Introduction to Developing a Dissemination Strategy (00:00)
Hi. I'm Steph Chernitskiy, the Communications Manager for Evidence for Action or E4A for short. I am a white woman who uses she/her pronouns. I have very short cropped hair with a bluish green tint to it. I am wearing a gray sweater with colorful, horizontal stripes. I'm currently sitting in my home office in front of a wood-paneled closet door and a potted Norfolk Pine.
In this tutorial I will be discussing developing a dissemination strategy. First, I'll answer the question, what is dissemination? I'll also talk a little bit about why dissemination is so important to Evidence for Action. I'll introduce you to the E4A Dissemination Strategy Template. I'll give an overview and examples for each component of that template, and I'll provide you with some additional resources.
Just so you're aware, those additional resources will include the slides that I'm using in this tutorial. A full transcript of everything I'm saying during the tutorial in case it's easier for you to digest information that way. I'll also provide the template so that you can fill it out on your own. You may want to go ahead and download that now so that you can work along with me and at the end I’ll also provide my contact information in case any questions come up for you about anything I'm saying during that tutorial.Please feel free to reach out.
What is Dissemination? (01:35)
So first, what is dissemination? At Evidence for Action, we define dissemination as the targeted sharing of relevant information with specific audiences for a specific purpose, with an opportunity for bi-directional knowledge sharing. So basically this is sharing what's really important to the people who have the ability to make changes to get to some goal or objective.
And then this opportunity for bi-directional knowledge sharing is so that it's not all a one way street. We may be sharing research findings, but the communities or the people that we're sharing with also have experiences and knowledge that's very important to understand about how things are implemented, the context of the community, and other aspects. And so it's important to be both giving information as well as open to receiving information.
So why is this important to Evidence for Action? Well, at Evidence for Action, the name kind of gives it away, we're hoping that the evidence generated by our grantees will lead to actions in the world that will advance health and racial equity. And so that means that we need to get that information, those findings, into the hands of the folks who have the power to make decisions or to the individuals who have influence over those people, so that real change can happen in the world to improve health, equity, and well-being for everybody.
One thing about dissemination, and it'll come up again in the rest of the tutorial, is that it takes a lot of forethought and planning. It also takes a lot more work than I think a lot of people are aware of. It's a little bit like planting a garden. You can't just throw seeds out in your yard and six months later, vegetables start growing. You have to plan it out. So you start with your objectives. Why are you planting a garden? What are you hoping to grow? And then from there, you make decisions about where the garden should be planted. What nutrients do I need to get for the soil? And then you need to tend to that garden. And dissemination is very similar. You have to decide what changes you are trying to influence? Who are the players there? So, like, what are you planting? And then there's a lot of work to be done about building relationships and sharing information. And so that's a little bit about why we want to develop a strategy for that at the beginning of the project.
The E4A Dissemination Strategy Template (04:17)
This is the Dissemination Strategy Template that Evidence for Action developed for our full proposal applicants. At the full proposal stage, we ask applicants to fill this out as it relates to the project that they're proposing to do with their E4A funding. We also think it would be very helpful for others, who are not necessarily applying to E4A, as they think about disseminating their research findings from their own projects.
We hope this template will be useful both for people who are applying to E4A and others who are interested in disseminating their findings. There are six components to the template. The first is the objective, and that's really where it all starts. Everything should stem from those objectives. So what overall objectives do you have for disseminating your findings? Why are you doing it? That will inform each next component.
Who are the audiences that are going to help you achieve those objectives? And then from there, what do those audiences need to do? From there, do you have the relationships that you need to get those audiences to do what you're asking them to do? How can you reach out to them? And what information do you need to give them so that they will take those actions? And so, like I said, everything kind of flows from the objectives to the audiences, desired actions, relationship building, communication tactics, and supplemental materials.
We'll go over each component of the table one step at a time. I'll provide examples, so we'll actually fill out a table and then you can work along with me.
Defining Objectives (06:07)
The first step to completing your Dissemination Strategy Template is defining objectives. Everything should flow from there. So what are your dissemination objectives? Well, it really boils down to, what is driving you to do the work? Why are you doing it? What changes are you hoping to see in the world, in your career, in your research field? And, so that, should really drive what your objectives are on your dissemination strategy.
