How researchers get heard

Your School Newsletter

Ev Williams — once of Twitter, now of Medium — made a stir in media circles last week when he declared that “Today, credibility and affinity are primarily built by people—individual voices—rather than brands.” This as justification for defunding Medium’s branded publications.

Research organizations and institutions are also media organizations, of course. But the situation isn’t quite as dire in our space. Brands still matter in getting research heard and translating research to action, especially if those brands are tightly positioned and the org consistently delivers value content and insights against that positioning. The Atlantic Council’s DFRLab is a great example.

Too many research orgs ignore or wave hands at positioning, especially as it translates into serving specific audiences with specific content.

But your audiences don’t change their content habits just for you.

What percentage of research-organization newsletters and feeds that you subscribe to are about how we can solve new challenges in the world?

And what percentage are lists of what the research organizations have or will do? Their latest reports? Media hits? Event schedule? What their staff are reading?

If your feeds are like mine, that ratio is 5/95.

Is there any other class of content provider that today asks us to continue to pay attention to them because of who they are, not for the unique insights or value they provide us about the things we’re interested in?

Here’s one: our children’s schools. We all read their newsletters.

Meanwhile, the rest of the media world —​ and many of your peers —​ are tightening their positioning and racing to secure individuals with followings. 

So stop putting out a school newsletter. Figure out who your audiences are and how to be relevant to their interests — or stop communicating with them until you do.

Takeaway: Look at your latest newsletter or tweet or LinkedIn post. Would you follow it up with a personalized email to your inner circle, asking what they thought of it?

If not, it’s not building credibility and affinity. It’s not good enough for today.