How Research-Driven Organizations Become Thought Leaders

The Research is the MacGuffin

I have a client who knows his audiences — the precise officers in the specific corporations, multilateral lenders, global and national agencies, and NGOs — that he wants his ideas and research to reach.

Dream client.

His shop turns out highly technical research relevant to the business and planning of these audiences. HIGHLY technical; HIGHLY unreadable by non-specialists. Very few people in his target sectors are going to be able to pull the relevance out of these papers without help.

What does “help” look like?

What about a very short bit of content — could be text, could be video — that gave one or two sentence answers to these questions about the research?

  1. What’s the Big Takeaway?
  2. What Could This Change?
  3. Who Could Benefit?
  4. How Long to Implementation?
  5. Wild Card Question (optional)

We interview the client or the leader researcher and get the answers.

It’s published under his name on his center’s website.

It goes to his center’s email list.

He emails it himself to funders, partners and prospects with a personal note.

His center promotes it in social and YouTube.

It makes the client look smart and cutting edge. Not just an expert — but an authority.

And we use this template for every new piece of research out of his shop, building a library of content that demonstrates his research-to-action bona fides.

The secret to communicating research: It’s not about the research.

The research is the MacGuffin — in the original Alfred Hitchcock definition of that term. The arbitrary thing everyone in the movie is chasing after because they need something to chase after.

Rosebud in Citizen Kane. Whatever’s in that briefcase in Pulp Fiction. The crystal skull in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The secret to communicating research is getting past the research — and uncovering the ideas, innovation, paradigms and solutions that your audiences can use.

Stop chasing after the MacGuffin.