Connecting the dots between Academics and Social Media

Those of us working in PR and communications have long struggled with academics and social media, with concerns around the “dumbing down” of research and of the unspoken elephant in the room – that academics who “do” social media are somehow showing off, or worse, that they aren’t serious about their research because they wouldn’t have time for media if they were. Add to that the obvious concern about perceptions and credibility through filters like the mainstream press, and the fact that putting your head above the parapet may leave you open to criticism from other academics, and it’s easy to understand why it has often been difficult to engage academics with the communications agenda. Competing academic priorities and workload pressures only serve to exacerbate these issues.

Fast forward to the age of social media. Impact is now important, REF is all consuming and public engagement has become mainstream. News and opinion moves more quickly than ever with online setting the pace and the international media agenda.

This is my world. It’s also a world that can, I believe, help rather than hinder us in making the amazing research that happens in our universities something to be shared, shouted about and celebrated. Social, video, online thought leadership, media profile and the immediacy of digital storytelling are integral parts of our communications armoury. Very few Vice-Chancellors, even those who have previously been wary of “media”, fail to see the importance of academic profile in achieving their strategic ambitions. Reputation has always been important. In today’s academic environment, it is essential for both success and survival. The sheer scale, power and speed of social in reaching stakeholders, students, funders, the public, the academic community and business to name but a few is tremendous.

We can bring our research to life using inspiring videos, infographics, sharable content and thought-leadership. We can trace the value of these activities as triggers to very tangible measures of impact – invitations to conferences, enterprise and research collaborations, partnership development, increases in citation impact…the list is endless. We’ve used social to “hot house” relationship building with media and with industry, to connect academics to

Select Committees looking for expert witnesses, to begin the process of policy transformation, to develop international profile and partnerships.

Some days our job is far from easy but it’s never dull, and we work with some of the brightest people in the world. Our work makes a difference. Connecting the dots to help academic research live and thrive in the real world, transforming lives, shaping policy, innovating industry, and changing culture and practice. The remarkable thing is how quickly academics and social media can help us bring these ideals to life.

About the Writer:EJLMarch2014
Emma Leech is Director of Marketing and Advancement at Loughborough University. Former chair of the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s (CIM) HE Sector Interest Group, former member of CIM’s Board of Trustees and past chair of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Education and Skills Group – Emma and her teams have won a string of awards over the past two decades – including the prestigious Guardian University Awards 2015 Marketing and Comms campaign.

If you’d like to connect on LinkedIn click here or follow her on Twitter @EmmaJ70