Step by step guide
1. Who needs to know about your work?
2. What is your message?
3. Disseminating findings
4. Recording impact
5. Resources at the PCU
6. University and campus resources
See this Communications strategy template, put together to help you develop and share your strategy with colleagues and to prompt you to consider some of the most important factors and actions that will help you to communicate effectively.
1. Who do you need to connect with?
Consider with your group and colleagues:
Who do you need to engage with as you design and carry out your research? [your ‘stakeholders’]
Who are your different audiences? [the people that need to know about your outputs and findings]
Research groups and PIs will all have their own access to stakeholders and the Primary Care Unit has access to large networks and named contacts across the University, CUHP, the region and our national clinical and policy partners, to help us let people know about our work. Check in with Lucy Lloyd (the Unit’s Communications Manager) to get help mapping your stakeholders and reaching these networks.
This CIPH policy project page provides information on current Government consultations.
RULE OF NO SURPRISES: work with your PI and keep in touch with your funder, noting any requirements they have for communications
2. What is your message?
Explain your research briefly, in terms that your target audiences will understand. Try checking you are covering the following key questions:
WHY did you conduct this research? a straightforward explanation of your research question
HOW did you answer your research question? a simple description of your method, in lay terms
WHAT did you find out? your findings and what the implications are. You might need to develop varying messages for specific groups – so material for clinicians will need emphasis and language that is different from material for the general public.
3. Disseminating your messages after your journal article gets accepted
So you’ve had your journal article accepted – congratulations!
But remember….99% of people (or so) don’t read academic journals. So don’t miss this milestone – it’s an opportunity to communicate your research outside the academic community as well as to drive readership and citations amongst academics. You’ll maximise your chances to deliver impact and help make the case for future research. Overall, you’ll be responding to funder and ultimately taxpayer expectations.
Look at what you can do to get your messages out. You don’t need to go it alone! Always work with your Communications Manager (Lucy Lloyd), and your PI and follow funder guidance on communications. Make sure you prepare announcements before your article sees the light of day and is made public by the journals.
Here is a simple step by step approach as a starting point:
Step One: create a visual abstract (see this primer 2019), announcement or blog post – see examples here and contact Lucy Lloyd for suggestions and to discuss your target audiences. Decide if your announcement might be of broad public interest – if yes, consider a media release.
Step Two: Select dissemination channels, such as Twitter. You can prepare a tweet schedule over several days – and use the PCU twitter handle @pcu_cambridge so we can retweet for you.
Step Three: Email the link to your publication and blog to named contacts or networks with short version of your key messages and access to your paper or poster.
4. Recording impact
Altmetrics – or measurement of dissemination beyond academic publishing – counts coverage in blogs, policy citations, web analytics, google alerts, quality/quantity of media coverage.
TIP: University researchers should be recording impact examples for REF 2021: Start a case study with your group or PI to record research impact on behaviours, treatments, interventions, industry, policy or practice, and update as the impact develops.
REF & Impact coordinator for Department of Public Health and Primary Care: Lauren Milden.
5. Resources at the PCU
The Unit’s Communications Manager, Lucy Lloyd, can help you put together a communications plan, work with you on key messages and help you identify and reach stakeholders and work with you to disseminate your material.
Patient and Public Involvement (PPI)
Public involvement in research is when the research is carried out with or by members of the public rather than ‘to’, ‘about’, or ‘for’ them.
Check out the Unit’s Patient and Public Involvement webpage for PPI contacts and ideas.
Public engagement (PPE)
PPI is distinct from public engagement where we raise awareness of research, share knowledge and create a dialogue with the public. See the University’s Public Engagement page for ideas and events that may help you if you’re looking to set up activities to engage with non academic audiences.
Is it news?
PCU research findings are frequently described in University news statements and covered in regional, national and international media. We propose some of our upcoming research news stories to the University’s Head of Research Communications, Craig Brierley, depending on their news value and significance. Get in touch early – well before publishing – if your research may have news value and you’d like to propose it for a press statement. Make sure you consult with your PI if you plan to take this route.
We have a bank of images at the Unit, which all staff can use, taken for us by Dr Jon Ferdinand of patients and healthcare practitioners, with consent for use to illustrate research or teaching. Try https://pixabay.com/and http://search.creativecommons.org/ for free images on other topics. Any queries about finding images – get in touch.
Need new webpages?
If you need a new web page or website for your project, please get in touch. We will need to work out where the new pages should sit in the PCU site and the best structure for your new sub site. All new pages or sub-sites should be fitted into the PCU’s existing site structure but if you’re developing a project with external collaborators or for very specific audiences, you may need to set up your site with a different ‘look and feel’ or theme. We have free access to premium WordPress templates, purchased by the Clinical School – see the template options here – if you need them.
6. University Resources
Cambridge Institute of Public Health counts the Primary Care Unit as a member – publishes features online and can help to promote your work across the Institute, the Clinical School and CUHP. Has a specialist policy project coordinated by Lauren Milden.
PublicHealth@Cambridge Network connects over 900 researchers in public health across all six schools at the University of Cambridge and can highlight your work online and identify potential collaborators. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Centre for Science and Policy (CSAP) helps connect researchers with policy professionals, experts in the sciences and engineering and business leaders.
The School of Clinical Medicine’s Office for Translational Research supports investigators to translate findings from their research into interventions, therapeutics and diagnostics that will improve human health.
Cambridge Enterprise works with members of the University to help them commercialise their research and provide consultancy services to industry.
Last updated May 2018. Developed by Lucy Lloyd, PCU Communications Manager