In this blog post, we’ll look at a few different ways that research communication professionals like you can squeeze every drop of value out of all your projects.
There’ll be many demands on your time working for a charity. You could be helping your colleagues with corporate fundraising one minute, then responding to a supporter’s email the next. Whatever you’re working on, there’s another list of 10 (or 100) things that you could also be doing right now. Everything has a deadline, and all your colleagues want to know when they’ll have their thing back (and they hope it’s today).
The traditional response to this is time management – i.e. trying to cram more things into every day. Of course, it is important to make sure you’re allocating your time effectively and reducing distractions as much as possible
But I believe it’s important to make sure that when you do devote yourself to a piece of work, you maximise the impact that it’ll have. Or, to put it another way, accomplish multiple things with one effort.
In this blog post, I’m going to share some ideas I have for achieving more with the work you do and the time you have.
A straightforward way to maximise the impact your work has is to repurpose – take stuff you’ve done as one part of your work, and re-use it for another area.
There are many ways you can do this. As one example, let’s divide the research communications work you do into two groups, ‘wide audience’ and ‘limited audience’ work, e.g.:
|Wide audience||Limited audience|
|Blogs||Reports/pitches for individual donors|
|Social media content||Responses to questions|
|Webpages||Quotes and background for journalists|
|Press releases||Annual / impact reports|
|Research information on public fundraising appeals||Training for staff / fundraisers|
You put lots of effort into your work to make it as good as it can be. That blog you wrote could have hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of views, over months or even years. But perhaps the report you wrote for a donor will only be seen by one person, once.
You could repurpose something that was originally for a limited audience, and make it suitable for a wider audience.
- Use a report for a donor as the basis of a blog post;
- Record a video, based upon an answer you gave to an email from a supporter;
- Presentations for donors could be adapted into a video for social media;
- Snippets from the annual report could be turned into tweets.
It can even work the other way – take something you create for a mass audience, and personalise it for a smaller audience.
- Send a blog to a donor, or repurposing it as a fundraising ask;
- Send a video from a researcher to a local volunteer or fundraising group;
- Using quotes from an interview with a researcher as part of a fundraising appeal;
You could probably think of many more examples. The point is to always be thinking “how else could I use this? How can I make the most of the work I’ve put into this?”
Streamlining repeat tasks
If you find yourself doing the same things over and over again, think about how you might be able to do it once.
For example – a training presentation that you regularly do for new staff could be turned into an online course, such as Thinkific or Teachable, with a follow-up Q&A via Zoom or Microsoft Teams or whatever.
Or, if you find yourself answering the same questions over and over, make sure you save them somewhere where you can copy and paste the answer next time it comes up. (And use them to spark ideas for blogs!)
Gathering for the future
Let’s say you’re writing a report for a donor about a research project. If you hope to repurpose it into a blog or some other ‘large audience’ content, think about what you can gather to use in future while you’re working on the report.
I’ll give you an example. I was working at a breast cancer charity. I wrote a report for a donor about a piece of equipment that their donations had paid for. It took me days to find all the information I needed. I was tracking down exactly what their money had paid for, working out how it’d be used, trawling project reports and publications for mentions. And in the end, the report went to just one person.
Now, it was a personalised report, and they were happy to hear about how their donation had made a difference, so it was definitely worthwhile. But if I were doing it now, I’d do things differently.
If I were doing it now, I’d have had a video call with the researcher involved. I’d have asked them to take a photo of the machine, or a video of it working. I’d have asked them what a difference it made to their research. And I’d have asked them why it’s important that fundraisers contribute to equipment and other capital costs.
Not all of this would have ended up being used in the report to the donor. But all the extra tidbits I’d gathered (which is a 20-minute phone call) could be useful elsewhere.
There are plenty of other ways to do this. For example, if you’re attending a lab tour with some of your supporters, film it (with permission) and use it for social media content. Or if you’re attending a science conference, use it as an opportunity to gather content ideas for the future.
The point is – when doing any piece of work, think about anything extra nuggets you might be able to grab at the same time which could help you in the future with other areas.
Changing the way you work
Maybe we need a change of approach.
Having worked in research comms for a medical charity, I know it’s difficult to keep up. We’re often working reactively. We get asked to do something (often to a tight deadline), and then we go and do it. And we’re always responding to the next thing on the to-do list. That fundraising report. A quote for the next cash appeal. The blog for next week that you haven’t written yet. Requests from social media team for more research stuff to post.
Could we shift to a more proactive approach?
I’ll admit – I’m not sure exactly how this would work in practice. But in my mind, it starts with gathering information on an ongoing basis. Maybe set aside 30 minutes a week to have a video call with one of your charity’s researchers. Speak to them, find interesting stories, get useful quotes, pictures, videos. Encourage them to keep you up-to-date, rather than chasing when you want something at the last minute.
Then when something pops up, you already have the interesting nuggets you can use. Plus, you already know what’s going on with a project when you need to report back to a donor. There’s a bank of great photos from scientists in the lab, and great quotes to contribute towards fundraising appeals or annual reports.
I think back to the CharityComms conference I attended earlier this year about storytelling. Many of the speakers talk about the importance of putting processes in place which make the work of gathering stories much easier. I wonder whether we can apply this to both the external ‘large audience’ content that teams produce and the internal and ‘limited audience’ content too.
Could we change the way we organise our work, day-to-day? For example, think about how folders in your shared drive are organised. Are they organised by the area of your work? Website, Trust fundraising, Corporate fundraising, Blogs, PR, etc?
Can you organise them by researcher instead? Or by research area? Gathering everything together in one place, and using it when you need it?
I’m interested by the possibilities that a new way of thinking and working could present. If you have any ideas of how you make the most of your work at your charity, I’d love to hear about it! Email me, or find me on Twitter or LinkedIn.