There should also be alignment between your research questions and your objectives. So if your objective is to influence or inform policy-making around specific things, such as food security, then the research questions really need to get at what policies are the right policies, or is this policy working? And it really needs to answer those questions. You also need to take into consideration, are the folks that are going to help you reach that objective, so in this case, policymakers, are you getting the information in your research that they actually care about, that will inform their decision-making? And so there is a lot of connection between your research questions and your objectives, and both should inform the other. I do want to make a quick note here that objectives are not the same things as tactics.
For example, an objective might be to inform policy-making around a specific intervention to improve food security. A tactic related to that might be to put together a policy brief and publish your research in a top tier journal. Now, those last two things are tactics and not objectives. So your objective is your overall goal and the tactics are the things that you are going to do to help you reach that goal. If you have any questions about that, please feel free to contact me. Again, I'll provide my contact information at the end of the tutorial.
Okay, so what makes a good objective? Well, they're reasonable and realistic. That means that they’re things that can actually be achieved. It's okay to be a bit aspirational, but try not to set yourself up for failure. So it's something that both you have the time and resources to do and something that can actually happen in the world. They also have to be timely. So if you're trying to inform policy-making or inform programmatic decision-making, you need to have the findings before those decisions are being made. If your research comes out two years after the policy that you're evaluating has already been implemented, it may not be as useful and relevant and it may not have any impact on how that policy is implemented or changing that policy.
Objectives should also be aligned with stakeholder priorities. There are a lot of different stakeholders that we could have in mind. Again, it could be policy-makers, so it gets back to something I said earlier, which is, is this information useful to them? Is that the kind of information that they would use to make their decisions? In also thinking about community members, community based organizations, you know, is it really the information that they're looking for when they're making decisions? There should also be clear indicators of success. So you need to know if you're getting close to achieving your objectives, if you have achieved them. So try to make them a little specific and frame them in a way where you can tell, Hey, I actually made progress toward this, or maybe I didn't make progress. But it's important to be able to tell.
There are a few general examples of the kinds of objectives you might have. So you could inform decision making processes, and that can be at any level. So it could be individual decision-making. It can be organizational decision-making. It can be city-, county-, state-, federal-level decision-making. Just so you know, for E4A, we're looking at decision-making at a systems or structural level and not necessarily individual behavior change. But because you can be using this for any project that may not necessarily be applicable to E4A that's really up to you. You can include examples of whatever you like.
Another example, it could be to inform implementation or adaptation of interventions. It could be to expand the knowledge base. So to inform other researchers in your field, and to inform future research, or to engage with and/or empower communities that are most impacted by an intervention or issue. Of course, these are just a few examples. You know your project best. You may know the context best and so you will best know what the objectives are for your project. As a quick note, like I said, for E4A, we're looking for systems and structural level decision-making and while for your E4A project, one of your objectives could be to expand the knowledge base or inform future research, E4A is not going to fund something where informing future research is the only objective. It has to be informing some kind of real world change to advance health or racial equity.
I'll now provide some specific examples. I think it's easier to fill out the table if we have some specifics. So for the table that I'm filling out today, we're imagining that the research project is to evaluate school start times. And so our specific examples could be, “Build policymaker support for shifting school start times to align with those demonstrated to most positively impact students and stakeholders.” We can talk a little bit more about what I mean by stakeholders later on. Additional objectives could be to “Share findings with parents, students, and other stakeholders so they can contribute to school start time decision-making” and to “Build the evidence base on this topic to inform future research.” Like I said, it's fine to include something like that. It just shouldn't be the only objective if you are completing your full proposal for Evidence for Action.
We can just pop these into the table. If you are applying to E4A, I have three here, but there's no minimum number of objectives. There's also no maximum number of objectives. We typically see 1 to 3 objectives, but it's really up to you. And for folks who aren't applying to E4A, again, it’s as many as you like and whichever ones you like. So great. So we have our three objectives in the table and we'll move on to the next component.
