Written By: Carrie Johnson, Ph.D., AFC®
Research is essential in determining how to work with clients. Even if you don’t conduct research yourself, chances are the practices and tools you use in your daily lives have been informed by some research. Researchers from across the country know that their work has implications for practitioners and consumers, but how do they reach their intended audiences? Publishing a paper in a journal does not reach those individuals that need the information most.
AFCPE has been working on trying to bridge this gap for years. This year’s symposium offered multiple sessions related to the idea of bridging research and practice. While not all of these sessions are summarized below, a few that our Newsletter Taskforce members were able to attend are highlighted.
Research to Practice: Translational Efforts of a Multi-State Research Team
Cathy Bowen, The Pennsylvania State University
Michael Gutter, University of Florida
Carrie Johnson, North Dakota State University
Elizabeth Kiss, Kansas State University
Barbara O’Neill, Rutgers University
Yilan Xu, University of Illinois
This session was presented by a multi-state research team that is finding ways to get their research in the hands of practitioners and consumers. This team is made up of researchers from land grant universities from around the country. Many of them hold an appointment in Cooperative Extension, which is the outreach arm of their respective universities. The goal of Extension is to provide research-based information to the general public.
This team focuses on behavioral economics and consumer decision-making related to a variety of consumer related topics (student loans, housing, retirement, health care, and saving). The team has been successful in publishing their research in many peer reviewed research outlets. They have been working on finding new ways to get this research to those who can use the findings and implications.
A sub-committee from the larger research team has begun working on outreach efforts of the team. A website has been developed to house all activities and outreach materials. To make the research useful for practitioners and consumers, many items have been created including infographics that summarize findings, research briefs that summarize findings and list specific implications for practitioners and consumers, social media posts, and a podcast that describes the research and implications.
Media Basics: Getting Your Research in Front of Journalists
Paul Golden, National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE)
Sarah Skidmore Sell, Associated Press (AP)
While finding specific avenues to reach practitioners is important, sometimes researchers need to find a way to directly reach consumers. What better way to do this than to have this research reported on my media. This session did a good job of describing how research reaches media and how they decide what information is then shared more widely.
The session was opened by Paul Golden from NEFE by explaining that media relations is not entirely public relations. PR efforts reach the public (consumers, educators, government, and other nonprofits). He also discussed why some researchers have reservations in working with media, which included being misquoted, being misrepresented, unwanted attention, online harassment, not trusting the media, and more. However, working with the media can boost your profile, enhance your position as a thought leader and trusted resource, be an intermediary between the researcher and the consumer, and the media are also educators.
Sarah Skidmore Sell from the AP went on to describe what roles and how stories are chosen. A researcher’s role with the media is to provide content and information, background and opinion, and a connection to other resources. Media see themselves as outside observers who are champions of the everyday person. They choose the stories and how it is positioned, but the researcher can re-educate them. They are also not the researchers’ public relations firm, it is up to the researcher to tell the story.
The media’s priorities are different than those of researchers. They want to be first to publish. So, if you have new and groundbreaking research this will take priority. They are interested in facts and getting it right. Their goal is to ensure accuracy. You want to make sure that your information is correct. The are also interested in having knowledgeable sources and want responsive ad attentive contacts. Going back to the first priority of being the first to publish, they need contacts that can quickly respond to requests.
Sarah went on to describe how to pitch your story to the media. She said that 75% of journalists say that less than a quarter of pitches they receive are relevant or useful. Make sure your pitch is directed to a specific outlet or audience, offer your expertise, but don’t complete the story in your pitch that will come later. Journalists need access to you, they want relevant facts quickly (timely), quotable material, clarity, courtesy, honesty, and visuals.
To build a relationship with media researchers should be open and transparent, be reachable and responsive, provide accurate information, provide answers and information quickly, be truthful, share news, follow and comment on work, and connect them with other resources. The biggest thing to remember is that the media is not your PR firm. Don’t try to be the story, your job is to enhance the narrative.