Perhaps you are a media star. Or maybe communicating to public audiences is foreign territory. Regardless of where you are at on the spectrum, consider following these tips if you want to take your external communications to the next level.
- Study others. There are many academics that are acing various aspects of external communications. Surely there are individuals either at your institution or within your discipline who seem to have a knack for getting media visibility, building up a following through their blog and leveraging the benefits of social media. Identify a handful of such individuals and carefully study their work. If they are interviewed in a prominent media outlet, check out their quotes. If they write an Op Ed, pay specific attention to the words they used to explain a complex topic in a simple way. See how they are networking with new individuals on social media. Then model some of the positives from these individuals and adapt it to fit your own unique style.
- Think about your strategy. Many individuals get themselves in trouble with their external communications because they’ve failed to think through their strategy and big picture goals. If you already have a personal strategy, then great. Revert back to it often to ensure that your communications is aligned to what you are looking to achieve. If you don’t have a strategy, then starting think about it. What are the benefits of external communications you would like to leverage? Are you looking to promote a new book, or position a new program or research initiative that you are a part of? Or maybe you want to build your thought leadership and get your ideas out there. Then ask yourself what success looks like (more book sales, greater interest in your program, or an increased number of research citations, etc). The strategy will be your map that you can refer to as you think about opportunities to explore and messages to convey.
- Practice. You will never learn a foreign language if you only study verb conjugations. You need to open your mouth at some point and try speaking. Of course you would never say your first words in front of a massive audience. If external communications is relatively new to you, then take incremental steps and build up your confidence. Start out by taking on smaller scale opportunities. If you do have experience, think about the next thing you can take on that may be a bit outside your comfort zone. Maybe it is being a bit more aggressive in pursuing media relations opportunities. Or perhaps it might mean learning a new social media channel. You want to have down the basics, understand the risks and have some sort of strategy / big picture goals. Once that is in place, look for opportunities to execute your strategy and expand your horizons.
Kevin Anselmo is the creator of Media Training for Academics, a program that helps professors, researchers and PhD candidates, and their respective institutions, reap the benefits of external communications.