Identifying Audiences (13:25)
Once you've determined your dissemination objectives, the next step, and the first column of the dissemination strategy template, is all about identifying audiences. When identifying audiences, there are a couple of questions that you should ask yourself. Who do you need to share your findings with in order to achieve those objectives that you've identified? And who else needs to know about the findings?
For some objectives we can imagine that there are individuals or groups of individuals that hold positions of power that can make decisions about whether or not your objectives are achieved. So these may be individuals or groups of individuals that have the power to set policy, to determine how policies are implemented, to make budgetary decisions about whether programs are funded or not, or they could be able to set practices or procedures.
Now, these decision-makers do not make their decisions in a vacuum. These are individuals who may be influenced by other individuals, other organizations, by public perception. It really just depends on the objective and the decision-maker. So, you may want to include in your audience both those individuals or groups of individuals that have the power to make decisions directly related to your objectives, as well as those audiences who are able to influence how they make those decisions and what information they're using to make those decisions.
In terms of who else needs to know about your findings, I mentioned this a little bit earlier, but there are individuals who may not hold power but deserve the right to know how an intervention that could be a policy or a program is impacting the health, well-being, and racial equity of their community and on them as individuals.
So, if we think about a few examples of general audience types, and this is not exclusive, these are just a few examples to get your thought processes moving. I already talked about this a little bit, but it could be policymakers, and these can be policymakers at the city, county, state, or federal level. It could be other decision-makers. And so these can include CEOs or those folks who run businesses or other organizations. It can also be individuals. Now, E4A does not typically fund studies that have objectives that are about individual behavior change, but if you're using this for another project, this could be something you want to include, is people making decisions about their own health or their own behaviors. It could include advocacy organizations or professional organizations. It can also include members of the media. And so these are folks who have the platform to spread your findings far and wide. They also have impacts in how they frame those findings and on how people perceive them. So this can be an audience. There are also advisory boards or community-based organizations. Depending on the objective and the project, it could also be labor unions.
One audience you should also include are study participants, people who were part of your project. They definitely need to be informed of what the findings are. And other individuals who are most impacted by the focus of the study.
When we're thinking about audiences, there are also a couple of other considerations that you should keep in mind. First of all, audiences are not monoliths, but are rather groups of individuals. These individuals have their own values, their own perspectives, their own identities. And so you can't treat them as a single group that shares all the same thoughts and perceptions and values. So that's one thing to keep in mind.
Another thing to keep in mind is the more you know about your audience, the more effective your dissemination strategy. The more you know about their values and what drives them to make decisions, as well as what information they trust and the messengers they trust, the more effective you will be at getting your findings to them and packaging them in a way that they will use those findings to make decisions.
If we look back at our objectives in our example dissemination strategy, we have “Build policymaker support for shifting school start times to align with those demonstrated to most positively impact students and stakeholders.” We also have “Share findings with parents, students, and other stakeholders so they can contribute to school start time decision making,” and “Build the evidence base on this topic to influence future research.” There are a whole host of audiences that we could include in our table. This could include local or state policymakers. It could be school district superintendents. It could be State Boards of Education. And when we're thinking about that, there may be organizations that have the power to disseminate your findings to those audiences. So we could think about the National Association of State Boards of Education.
Audiences could also include local school boards or teachers. And again, the best way to reach teachers might be via a Teachers’ Unions. Audiences could be parents, students, community members. I'm listing community members here because school start times influence traffic patterns and noise and all kinds of things that community members may be strongly invested in. Audiences could also include journalists and media professionals and advocacy organizations that are focused on student, child, and adolescent health and well-being.
Because we included expanding the evidence base, another audience could also be researchers working in the education space, or, like I said, on student, child, and adolescent health. So if we think about our table, I don't have room to include all those audiences. And if we're trying to be realistic about implementing our dissemination strategy, you may want to narrow it down to just a few audiences that you think will have the most impact, because it is a real challenge to reach out to audiences and to build relationships, which is what we'll talk about in just a few minutes.
