How Research-Driven Organizations Become Thought Leaders

Metabolism

You had a fresh analysis about an issue dominating the news last month — one that was going to make all the hot takes look silly. But you waited too long to pull a pitch together for an op-ed and media, so you just tweeted a grumpy thread to your followers and hoped somebody would find it.

Metabolism.

Or you wrote the op-ed, but it died by a thousand paper cuts when you passed it around your organization for comments.

Metabolism.

Or you got the op-ed published, but no one in your institution or organization bothered to send it to your donor prospects or influencer list, all of whom would have been impressed by it. Instead, comms just stuck a link to it in the newsletter.

Metabolism.

You know some of your younger researchers are creative, big thinkers and that could lead to funding and attention for your organization. They could really benefit from a long-term thought leadership development program — ideally, with an internal communications platform on which they can write and get feedback from other staff. But your comms team has their heads down drumming up media for new papers, because that’s the way research communications has always worked. They hired a communications trainer for a day-long seminar, but that doesn’t seem to have changed much. You wince when you hear one of your researchers fumbling around on a podcast.

Metabolism.

You’ve been giving the same talk to non-specialist audiences for a year, and it goes over well. You’ve got a new insight tugging at you, and the prospect of turning it into a new talk excites you. But it’s also a bit risky with these audiences — it might turn them off, and your development director hates that idea. If it isn’t broke…might as well stick with the old talk, you guess.

Metabolism.

Everybody at your organization hates your CRM, so no one logs their meetings and phone calls into it. And who cares? You’re a research-driven organization, not a sales business. But when it comes time to construct an engagement campaign for your latest research-based content, you have to come up with a terrain map for the campaign from scratch, and it’s too big a pain to construct personalized emails to turn your influencer contacts into ambassadors. So you just send out another email blast and carpet-bomb social and hope for the best.

Metabolism.

Of all the qualities essential for researchers and research-driven organizations to kill it in communications — ability to fill white space, instinct for news hooks, strong POVs, problem/solution orientation, ability to translate research into jargon-free insight, writing and speaking skills, media training, strong communications and editorial support, support from leadership — the one that’s least recognized and perhaps most fundamental is a high metabolism.

High metabolism comes from being dissatisfied with the status quo. In research-driven organizations, it’s about a drive to change things, to get people excited about better, evidence- and expertise-based ways of thinking about and doing things.

Contrary to popular prejudice, revving up thought leadership metabolism — for an individual researcher, or for an organization — is about systems and incentives, not culture. It’s about nudges and cleared pathways, not mission statements.

If your organization could use help with this, check out my services and hit reply if you’d like to talk.