Blog posts

Social media for research dissemination

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  "date": "2017-07-20T14:14:48.447",
  "author": "Amanda Barnes",
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\n

Being able to disseminate your research beyond a small circle of scholars is now a condition of most research grants. And even if you aren’t in an academic\n institute and your research project doesn’t depend on grant funding, it is probably being produced in order to influence opinion, policy or decision-making.\n So it’s important that research findings are disseminated to the audiences they’re intended to influence.

\n

A lot of researchers ask if it’s worth investing time in social media,  questioning if anything of value can be said in just 140 characters on Twitter.  Journal articles are 3,000 to 8,000 words and books contain up to 80,000 words, so the limitations of social media can seem unappealing.\n

\n

Not just for trivia and narcissism

\n

And Twitter-phobes observing social-media pronouncements from the likes of Donald Trump, could be forgiven for thinking that social media has become\n little more than a platform for narcissists. But social media isn’t just for trivia and naked self-promotion.

\n

Used well, social media is a very effective tool for disseminating research, both within and beyond the academic community. At the time of writing, Facebook\n has a billion users, and their average age is around 45. Twitter has 320 million users, including many of precisely those influencers and policy-makers\n whose opinions and decisions you may want your research findings to help shape.

\n

Reaching policy-makers

\n

Different online tools, such as tweets, blogs and Facebook postings, can be used in combination to get research findings out to a large audience. And it’s\n also a good way to raise the profile of a research project and build its authority. A university researcher who was a client of ours was invited to\n contribute an interview to the BBC World Service because a journalist saw a tweet about a blog he published. Not only was the blog read by policy-makers\n who could take his findings on board but would never read a 5,000-word journal article, his radio interview also reached millions of pairs of ears\n all over the world.

\n

There are five things you should take into account when considering how to use social media for your research dissemination:

\n
    \n
  1. It’s important to define the purposes of using social media platforms, as well as how to use them to achieve that purpose
  2. \n
  3. You shouldn’t try to be everywhere or you won’t be able to sustain the resources to maintain them all. There are so many platforms now: Twitter, Facebook,\n LinkedIn, Medium, Instagram . . . the list goes on. Not all will be right for your research dissemination. So you need to look at where\n the communities you want to reach are engaging on social media and focus there.
  4. \n
  5. You can’t do social media by half-measures. You need to reach a minimum critical mass and engage on a regular basis in order to make an impact.
  6. \n
  7. You need to figure out how to combine the platforms you use and make sure that together they’ll earn their keep.
  8. \n
  9. There aren’t any hard and fast rules. Where you concentrate your efforts and how you use your social media platform depends on your purpose, the resources\n you have at your disposal, and most of all on the social media habits of the communities you want to reach. The good thing is that you can easily\n experiment.
  10. \n
\n

Don’t just launch into using social media for your research dissemination without putting a plan in place first. Make sure you’ve identified exactly what\n you want to get out of it. Using your objectives as a starting point, draw up a social media strategy that identifies what platforms you’re going to\n focus on, how you’re going to use it, what resources you need to put in place to sustain the strategy, and how you’re going to measure how well your\n plan is working.

\n

 

\n

 

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Being able to disseminate your research beyond a small circle of scholars is now a conditi ..

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What chance change on humanitarian fundraising messages?

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  "date": "2016-08-02T00:00:00",
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It’s easy to be jaded about jamborees like the World Humanitarian Summit but in all the verbiage of ‘Grand Bargains’, aid financing and the like which\n came out of Istanbul this month, I was struck by one hopeful little nugget. In a ‘Charter for Change: Localisation of Humanitarian Aid’ initiated\n by CAFOD and Christian Aid, a whole slew of international ngos at the summit were committing themselves inter alia “to promote the role of local actors\n to the media and the public” www.charter4change.org\n
\n

\n

The date for charter implementation is May 2018. And not a month too soon. We have been down this track before, to be precise in the wake of the Ethiopian\n famine of the 1980s. Back in 1989 I wrote a rather controversial piece, ‘Pretty as a Picture’, for the New Internationalist magazine. I laid into the\n widespread use by humanitarian agencies of fundraising imagery that presented a passive developing world as the recipient of cheap-and-easy outside\n intervention. The indispensable role of local people and local organisations was almost always written out of the charity advertisers’ script.

\n

But the tide seemed to turn in 1992 when international ngos signed up to a Red Cross Code of Conduct in Disaster Relief. Article 10 of the Code stated:\n “In our information, publicity and advertising activities, we shall recognize disaster victims as dignified human beings”. At the time I certainly\n saw the new code as a real breakthrough: agencies had recognised that people should have dignity in media portrayal.

\n

However, as I explain in a chapter in Glenda Cooper’s book, Humanitarianism, Communications and Change [Peter Lang, 2015], this has proved a very\n naïve view. There is no effective monitoring of such codes, so the Red Cross rules were increasingly ignored and failed to survive the financial pressures\n of the noughties. Income maximisation became the goal and principled scruples about messages and imagery were buried.

\n

Sophisticated agencies, such as Save the Children Fund and Concern Worldwide who know better than most about the realities of development, have been reduced\n to putting out advertisements with reductive and misleading messages. These are the very same messages I objected to in the original New International\n piece – intervening by outside agencies is cheap and easy, little or no reference is made to the causes of suffering and local partners are edited\n out of the story. Yet I know from my own field experience that Save the Children and Concern are at their most effective when working with local or\n national organisations and community groups.

\n

So if the new Charter for Change is to change anything, two things have to happen. One is for a new burst of creativity over popular messaging which will\n need principled humanitarian figures to sit down with their creatives and brainstorm new messages and images in line with the charter. And the other\n is for the trustees of international ngos to hold their fundraisers and communications staff to a much stricter account.