So for our example dissemination strategy, I have included state and local policymakers with a note that a great way to reach those individuals, those groups, may be through the National Governors Association or the National League of Cities. I've also included journalists and media professionals, community members and other stakeholders, and researchers. And again, these are just a few of the audiences. One note here, too, is as you learn more about your audiences and as things change in the world, your key audiences may change. You may need to be flexible here.
Desired Actions (21:04)
Once you've identified your audiences, the next step, and the second column of the dissemination strategy template, is all about Desired Actions. So what this really boils down to is, what are you asking audience members to do? What actions are you hoping that they will take once they have your research findings?
Additionally, you should ask yourself, do those actions align with the values of the audience members? Now, it's really important to remember that audience members do not necessarily share our values. Each of them have their own set of values and beliefs. And so we really need to make sure that the actions align with those values and beliefs.
Related to that, are the actions aligned with your objectives? If they take those actions, is it advancing achievement of the objectives that you've laid out? Lastly, are those actions reasonable and realistic? When you think about your audience, is the time commitment or the amount of resources you're asking people to expend reasonable? And so that is really important. Desired actions may also depend on your level of relationship with individuals within that audience or whoever you're asking to act as the messenger to convey your findings to them. If you don't have a very strong relationship with someone, making a big ask of them is not likely to be successful. You really need to think about that when you're deciding what those desired actions are. If you are going to make a big ask, it means that you should plan to spend a lot of time and effort in building relationships with them in order to get them to do what you would like them to do.
Here are just a few example desired actions. And again, these are just examples. It's really going to depend on your objectives and your audiences. So one of the big ones is, use your research findings to make decisions and these can be decisions at any level. It could be you want them to change, eliminate, or implement a practice, policy, or law. You could be asking them to change a behavior. Maybe you're asking someone to co-author an opinion or thought piece with you. Or maybe you want an advocacy organization to feature your findings in a report or a campaign that they're doing. For individuals, it could be just to get them to vote. So it might be you just want them to vote or it could be that you want them to vote in a certain way. Maybe you want a journalist to include your findings in a media story or a piece. Maybe you're asking individuals to send an email to a decision-maker or their network. Maybe you just want somebody to make a phone call or sign a petition. Or it could be a really low lift, and you just want somebody to engage with a social media post.
Again, these desired actions really depend on the audience in question and the objective. Okay. Let's take a look at our example dissemination strategy. First, let's revisit the objectives. So our objectives are to, “Build policymaker support for shifting school start times to align with those demonstrated to most positively impact students and stakeholders”; “Share findings with parents, students, and other stakeholders so they can contribute to school start time decision-making”; and “Build the evidence base on this topic and influence future research.”
So if we revisit our audiences, as a reminder, these are just a few audiences because of space constraints. I was not able to fit more audiences on the slide. So these include state and local policymakers, as well as the National Governors Association and National League of Cities because these can be great organizations to partner with to reach those state and local policymakers. We also have journalists and media professionals, community members and other stakeholders, and researchers.
I've added a few example desired actions in the second column of the table. So for our state and local policymakers, the desired action could be to use the evidence to inform policy-making and budgetary decisions. For the related groups, the National Governors Association and the National League of Cities, our desired action may be to feature the findings in their newsletters.
For journalists and media professionals, the desired action may be to feature findings in an article and to try and get them to tie the research to real world impacts. For community members and other stakeholders, we may be asking them just to learn more and use the findings to inform their civic engagement. For researchers, we may want them to use the findings to inform their future research efforts. So that's where we are so far.
Building Relationships (26:15)
Once you've identified your audiences and your desired actions, the next step, and the third column of the dissemination strategy template, is about building relationships. There are a lot of benefits to building relationships early on before you start disseminating your research findings. Building relationships offers an opportunity to learn more about your audiences, and it also provides an opportunity for your audiences to learn more about you.
The more you know about your audiences, the better you can tailor your messaging, your communication tactics, as well as the materials that you're providing to that audience, so that they're more likely to engage with your research findings and take the actions that you're asking them to take. And the more they know about you, the more likely they are to see you as a trusted resource, that you're providing them information in a good faith effort to improve health, well-being, and racial equity in their communities or to help them make decisions. And so it's really important for them to know you and for you to know them.
