Universities and research organizations are content gold mines, because they are full of intelligent people who are pushing boundaries and creating new knowledge that may help tackle our societal challenges. In this blog post, you will be introduced to what an efficient content production process can look like and what skills are needed in the communications department to implement such processes. 

The best way to communicate science is to create well-developed content at scale that nurtures the curiosity or helps to tackle challenges of the target group. In marketing that is called a content marketing strategy. By doing so they attract attention and build relationships and brand identity over time. Nowadays, not only with traditional media, but all sorts of companies are deploying content marketing strategies. However, while the internet is getting more crowded with free content, universities and research organizations have one specific advantage. While companies have to actively search for every bit of information that may be transformed into sharable content, knowledge can be found in each and every researcher’s office in universities and research organizations. As such, research organizations and universities are pure content gold mines. As an example, at my job at NTNU in Trondheim I can just go to lunch, and I am sure to hear several new research outcomes or theory related thoughts. 

Five key steps to mine content nuggets efficiently 

So, what needs to happen to extract these golden content nuggets efficiently? Imagine a gold mine. In every gold mine, there are processes in place that allow for efficient extraction of resources. These processes include drilling, accessing, loading, processing, and delivering. While these verbs are somewhat mechanic, I think they paint a vivid picture of what needs to happen to extract content nuggets from your research mine. Let us see how we can translate these six steps to an academic setting. 

Step 1: Drilling

In this first step, the communications department needs to find good ways of identifying where the gold is located. For example, this could mean sending members of the communications team into weekly or monthly researcher meetings to learn what grants have been earned, what projects will start, and which project will have their closing workshops. As another suggestion, in larger organizations it can be helpful to set up project databanks which notify communicators that new projects are being granted and are about to start. 

Step 2: Accessing

Once members of your communications team have learned about publications, grants or projects, they need to approach researchers and convince them to take advantage of the opportunity at hand to create valuable content. Here, it can be smart to choose low threshold approaches, such as inviting researchers for a coffee outside or in the cantina, where the person in question does not ‘lose’ too much time. Such low threshold meeting will not only give communicators the opportunity to learn about the publications, grants or projects, but will also give them the opportunity to build relationship with the researcher in question, which will allow them to interact easier with 

Step 3: Loading

In this step, content is prepared and recorded. This is typically done with the researcher, for example by creating videos or podcasts. However, it can also be done independently from the researcher for example by transforming a report or a paper into a blog post. 

Step 4: Processing

In processing, content is post-produced so it is ready to be shared online. This step typically includes for example video editing or checking for language errors in written texts. To post-produce produce content that maximizes visibility of the content and for the brand, it is key to create content that is contextual to the platforms you wish to share it on later. Concerning video, this includes for example  video length (long on YouTube), video alignment (horizontal for LinkedIn and vertical for Instagram), or speed of video cuts (very fast on TikTok). Also, the way the text is written differs for example between Instagram captions, LinkedIn articles and regular blog posts. Content will unfold best if it is produced in a way that it becomes native to the platform. 

Step 5: Delivering 

The last step refers to sharing the produced content online and promoting it through other platforms. For example, blog articles are, as the name suggests, posted on your blog platform, and podcast episodes should be posted on servers that make them available to podcast catchers such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts. But for maximizing reach, they need to be promoted on fast discovery networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or even TikTok. Only if an organization manages to play this game of social media ping-pong, they will extract as much out of the content as possible. 

Skills to create and efficiently operate the content mining process

In small and mid-sized organizations, all of these five steps in the process can be done by a small team of one or two people. The advantage of small organizations is that everyone has a good overview and communicators might sit right next door to researchers. Hence, in small organizations contact is almost established by default, and communicators do not require fancy project data banks to have an overview of what happens in an organization. However, in such small teams content creation quality is likely to be limited, since the communicators in such settings are likely to be all-rounders, without having particular and very focused skills in one particular content creation method. In contrast, due to the higher content output in larger organizations, large organizations can afford to hire content creators with very specified skill sets, such as videographers or sound engineers. 

While for particular social media related skills it is helpful to have undergone specific training, many of the skills needed to start content creation can be learned on the fly. One does not need a PhD or not even an academic background at all to become a good content creator in an academic setting and to understand social media. In fact, both content creation and social media are practitioner games. Though, such training may help to understand the mindset of researchers and how they are incentivized. Independent of the background of content creators, thinking, pondering and strategizing does not lead to results if they are not matched with time invested getting your hands dirty with actual content creation. The more time content creators invest in creating, the better they become. For this reason, both content creation and social media need to be taken care of when golden nuggets are to be extracted from science gold mines as well as distributed. First, efficient processes need to be implemented. Second, the focus should be on building a team of creators who enjoy creating and producing, and do so at scale. 

Are you interested in learning more about how to create content at scale? If yes, check out this article on how to build a content creation machine, that allows you to put out content at scale in order to nourish your community and build your brand.

With our blog articles we aim to give you the knowledge needed to become a better social media science communicator. Do you have topics that you are struggling with? If yes, then drop a line to Julius and we will create educational content around it to support you and the community. Here comes his email: julius@scicomx.com.