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Research communications with Ulster University

Researcher CC-BY Jim Sorenson

Ulster University is committed to research impact, and its reputation for research excellence has received global recognition. Ulster University wants to make sure its best research helps tackle the world’s biggest challenges, improves lives and changes outcomes. However, it can be difficult for researchers to explain complex theories and societal impact to a non-academic audience. For this reason, #UU Communicate was developed to encourage excellence in research communication. #UUCommunicate is an innovative programme, developed by researchers at Ulster University to to help make their research relatable to a non-academic audience.

research impact

Winner of #UUCommunicate Dr. Claire McCauley with Tim Brundle, Director of Research and Impact and Prof. Cathy Gormley-Heenan, PVC Research and Impact

Research communication competition

The #UUCommunicate programme was based on a university-wide competition. To enter, researchers developed a short video describing their work to an external, non-academic audience.  Bespoke Communications supported competition entrants with a programme of workshops and one-to-one coaching in research communications. The #UUCommunicate programme culminated in an Awards Ceremony, recognising excellence and honouring participants.

#UUCommunicate Programme outcomes

Commenting on the success of the #UUCommunicate, Tim Brundle Director of Research and Impact said ‘#UUCommunicate has been instrumental in helping us to develop a supportive culture of public engagement at Ulster University. With #UUCommunicate, we’ve given our research-active staff a communications toolkit to make their discipline accessible to non-academics’.

Here is the Ulster University Youtube channel where videos can be viewed, including the video from the #UUCommunicate winner, Dr. Claire McCauley.

 

 

 

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Pitching the media for research impact

research impact Sarah Travers TV interview

UK Universities spend a lot of time and energy making sure that their research has positive benefits on society and their communities. Research impact matters to university researchers, so public engagement is important. If you’re a researcher working at a UK university and want your research to help shape public opinion, what can you do?

In our work, we’ve developed media engagement strategies to connect organisations with external audiences in everything they do. Along the way, we’ve learnt a few lessons about what works and what falls flat when you’re pitching your stories to busy journalists. Media engagement can be a pathway to research impact, so it’s an important tool in your arsenal. Here are five simple considerations to underpin your media engagement strategy:

Audiences

1. Identify the key audiences for your story. Who does your research benefit and what media outlets are they likely to use for their news? Consider a blend of local, regional and national newspapers and radio stations, regional TV news or national TV news and of course social media channels. Research impact begins and ends with the beneficiaries.

Media channels

2. Research your selected media channels and identify the journalists and correspondents interested in your subject area. Don’t worry about getting in touch.  Journalists are always on the lookout for good stories, and will probably be glad to get to know you. Your Communications Office can help you here – they’ve worked hard to build up relationships that can help you build a profile for your research.

Social media

3. No media engagement strategy would be complete without a social media plan. Will your key audiences be on Facebook? If your research appeals to a business audience, LinkedIn is an important channel. Snapchat, Pinterest and Instagram can be used to appeal to different audiences as well. Twitter might be appropriate to reach policymakers and business leaders. And don’t forget, Twitter is a super tool for reaching out to journalists!

Keep it simple!

4. When writing your media releases or conducting an interview, try to avoid jargon. Every discipline builds up its own vocabulary but specialised language only creates a barrier between you and your audience. Journalists will retell your story for their readers or viewers, so make that easier for them by creating a concise, easily understood narrative. Remember Einstein’s dictum “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Collaborate

5. And don’t forget about the power of collaboration. Research impact in a mutually productive relationship can only help everyone. Liaise with your research partners to identify contacts and relationship they might have to pick up on your story and increase its reach. Make sure that they know in advance if you’re planning a media campaign – that way everyone can play their part to make sure your hard work finds a ready audience! Any coverage you achieve will raise awareness of their work, so everyone’s a winner. #giversgain