These relationship building activities should start well before you approach an audience with an ask. The first time that you reach out to an audience should not be about what they can do for you, but it should be about what you can do for them. What is the information or research that you can provide to them so that they can make better decisions or so that they can have more security in the decisions that they're making? And so that is why it is important to build relationships.
How do you build relationships? There are a lot of relationship building tactics out there that you can use. I've highlighted just a few of them here. One tactic you can use is relationship mapping. This is about identifying if there are connections between you or someone in your network to a particular audience member or someone in that audience member’s network. What you're really looking for here are warm connections that can be made.
You can also engage with folks on social media. This can include following organization or individuals, engaging with relevant social media posts. So retweeting, linking, or making comments. This should not be about liking or commenting on every single post. It should be more about authentic engagement, where you really have something to say and that particular post aligns with what you're trying to do.
You can also send emails or make phone calls or have somebody on your team do that. You can approach folks at a conference or a town hall, or if you're trying to reach others, if there are other meetings or live events that you can attend. You can also set up face to face meetings. And again, these are just a few tactics that you can use.
If we go back to our dissemination table, we now have our objectives filled out, we have our audiences and desired actions, and now we've started on the relationship building column. Now, for those of you who are applying to Evidence for Action, there is something important here to note. So in the template that you submit as part of your full proposal, you should let us know if you already have relationships with this audience. And if you do have relationships, tactics that you might use to strengthen those relationships, or if you don't have those relationships, it should be used to tell us how you intend to build those relationships. For folks who are filling out this template to use on their own, you can do whatever you like with this column, but it is really meant to indicate whether you do have a relationship or not, and if not, how you intend to build those relationships.
So if we revisit the third row, which is the first audience, state and local policymakers, the relationship building tactic is to send direct emails to staffers serving key policymakers. Now, I want to note that this is not emailing the policymaker directly, but instead emailing their staffers because their staffers are more likely to see the email and then elevate it for the policymaker’s attention. For the National Governors Association and National League of Cities, the tactic is direct outreach to their leadership. You may also want to include their communications folks if you're trying to be featured in a newsletter. For journalists and media professionals, you can do social media engagement as a lot of these folks are on social media. You can also follow up via phone or email.
For community members and other stakeholders, you could attend in-person events for key organizations that you know that a lot of folks are members of, you can also do direct outreach to leadership within the community. These could be faith leaders, these could be leaders of community based organizations or other groups in the community. For researchers, this one, I imagine most of you know, but you can attend virtual or in-person networking events. You could also do direct emails. And I do just want to highlight that these are just a few of the tactics that you can use. And again, there are a lot of space constraints with the slides, but these should just give you an idea of some of the things that you could include in this column.
Communications Tactics (32:10)
Now we're moving on to Communications Tactics. So once you've identified your audiences, your desired actions, your relationship building tactics, the next thing is to consider your communications tactics. This is, how are you reaching out to folks? So for communications tactics, again, how will you reach members of each audience? And some of the questions that you should be asking about those audiences are, where do they acquire information? Whom do they trust? What are their trusted outlets for information? This should not be a one-size-fits-all approach.
Now, there may be a question here about how communications tactics differ from relationship building tactics. I just want to highlight for relationship building tactics, when you're building relationships, you're not likely to build relationships with every member of each audience. You're likely only building relationships with a few key individuals. For communications tactics, this is about reaching the audience more broadly. You can use the knowledge that you gained from those individuals you've built relationships with, but this is a broader outreach to individuals in the audience. Included on this slide are some example communication tactics. Now, there may be some overlap with relationship building tactics, but again, communication tactics are about reaching the audience more broadly rather than key individuals within that audience that you've tried to build relationships with.
Communications tactics can include phone calls. You can send emails or newsletters, and these can be print newsletters or e-newsletters. You can host or co-host town halls, and these can be virtual or in person. You can hold briefings, and these can be press briefings or hill briefings. You can attend or present at conferences or other convenings. You can be a guest on a radio program or podcast. You can engage with folks on social media. You could consider print or television media. You can put advertisements in key places where your audiences are likely to see it. You can also consider putting together brochures or posters. And these are just a few examples. There are a lot of ways that you can reach out to your audiences that you've identified.
