Understand. Reach. Engage. A 3-part digital dissemination strategy

So after 3 months of writing our report I had this thought. If I were our audience would I read this report and the answer was no. So you scrapped the report and created this? What? And waste 3 months. No, that's the original.

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.

Overwhelmed so only cat videos cartoon by Chris Lysy

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!

A man points to a star, a woman next to him asks, "Ok, but how?"

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.

Easy infographic favorite part cartoon by Chris Lysy

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 report reads like it was written just for me. That's because it was.

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.

Cartoon: We spent weeks making the best PDF our audience has ever read. So what's the problem? Our audience doesn't read PDFs.

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

Why don't you come to my blog and read the full post? I'm not going to do that.

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.

A small plea for your help.

400 pageviews! They must love my blog. Elsewhere, "Ok class, today's homework is to visit what I think might be the worst designed blog on the web.

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 20 minute phone call  so we can chat about your needs and talk about how I could help.


  1. Nicole Clark, LMSW on May 24, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    WHOA! Big congratulations, Chris! I seriously thought you were already independent! It’s so exciting to see so many people I admire making the leap from working full time to running their own businesses. It gives me so much confidence. I’ll also be leaving my full-time job on 5/31/16 to launch my independent consultancy full time on 6/1/16! Congratulations again!

    • Chris Lysy on May 24, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      Wow, I can say the same for you Nicole as I thought you were already a full time independent and also count you as one of those I admire 🙂

  2. Sondra on May 24, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Congratulations Chris! I have really enjoyed your webinars on Tuesday and plan to learn more about your new endeavors. As always, thank you for the wonderful resources.

    • Chris Lysy on May 24, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      Thank you Sondra 🙂

  3. Sara on May 24, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Good for you, Chris! Best of luck!! 🙂

    • Chris Lysy on May 24, 2016 at 4:05 pm

      Thank you Sara 🙂

  4. Kathleen Lynch on May 24, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Congratulations, Chris. I will definitely pass your name along if our organization is looking for a consultant with your skills to help with dissemination. Good luck!

    • Chris Lysy on May 24, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      Thanks Kathleen, I really appreciate it!

  5. Kate Livingston on May 24, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    You rock! So excited to see where you take all of this. Congrats as you dive into what’s sure to be a rewarding adventure. Proud of you– and will definitely refer you to clients.

    • Chris Lysy on May 24, 2016 at 4:07 pm

      Aww thanks Kate 🙂

  6. Joy on May 24, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    Go Chris. Very exciting!

    • Chris Lysy on May 24, 2016 at 6:43 pm

      Thank you Joy 🙂

  7. Ann Price on May 24, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    Congratulations Chris! Welcome to the fray!

    • Chris Lysy on May 24, 2016 at 6:44 pm

      Thanks Ann!

  8. Orla Cronin on May 24, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Hadn’t realised that you were doing all of this in your ‘spare’ time. Welcome to the self employed world, where the job satisfaction more than outweighs the penury 🙂

    • Chris Lysy on May 24, 2016 at 6:44 pm

      Thank you Orla, definitely looking forward to it!

    • Heather Mack on May 25, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      Here, here!

  9. Melissa on May 24, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    CONGRATS!!! That’s very exciting and I look forward to hearing about the journey. 🙂

    • Chris Lysy on May 24, 2016 at 6:44 pm

      Thanks Melissa, you will 🙂

  10. Lauren Wilson on May 24, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    So happy about this news, Chris! Reporting suddenly is looking a lot more digestible… Looking forward to seeing the ripples that extend from this “new” role for you.

    • Chris Lysy on May 24, 2016 at 6:45 pm

      Thanks Lauren!

  11. Elizabeth Corley on May 24, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    Great news. Congratulations. Will definitely keep you in mind.

    • Chris Lysy on May 24, 2016 at 7:30 pm

      Thanks Elizabeth 🙂

  12. David Keyes on May 24, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    Congrats and best of luck with this next step!

    • Chris Lysy on May 25, 2016 at 11:09 am

      Thanks David!

  13. Sheila Robinson on May 24, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    Wow, that is big news! Congratulations Chris! Best wishes!

    • Chris Lysy on May 25, 2016 at 11:09 am

      Thanks Sheila 😉

  14. Ann Rosenfield on May 24, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Thanks Chris for your great work and ever-so-readable posts. If you are game, please connect with me so I can do a LinkedIn update on you – mostly I want to ensure I have have your permission to use one of your cartoons to illustrate my post.

    I’m in the charity sector and much of what you say is super-relevant

    • Chris Lysy on May 25, 2016 at 11:10 am

      Thanks Ann! Connected 🙂

  15. Heather Mack on May 25, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    Thanks for sharing your great news, Chris!
    (I’ll be celebrating my 1st independence anniversary next week.)
    Can’t wait to brag on you to anyone who will listen. You make us all stronger.

    • Chris Lysy on May 25, 2016 at 2:00 pm

      Thank you for the kind words Heather. And Congratulations on the 1 year anniversary!!!

  16. Jennifer Borland on May 25, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    Congrats – its great that the move/transition is official and I wish you all the best as you move forward with this new chapter of your career!

    • Chris Lysy on May 25, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      Thanks Jennifer!