Publicizing your Research

Q: What are some techniques that you use to publicize your publications both to the scholarly community and to the media?       

Author: Josipa Roksa, University of Virginia

Josipa Roksa

I must confess that the first thing I did after receiving this question is email several successful junior (or recently junior) colleagues and ask for their insights.  This blog entry thus reflects collective wisdom, although I take full responsibility for the framing.

And this is the first and perhaps the most important point: use your networks.  If you are a graduate student, the best thing you can do is get acquainted with other graduate students and junior faculty.  There is a tendency at conferences to wait in line to meet the famous senior scholars.  They are important to know, but it may take a while to get on their radar (and especially to stay on their radar).  Graduate students and junior faculty, however, are much more open to meeting new colleagues.  They may not be famous now, but they may be at some point.  More importantly, they can be immensely helpful in spreading the word, sharing your work, recommending that you serve on panels, and facilitating an invitation to present in their departments or centers.  Since everyone in a network of young scholars can benefit from similar assistance, the norms of reciprocity tend to be strong.

The second point I would like to make in this regard is: be proactive.  Opportunities generally do not come to us; we have to seek them out.  Colleagues have suggested a number of avenues for engagement, including:

  • when the paper is accepted for publication (and do not do it sooner – make sure it is vetted through the peer review process and you are confident in the findings), talk to the journal about producing a press release;
  • work with the PR office at your institution (and be prepared to correct their representation of your work);
  •  get on scholarly organizations’ lists of experts in your subfield – most organizations (including ASA) maintain such lists and journalists actually seem to use them;
  • volunteer to write a piece for the newsletter and/or volunteer to serve on panels.  I know, the last thing you want to do is spend your time in meetings, but the first question during break will be: what are you working on?  This gives you an opportunity to publicize your work and “a legitimate” excuse to send the paper to everyone afterwards;
  • if you work in areas of higher education, make sure to engage with Inside HigherEd and the Chronicle of Higher Education, and if you are in other subfields, try to find specialized venues that would be interested in your work;
  • if you are writing a book, hire a publicist, who is also likely to encourage you to write op-ed pieces, commentaries on professional blogs, and entries for different newsletters.   You can of course go far and wide in this realm (e.g., hiring media consultants who can handle everything from media training to developing a strategy for media engagement), but junior colleagues have noted that at the very least, you need a publicist.  How to find a good publicist: ask scholars in your network.

You may be overwhelmed at this point.  And that is the last point I would like to make:  publicizing one’s work takes a lot of time, energy and effort.  If you talk to anybody who has recently published a book, they will readily tell you that the publicity for the book took an enormous amount of time.  Once the book is in print, we often want to enjoy the moment, but that is when you have to get to work.  And actually, the work begins before that, probably about three months before the release date.  Make sure to have a plan and several different summaries of your work prepared ahead of the release.  There is a relatively short window of time that is particularly conducive to publicizing your work and you need to capitalize on it.  Get ready to spend a lot of time on phone and email, and get ready to make many more requests that you will get positive responses.  We are all used to the latter – that is part of academic life!

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