There are just a couple of things to keep in mind. If you are considering social media as a communications tactic, it's really important to be aware that not all social media channels are the same. There are different types of people on the different channels. So you can look at age groups, you can at demographics. I would really recommend, if you are not already active on social media and you're trying to choose some channels, that you do a little research into the social media channels you're considering using to see who is on that channel and who you're likely to reach. Also, you can talk to audience members that you've already built relationships to see which total social media channels they are using.
Don't spread yourself too thin. There are so many social media channels that I think many of us are not aware of. And so you shouldn't try to be everywhere all at once. You should pick one or two and make sure that you're consistently engaging on those platforms. You also want to make sure that you're posting and engaging regularly. If you set up the account and never use it and you don't get any followers, when you do have your findings and you post them, it's highly unlikely anybody is going to see them. On a lot of social media channels you can create a curated list so that you can see what the audiences that you really care about are posting about. That really cuts down on the amount of content and posts in your feed that you have to look through.
I would also highly recommend that whatever social channel you're using, you use images, gifs, videos, and other multimedia because folks are much more likely to engage with content that has some sort of multimedia element. You should also use hashtags when appropriate. And so again, a lot of the social media channels have hashtags. And it ensures that folks who are interested in a specific topic are much more likely to see it, even if you are not following them and they are not following you. One big thing is to avoid jargon. Now, this is highly specific language to your field, and a lot of folks on social media may not know what you're talking about unless they happen to be an expert in the same field that you are.
One other small thing I will say is that you can also consider paid promotion. So you want to look at costs for that and make sure to build it into your communications strategy budget, if that's something that you're going to consider.
If any of your communications tactics include interacting with the media or posting a story or op-ed, there are a few considerations you need to keep in mind. So first, like social media, not all media outlets are the same. So you really need to do your homework to figure out where your audiences are getting their information and which outlets they trust. Are they more likely to trust a big national paper like The New York Times or Washington Post? Or are they more likely to their information from a local newspaper or other outlet? Building relationships is really important because you can find out about these kinds of things. Really important, do not pitch the same story or op-ed to multiple outlets simultaneously. There are rules about this. Make sure that you're only submitting to one place at a time.
You should take the time to build relationships with journalists, and again, offer yourself as a resource. If they see you as a resource, they may come to you for their story or for a quote. And so that is something that is worth doing. Be responsive when you can. If you get an email or a social post from a journalist, try to respond. What's really helpful for doing that is to have simple talking points prepared. If you're putting out an academic journal article or some findings, just jot a few bullets down that are jargon free and simple, but also capture how your research relates to what's happening in the world and have those ready to go just in case someone reaches out to you for a quote or for more information.
If we revisit our example dissemination strategy, it’s clear that we're making really great progress. We've got most of it filled out. We now have our objectives, audiences, desired actions, relationship building tactics, and communications tactics. Before I get into the examples that I've dropped into the Communications Tactics column, I want to, again, reiterate the difference between relationship building tactics and communications tactics. Relationship building tactics are usually those used to build one-on-one relationships with a few individuals within each audience. Now, communication tactics are about spreading information much more broadly and trying to reach as many members of an audience as possible. So we consider relationship building tactics as being narrow and focused and communications tactics as being much more broad and more interested in distributing to as many people as possible.
For our state and local policymakers, and again, this includes the National Governors Association and National League of Cities as organizations that can help us reach that audience, we have a panel discussion or a webinar hosted by the National League of Cities or National Governors Association, hill briefings, and targeted email outreach. Now, I just want to highlight that when you can co-host or participate in an event hosted by an organization that your audience is either a member of or trusts, that is really fantastic because then they've already done some vetting of you. So the audience is much more likely to trust you, to engage with your research, and to do the desired action that you'd like them to take.
