Earlier this year, a World Bank study on the use of its own knowledge products raised the question: What if having good ideas and writing them down is not enough to have an impact?
— David Evans (@tukopamoja) May 6, 2014
Think about it.
What can you do to increase the impact of your writing?
Oxfam’s Duncan Green lists a long list of ‘products’ required to hit different audiences and get the message out, including:
the report, the overview chapter, the executive summary, the landing page, the press release, the blog post, the tweets, the infographic and the 4 minute youtube video.
A lot of work? Possibly.
At the same time: it’s a lot of work especially if you are unclear about your objectives and target audiences.
Who needs to hear about this work?
Why would they care?
What would you like them to do with this information?
If your answers to these questions are “everyone”, “because it’s important” and “I don’t know”, then your communication becomes the equivalent to shouting from the rooftops: indiscriminate, easily ignored and bordering on the annoying.
Once you are clear about the who, the why and the call for action, your communications strategy quickly becomes more obvious: you might even be able list the individuals you want to reach, or identify the networks they are connected to. You know what’s in it for them, and can frame your contribution so that becomes a gift instead of an interruption. And you are starting a conversation, maybe even a collaboration, towards impact.
Reports and PDFs might still be part of your communication, but they were never why you started this work in the first place.
Moving beyond PDFs
While it’s easy to measure how often a report was downloaded, the more relevant question is: what do readers do with it afterwards? David Hobbs at WonkComms then asks two questions of policy and research communications to lift the focus of ubiquitous traffic metrics:
What outcomes do we want from our <work>?
How can we project our <work> as a thread for continual engagement?
If you want to make an impact, it’s helpful to think of your work as a sequence of steps and interventions: How can you build the conversation and community around your ideas? How can you make it easier for people to find your work – how can you make it easier for them to understand it? How will you collaborate with those that want to take action?