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It’s easy to be jaded about jamborees like the World Humanitarian Summit but in all the verbiage ..

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My deep dive audience research on fundraising images

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  "date": "2016-06-29T00:00:00",
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Audience research is vital for organisations that want to know how people respond to their messaging. I wanted to do some audience research to find out\n how people really respond to images of suffering children. Do they feel any empathy for the child in the picture? Do they identify with their suffering\n or feel any responsibility for helping in the fight to overcome poverty?\n
\n

\n

So I organised some focus groups and asked groups of people from a wide range of ages and backgrounds to look at a fundraising advert featuring an emaciated\n baby and tell me their responses.

\n

The groups very quickly expressed near-unanimous sensations of pity and guilt, with many of them feeling that only a very hard-hearted person could fail\n to be moved. Respondents understood that the advert had been deliberately constructed to make them feel personally involved. As a young adult in London\n observed: “The whole body, head and everything. It’s malnourished. The message is the baby’s going to die unless you help.”\n

\n

Everyone knew if they gave a donation it wouldn’t actually go to the child in the picture and felt it was a manipulation. “. . . I mean the advert is asking you to help them: the country,” said a student. One of the Worcestershire participants was more cynical: ‘So the likelihood of actually, that child there, that’s sitting there directly, that you want to give money to, that it would end up [even] with an equivalent child is highly unlikely.”\n

\n

What caught me by surprise was how quickly the mood in every group changed to resentment about the perceived distortion, which made them feel the advert\n was trying to manipulate them. “They’re trying to make you feel guilty and it works,” said a London student.

\n

All the groups who participated in my audience research raised questions about whether the advert was truthful. One of the London students observed: “Everything about that advert is completely constructed. And everyone knows it.” And a nurse from London commented: “Everything’s governed by someone wanting to paint a picture. . . and everything is designed to make us think in a certain way because everything’s filtered.”\n

\n

A middle-aged male Londoner summed up his resentment: “It looks accusational. It seems to be accusing everyone. Me. You. Why aren’t you doing anything for that baby? Ultimately they want you to reach into your pocket.”\n

\n

Finally, it emerged that people’s emotional engagement was shallow and transient. As a woman in the Worcestershire group put it: “There is an element of it being so distant that somehow people in those circumstances seem less human to you because it’s so far away and so impossible to relate to.”\n

\n

Charity marketing experts know that adverts showing emotive images get a generous response.And images of children are widely-used by global development\n charities because few people remain unmoved when they see an image of a child in need.

\n

But my audience research found that they seem to be having some unwelcome side-effects on the public: reinforcing people’s feelings of alienation from\n the Global South instead of strengthening their engagement, and making people feel resentment about the perceived emotional blackmail instead of experiencing\n genuine feelings of empathy.

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Audience research is vital for organisations that want to know how people respond to their mess ..

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Top ten reasons why communications strategies don't get implemented

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\n\tThe not-for-profit movement needs to be more accountable if it is going to continue enjoying the income that results from the support of the public, governments, and other partners. This means that just having a communication strategy isn’t enough. The quality of organisational communications has never been more important, so it’s vital to have a strategy that’s designed to meet the specific needs of your organisation and a workable plan for putting it into action.\n

\n

\n\tMost organisations undertake to communicate what they do to the outside world. But often this amounts to little more than maintaining a website, publishing an annual report and circulating a newsletter.\n

\n

\n\tMore often, organisations have invested in developing a communication strategy but have paid little attention or no attention to actually implementing, monitoring and reviewing their strategy. Sometimes the organisation’s leadership isn’t even aware that a communication strategy exists, never mind what it commits the organisation to do and what resources it requires. I’ve seen some ultra-ambitious communications strategies that simply aren’t being implemented. The top ten reasons for this are:\n

\n
    \n\t
  • commissioning someone who does not understand the sector to develop a strategy that is not realistic for the available resources\n\t
  • \n\t
  • lack of meaningful commitment from the organisation’s leadership without an understanding of the skills and resources needed to sustain an on-going communication strategy,\n\t
  • \n\t
  • insufficient investment of resources for implementation\n\t
  • \n\t
  • failure to assign responsibility for overseeing implementation to someone with sufficient authority and seniority to make things happen\n\t
  • \n\t
  • not making the person responsible for implementing the strategy accountable to the organisation’s leadership\n\t
  • \n\t
  • expecting people who don’t have the right skills and experience to take responsibility for implementation\n\t
  • \n\t
  • expecting people who are already overstretched to take responsibility for implementation\n\t
  • \n\t
  • not setting an implementation schedule stipulating deadlines for getting things done\n\t
  • \n\t
  • failing to put in place a process for regularly monitoring and reviewing the strategy\n\t
  • \n\t
  • assuming that all communication specialists are multi-skilled: just because someone knows how to post content onto a website, it doesn’t mean they necessarily know how to write a good feature story or how to pitch a news story to a journalist.\n\t
  • \n
\n

\n\tA good communication strategy should always include an implementation plan, which spells out:\n

\n
    \n\t
  • what resources need to be put in place – including what skills are needed, how much labour each activity will require, what infrastructure is needed and how much it will all cost\n\t
  • \n\t
  • who will be accountable for making sure it all happens\n\t
  • \n\t
  • when things will happen – including a realistic timeline for getting things done\n\t
  • \n\t
  • how it will be monitored, reviewed and evaluated.\n\t
  • \n
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The not-for-profit movement needs to be more accountable if it is going to continue enjoying th ..

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