For journalists and media professionals, we can consider hosting a press release through institutional channels. Now, this really depends on the capacity of your institution. If your institution has a communications or media department and they're willing to work with you to both put together the press release and distribute it, that's fantastic. If you don't have that capacity in-house, you may want to consider skipping that tactic. It's a little more difficult to put together a press release than I think most people realize. And distributing it far and wide can also be a challenge. You might instead want to consider email pitching. This is when you put together a list of journalists or media professionals that you've seen write stories on topics similar to yours that are well written. They're trusted journalists, their articles are well read. You can put together a short list of anywhere from 3 to 10 of these journalists and media professionals and work on building relationships with them, emailing them stories, emailing them ideas, and trying to connect with them in that way. You can also follow up with phone calls, so you can email some folks, give them a little bit of time, and then follow up with a phone call.
For community members and other stakeholders, again, we're trying to leverage existing relationships, so you could host community town halls with community partners. So if you can partner with an organization or with community leaders to put on an event in the town or district it's much more likely that folks will trust you. They'll attend, they'll come and engage with you, and then they'll take the actions that you're asking them to take based on your research findings. You can also consider placement in a local media outlet. So again, this could be a newspaper, it could be a radio program that folks listen to, it can even be a circular that maybe the town, city, county puts out. So that's something that you can consider. Another thing with that local media outlet, you could also consider paid advertising. Maybe you can't get a story placed, but maybe you can put together an advertisement that could be featured in one of those things that community members are likely to see.
For researchers, this is probably obvious to most of you, but you can consider doing presentations at conferences. You can also consider doing a social media campaign. So a lot of researchers are now on social media and so that can be a great place to disseminate your findings maybe beyond your existing networks. So this could include LinkedIn, it could include Twitter. Even now, a lot of folks are using Mastodon. So that's something else that you can consider.
Supplemental Materials (43:46)
Last, but certainly not least, we have Supplemental Materials. Supplemental materials are those things that you're providing to your audiences that include your research findings. One of the questions to ask yourself is, what does your audience really need to know to inspire them to take action? And so that's really cutting down on a lot of the content and just giving them the high-level bullet points that they need to take the action that you're asking them to take to achieve your objectives.
Also, consider, what will the audience find most engaging and accessible? Here we also want to work smarter, not harder. If there are supplemental materials that you can identify, that you can tailor pretty easily for each audience, that is something that you should consider doing. If you think most of your audiences would be interested in a one pager, is there a way to create one one pager and then tweak it slightly for each audience so that you're not recreating the wheel every time?
So just a few example materials. This may include a journal article or an infographic, a press release or op-ed, a PowerPoint presentation, a policy brief, or one pager. You can do short or long form videos. You could put up a website. You could create a gif. You could also share a radio or podcast recording, or you could put together a report or a toolkit. And now you might notice that some of these materials are very similar to some of the communications tactics, and that's because you can consider them kind of both. You could consider publishing an op-ed as one way of communicating to folks, and so that would be a communications tactic. But then you could also “recycle” that op-ed and send it as part of a newsletter to an audience as one of the materials that you want them to look at.
The reason that journal article is in purple here is that I'm trying to highlight that this should not be your only material. Most audiences do not have the time or the understanding to read a journal article and really distill it down into the most important information, and so you should do that for them. While you still want to publish a journal article to offer authenticity to your work and show folks that it has been peer-reviewed, you really shouldn't be sending that on its own to most audiences. You should be sending along something else that captures the essence of the journal article, but that is also simple and easy to engage with and interact with. And again, I just want to reiterate, these are just a few examples.
If we revisit our example dissemination strategy, it’s clear that it is mostly filled out. We have our objectives, we have our audiences, desired actions, relationship building tactics, communications tactics, and now we have some supplemental materials that I've dropped in. Again, I want to remind you that this is not everything that you could include in a dissemination strategy. I had some space constraints, and I'm trying to make it more simplistic and more clear for the sake of this tutorial.
