Far too many research and evaluation teams prioritize high quality dissemination like I prioritize learning a second language.
It’s definitely on my list of things to do one day, but it’s so far down in priority that unless something changes it will likely never happen.
So instead, we keep with the status quo. We write the pdf reports, deliver them to those who pay us the money to do the work, maybe give a webinar and presentation or two, submit a short paper to a niche journal and then see our pdf uploaded to a resource library never to be seen again.
Around that time, the client stops paying us for that project. The research and evaluation cycle begins anew and we’re too busy writing proposals and ramping up new projects to even think about the old ones.
So much lost value. The time when we have the most to share, is also the time when we’re likely moving on.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We have so many great tools at our disposal and so many opportunities for connection. Dissemination in our contemporary digital world doesn’t have to be a low priority afterthought.
If you believe in the importance of your work, we can make it so much more impactful.
It just takes a little work.
In today’s post I’m going to share:
- Some really big news (at least for me).
- The underlying difference between traditional and contemporary dissemination.
- My 3-part contemporary dissemination strategy.
- A small plea for your help.
- And a few cartoons (of course!)
So first things first.
My big news!
Freshspectrum is now Freshspectrum LLC. And starting at the end of the first week in June 2016, I will be 100% independent.
My plan is to spend a little over half of my time providing clients with freelance design, analytics, and data visualization support.
I’ve found that my unique mix of expertise in social media, digital design, static and interactive data visualization, digital evaluation, data analysis, new technology, and online data collection allow me to take on hard to fill, but incredibly important, research and evaluation project team roles.
With the remainder of my time, I plan to work towards making diydatadesign the best online workshop for data design on the web. I want it to be so user friendly, respectful of busy schedules, and full of value that everyone who registers feels like it’s worth ten times what they paid.
I’m excited (and a little scared). Since 2003 Westat has been my home, albeit with a couple of detours along the way. It’s been a great organization for myself and for my family but after years of consideration it finally feels like the time to move on.
Now with that out of the way, on to the post.
The underlying differences between traditional and contemporary dissemination.
Traditional dissemination is about information sharing. Contemporary dissemination is about relationship building.
The big reason why a contemporary report can be focused, visual, and short is that if we do everything right it will not be the last time we reach our audience.
Traditional dissemination is a check box that ends when your audience downloads a report. Hardly ever is there any feedback or follow-up.
Contemporary dissemination is adaptable, like a web application always in beta. It incorporates feedback, both direct and automated, to better reach and better engage.
Contemporary dissemination can run concurrently with an evaluation or research project, not just happen at the end. It’s hardly ever a linear process and comprehensive only when you stand back far enough to see it in its entirety.
Now with that in mind…
My 3-part contemporary dissemination strategy.
There are three essential pieces of my dissemination strategy. Understanding your audience, reaching your audience, and engaging your audience. I would call them steps but, again, it’s not always linear.
Understanding your audience.
This piece of the dissemination strategy starts by asking the question, “who exactly would you like to reach?”
There are a variety of methods that can help at this stage including traditional qualitative research methods, web content analysis, campaign analytics, embedded feedback, stakeholder avatars, and user experience testing.
The goal, to identify and subsequently learn as much as possible about our target audience.
Reaching your audience.
If you already know your audience, as in you have all of their email addresses or phone numbers, this part is easy. But so often we only have a sense of where we could find our audience.
If we have done our research to understand the people we are trying to reach, we should have some idea how we can reach them.
This is where social media strategy comes into play, along with influencer collaboration (using other people’s established audiences), backlink strategies (using other people’s established content), landing pages, A/B testing, and the development of simple stakeholder pipelines (i.e. social media > blog > email).
The goal here, get our information in front of our audience.
Engaging your Audience
Reaching your audience is only part of the strategy, remember that we’re trying to do more than get them to click on a link. We want to establish a relationship.
Here we’ll really see the importance of understanding our audience as we incorporate our research into our information design including web design, infographics, dashboards, blog posts, slidecasts, webinars, essay posts, interactive reports, and maybe even a few cartoons. We can also use heatmapping, content conversion tracking, feedback loops, segmenting, and digital content strategy to help inform progress and ultimately increase engagement.
The goal here, establish the relationship while communicating something your audience will value.
Interested in learning more? Hang with me, over time I’ll go into a lot more detail on all of these approaches. I also suggest registering for my free weekly webinar series “Designing for Evaluation.”
A small plea for your help.
Now for my plea.
You know how I mentioned that I’m launching my independent consultancy. I have a few clients established already but I could really use a couple more.
Do you have a project with needs in the areas of design, analytics, visualization, and/or online data collection? I would love to join your team.
If yes, please setup a 30 minute phone call so we can chat about your needs and talk about how I could help.