How Research-Driven Organizations Become Thought Leaders


We Were Warned. So What.

“You were warned.”

What an arrogant, infantilizing, alienating, counterproductive communications tactic.

Well, we feel guilty and stupid now, so of course we’ll absorb your wisdom more attentively next time. Count on it.

Manu Lall and Paulina Concha of the Columbia Water Center published an op-ed this week for The New York Times, alerting us to the tens of thousands of dams in the United States that are in danger of failing, as the two in Central Michigan failed last week.…

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The Curve is a Failing Story

  1. The curve is a fairy tale — tracing a Hollywood arc for a single metric. It’s an arc that cleanly resolves, which is unrealistic. The curve obscures both real-life messiness and all the other work and costs and tradeoffs of that resolution.
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It’s Edgy. I Like It.

Every client I work with quickly reveals their safe words.

No, not like that. Not “pineapples.”

At first, my clients use these safe words to mean: this content angle we’re developing is probably too risky. It’s tickling a tripwire for their audiences.…

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Research Needs Red Teams

Fast science in a pandemic — that’s a good thing, right?

Often yes. But sometimes no.

And right now, we have no idea how big that “no” is.

More than 10,000 research studies have been published on COVID-19 since January.…

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Experts vs. Valuable Experts

In complicated times, what distinguishes experts from valuable experts?

Most often: their ability to transcend their discipline and pull from other disciplines. To give more than uni-disciplinary advice.

Tyler Cowen makes the point beautifully. In 1990, he argues, economists advising an Eastern bloc country on how to privatize couldn’t simply present plans based on economics alone and expect to succeed.…

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Your Brand & Value in the Pandemic

Your organization had an opportunity these last two months that most research-driven organizations didn’t take.

Did yours?

The opportunity, that is, to answer a simple question, posed nicely by Geoffrey Director, the VP of Intelligence at the content marketing firm Manifest:

What is the content that only your brand can provide that would also be genuinely valuable to your audience?

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COVID-Explained, Finally

I’ve seen the future (of communicating research-based knowledge).

Here: So can you.

COVID-Explained is a brand new site written by scientists, researchers, and students to answer major questions about COVID-19 with simplicity, succinctness, and sound science. (It’s not to be confused with the older site COVID Explained, which has a better URL but isn’t nearly as good.)…

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The Next Content: Convening Content

Once upon a time (say, from the dawn of the public information officer up to about six weeks ago), research-driven content aspired to be discussed.

If our content sparked some Twitter mentions, or a few longish response emails from Important People, or (gods be praised) some requests for a podcast or media interview, then that was a good day, if not a good month.…

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Twitter, Science, Power & Cal Newport

Normally I would be all over this new Cal Newport piece in WIRED about how Expert Twitter could be so much more helpful about the pandemic if only it were supplemented by blogging.

In the new piece, Newport (author of the bestseller “Deep Work” and high priest of social media renunciation) begrudgingly admits that Twitter has introduced us to all sorts of crucial expert voices and angles — such virologist Trevor Bedford of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute.…

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