Imagine meticulously drafting, editing and revising a research manuscript over several months. You have probably been there – the track changes, the late nights, the gallons of coffee. Now image it is finally (almost) over. You just received that magical email from the journal saying your manuscript has been accepted. Except, you are not quite done. Preparing to promote your paper before it is published is the often-overlooked next step. Perhaps now you are asking, how do I prepare to promote my work?
I have spent the last few years helping to answer this question at FHI 360. Our researchers receive support from communications staff like me to help prepare them and to promote their papers, but it may be reassuring to know that you do not need a formal communications team to promote your newly published research. Here are three of my not-so-secret tips.
Create a diverse online presence
Online conversations about your paper are guaranteed once it is published, so having a diverse online presence ensures you can take part in those conversations. Let me break this down into two easy pieces: social media and websites.
Journals frequently do some of the heavy lifting on social media platforms to promote your paper. You can easily take advantage of this prime opportunity by having active social media accounts that can be tagged in those conversations. This connection draws attention to you, your new paper and your overall expertise.
Twitter, to me, offers the best opportunity to be connected to conversations about your paper. An expanded character limit and the introduction of tweet threads (see examples here and here) permit active, detailed research conversations. I see it almost every day, for almost every newly published paper. And I am not just blowing smoke since I manage the @fhi360research account.
As with Twitter, LinkedIn is a great resource for sharing original professional content. LinkedIn offers you not only the ability to link to your paper in a Facebook-like feed, but to also create an article that becomes a permanent part of your online profile. Developing an article can be critically important for ensuring access to your paper if it is not published open-access. The article – similar in format to a blog post or web page – serves as a stage (with your professional colleagues as the audience) for summaries or analyses of your paper. There are no character limits.
Uneasy about social media? Start with baby steps and simply create a Twitter profile. You can do it in less than five minutes by uploading a picture, inserting a short biography that describes your expertise, and pasting in your website address (more on that in the next section). Creating a basic profile like this offers a landing page to allow other users to see your expertise and link to your work – even if you do not become an everyday user. Even David Evans says every academic should have a Twitter profile.
Websites are not what they used to be. You can say goodbye to the need to learn sophisticated web-coding. Websites are now easy to make and come in ready-to-build formats. Plus, they are free. I help my colleagues build personal research websites using Google Sites, but there are many platforms that could do the same.
Here are a few samples of personal research websites that are worth a quick look: DevLab@Duke’s Erik Wibbels; the University of Illinois’s Rebecca Thornton; or FHI 360 researchers Annette Brown and Wael Moussa.
Whether you are just getting started in your research career or an established professional, there are many benefits to creating a personal research website.
A website provides you with a platform to link directly to all your published papers, as well as to host pre-prints and post-prints. (Learn more about open scholarship opportunities in this blog post.) Your website address can also be shared on conference submissions – or on any form that has a field for a website. Additionally, a personal website can host and guarantee public access to supplementary materials from your paper, like appendices or data set files.
Incorporate your website address into your online profiles, especially on social media, because a full-circle online presence matters. Now that you have a reader’s attention with your current paper, let that reader do more than like a tweet or social media post about your paper. Get them interested in your other publications as well by directing them to your website.
Write blog posts about your paper
Blog posts are an informal, unique way to reach target audiences and generate interest in your paper. Many organizations publish blogs across a variety of topics and there is certainly a blog platform out there with a captive audience ready to engage with your new paper. Reach out to them and volunteer to write a post.
I hope your new paper is available open-access. If it is freely available, you can use your paper as a jumping off point in blog posts to discuss policy implications or make policy recommendations. There may have been limitations for including these ideas in your original manuscript, so use blog posts to communication your message. It is a great way to generate additional interest in your paper.
If your paper is not freely accessible, a blog post may be your only chance to summarize and share important findings for those on the other side of the paywall. Remember, creating an article on LinkedIn can also serve the purpose of a blog post.
Additionally, a blog post about a specific paper may naturally translate into a conference presentation or vice versa. Take advantage of re-using written narratives that you have used on other platforms to make efficient work of promotion elsewhere.
Draw online connections to your paper
Your paper is published, the online groundwork is laid, and you are ready to connect the dots. There are many tricks and tools to help you draw these connections.
Second, connect with authors cited in your paper. Find them online and tag those authors in your social media posts. These researchers can read your paper and amplify its reach through promotion on their own channels. This is an easy way to generate additional traffic to your paper and cultivate your thought leadership within your discipline.
Finally, your journal may utilize platforms like Kudos that offer social tools for automatically sharing your paper. Maximize the impact of your paper by using these tools if they are offered. While a journal generally does promote your paper, it may do so using these automated mechanisms. If you don’t participate, it may be difficult for your journal to share details about your paper online.
What comes next?
The above tips are just a few options for promoting your paper. There are many other no-cost, tried-and-true strategies. For example, enrolling and actively engaging in communities of practices, listservs and other email networking channels can offer easy-wins for promoting your work. Seeking out external presentation engagements at conferences or workshops can also yield rewarding opportunities to share your paper with your peers.
The takeaway I hope to leave you with is that you do not need a formal communications team to promote your paper. You can promote it yourself starting with these three tips: create a diverse online presence, write blog posts about your paper, and then draw connections to your paper online.
You can find other useful information about promoting your paper using Nature’s author tips, via this blog post on BMC, or reading the World Health Organization’s section on dissemination in this guidance document.