the op-ed draft my entire organization has been editing for two weeks.
  6. How to keep my entire organization from rewriting my op-ed for two weeks, causing me to miss the news peg the op-ed was supposed to address.
  7. Why we can’t have four co-authors on our op-ed (because our paper did).
  8. Why I might have to rewrite an op-ed that one publisher rejected when we submit it to another publisher.
  9. How to feel about how I feel about media interviews: about the stupid questions; the last-minute requests; the way they only use one thing you say and leave out all the other important stuff; the way they seldom get even that one thing right.
  10. Why the story my communications and media staffers tell me is the real story of my new paper doesn’t seem to me like the real story of my new paper.
  11. What’s the difference between messaging and dumbing down.
  12. Why my paper didn’t get any press coverage.
  13. Why comms isn’t even going to try to get my new paper any press coverage.
  14. How I’m supposed to make time for communicating research when it’s not part of my annual objectives or work plan.
  15. How much time I’m supposed to spend on Twitter before I can stop.
  16. Why it’s so important for me to comment on Twitter on other researchers’ new work, when it feels like sniping or showboating.
  17. Why comms asked me to write something for the website and then beat it up in the edit and sent it back to me to rewrite when I didn’t even time to write it in the first place.
  18. Why we shouldn’t send out announcements about the new postdocs/fellows/interns/admin staff in our external newsletter.
  19. Why we even have an email newsletter when it’s all on social now.
  20. Why I need to tweet when I have my personal email list with the media and influencers I need to reach.
  21. Which social media metrics I should pay attention to.
  22. Which web metrics I should pay attention to.
  23. Why our think tank/research center/NGO science team needs positioning.
  24. Why a researcher who works for me should get to give that talk/appear on that podcast/do the voiceover for that video, not me.
  25. Why the CEO/director of research got to give that talk/appear on that podcast/do the voiceover for that video, not me.

If you’re a researcher, how many of the above vex you?

If you’re a research communicator, how many would you struggle to answer persuasively? (Not more than two or three, I’d hope.)

I’d like to turn a more comprehensive version of this list into a quick assessment of how well a research-driven organization has integrated strategic communications into its work.

After 20 years of working with research-driven organization, here’s what I think: if your research staff members persistently don’t know five or more of these things, that’s a warning sign.

I’d love to know what you think — and which questions you’d add to this list.