“People will come, Ray”—says Terence Man, played by James Earl Jones, when Kevin Costner’s character questions his decision to build a ball park in the middle of a cornfield in the 1989 film Field of Dreams.
Spoiler Alert: Contrary to this hopeful movie message, if you build it, more than likely, people will not come. This principle holds true for most personal and professional outputs, whether they be middle-of-nowhere baseball stadiums or academic publications.
If you want people to know about your scholarly work you have to give them an accessible place, or ideally variety of places, to learn about it. Accessible has two meanings here–you want to promote your research in places that are easy to access, and you want to explain it in a way that is accessible to a wide audience.
So how can you raise awareness of your scholarly contributions?
Ever watch the news and wonder how Professor So-And-So was chosen to be an expert source out of all of the other qualified candidates out there? Did you think that maybe he or she was actively seeking the opportunity?
Appearing as an expert is a great way to boost your professional profile and show how your scholarly work applies to the news that people are talking about.
If you’re interested in being contacted to do expert interviews and commentary, a good place to start is reaching out to the public relations division at your university or professional institution. Many institutions, such as Northwestern University, maintain lists of resident experts at departmental or institution-wide levels that reporters can use when seeking interviewees. Find out if you are already on a listing or how you can become a part of one.
You can also become a part of expert listings outside of your institution, such as Profnet or Help a Reporter Out (HARO), which give experts and reporters seeking sources a place to connect. On both Profnet and HARO you can sign up for email alerts with reporter queries related to your field, so you can stay in the loop of interview opportunities that you would be a good fit for without having to constantly search for them.
Beyond online listings, look to develop relationships with reporters and prominent bloggers at conferences and events, or even by pitching story ideas to them. For example, if you work in the Digital Humanities and find a reporter who regularly writes on topics in your field, email that person to acknowledging that you follow his or her work and send a brief introduction about yourself. You may find that your email results in a story query.
Academic articles aren’t exactly the easiest sources to find or read through. If you want a wide audience to know and care about your research, you have to move the content of your published papers beyond research databases and Google Scholar and break it down into digestible and accessible formats.
A great place to start sharing your research content is by blogging, either on your own blog or those of other academics. You can also pitch story ideas and submit opinion pieces and commentaries to relevant newspapers and magazines.
In writing about your field, be sure to broaden the scope of what you cover to encompass a wide range of topics in and surroudning your work. Even if you’re writing about something totally unrelated to your research, the act of getting your name and hopefully a brief bio out into the cyber sphere will lead people to you when they are surfing the web, and draw them closer to your publications.
As you write, use social media websites such as Twitter and Google+ to share excerpts of and links to your articles. Social media will serve as a springboard for people to find the content you are creating.
In addition to writing blog posts and articles, try to find other creative ways to share your work with the world. Videos and podcasts present two dynamic research dissemination options. In order to make your research accessible in audio and visual formats, target your search for opportunities to be an expert source towards broadcast reporter queries. If you choose to start a blog you can also produce and post videos and podcasts there.
When producing your own broadcast materials, be sure to bring other scholars working in your field into the mix. A great example of a scholar who is successfully using a combination of writing and audio to draw attention to his work is professor and scholar of strategic leadership David Burkus. Burkus runs the podcast LDRLB (pronounced leader lab) and uses almost all of his airtime to highlight the works of others. Although he rarely talks about his own research during his podcasts, the attention that he gains from interviewing other prominent scholars draws attention to his work.
While the Internet presents plenty of platforms to showcase your work, their is nothing quite like presenting it at an in-person event. As you grow as a researcher, be sure to seek opportunities to talk about your research. Make a list of conferences in your field that are coming up and reach out to the organizers to see if they need additional speakers or panelists. If you’re up for a larger than life speaking engagement consider applying to run a TedTalk by nominating yourself on the website.
Of course, if you push yourself to take on as many expert spots, writing projects, and speaking engagements as you can, you may find that someone else will nominate you to be a TedTalk speaker before you get the chance!
Keep in mind, the more you put yourself out there, the more people will come to you with additional opportunities to promote your research. Don’t just build it – share your scholarship with the world!