In our third row, which is actually our first audience, we have state and local policymakers, and this also includes the National Governors Association and the National League of Cities as organizations that are ways to reach those policymakers. For our supplemental materials, we have a policy brief, a journal article, and an email draft. One thing to keep in mind is if you're trying to reach policymakers across jurisdictions, so from different states or different counties or cities, it may behoove you to tweak your policy brief to include information that is directly applicable to that jurisdiction and to that policymaker and their constituents. It really depends on your time and resources, but it is most likely that they are going to engage with it if it directly mentions their city/jurisdiction. I also want to note that I do have the journal article here. That is not to say that they're going to read it, but like I mentioned earlier, this just lends credibility to your findings. They know that it's been peer reviewed and they are more likely to trust the findings that you have highlighted in your policy brief if you go ahead and include the journal article or a link to the journal article.
You also may want to put together an email draft or a blurb. And this is for the National Governors Association and National League of Cities, so that if you're asking them to include it in their newsletter, they already have the content written out. They don't need to do anything. You've taken on that work for them.
If we look at our second audience, journalists and media professionals, here our supplemental materials may include a press release and or some pitches, depending, again, on your institutional capacity and the connections that you already have, and a journal article. Again, the journal article is just there to lend credibility to your findings. They may not read it, but since COVID 19, journalists are much more likely to post stories about research that's already been vetted and gone through the peer review process.
For our third audience, we have community members and other stakeholders, we have a one pager. You may need to include, depending on the community, translations into different languages or, again, information that is relevant to different parts of the community. You may need to tweak this for different audiences or different members within that audience. You may also need to put together pitches or a draft op-ed if you are trying to get placement in a local media outlet.
For researchers, again, if you said that you're doing a presentation at a conference, you may want to do a PowerPoint presentation. You should also put together some social posts if you're trying to reach them through Twitter and LinkedIn.
The Completed Table & Additional Considerations (50:19)
Now that we have our table pretty much complete, I want to take a moment to make a couple of notes. So as you can see, the components really flow very nicely into each other. Our objectives helped us identify our audiences. Once we identified our audiences, we moved across the rows. We have each audience. We know the desired action we're asking them to take. We have our relationship building tactics, our communications tactics, and our supplemental materials. And so we can look across that row to ensure that each of the subsequent components make sense for the audience.
We can also, as I said, if we're trying to work smarter and not harder, look down the columns to see – are there communications tactics or supplemental materials that we're using for multiple audiences? Are there ways to set ourselves up so that we're not reinventing the wheel at all times? Are there ways to coordinate efforts there? I also want to just let you know that this should be flexible. Part of relationship building is learning about audiences, and so communication and tactics or materials may change. You may also find out about new audiences. While this looks complete, it may not be what you actually end up implementing once you have findings.
So a few other considerations I’d like you to keep in mind. I mentioned a few of these, but just for completeness, you really want to take a look at the level and amount of information you're providing to each audience. You don't want to overwhelm them with too much information or too much detail. You really want to whittle it down for them, give them the points that are relevant to them and the action you are asking them to take. And for language, and so here I also mentioned in the previous slide, you may want to consider translations. It really depends on the audiences and the communities. But you want to make sure that it's accessible to folks. You want to make sure that it's in a language that they can read and understand.
You also, in terms of language, want to make sure that you are not using jargon, that you're using words that people are going to understand. You want to make sure that it's at the right reading and comprehension level. You can't just send an abstract to a lot of people because they may not understand the terminology there or the confidence intervals or some of those detailed statistics. You want to make sure that it's at the right reading level for folks. And in terms of accessibility, if you're using images or other multimedia, do you have alt text or captions? Are folks who have visual or hearing impairments going to be able to interact with the materials and understand them?
You also want to consider the messaging and the messenger. I also mentioned this a little bit before, too, for the messaging you want to make sure that it aligns with the core values of the members within the audience. And for the messenger, you may not be the right messenger every time. Maybe you're asking a key influencer to send the message or you're acting through an intermediary. You really want to consider, who does the audience trust and who are they more likely to engage with?
You also want to use asset based framing. You know, you really want to play to people's strengths and not denigrate any of the folks that you're trying to reach. You should also use people first language. There are some resources for some of these things on the Evidence for Action website, and I'll give you a link to that at the end.
Some other things to keep in mind. Again, I've mentioned some of these, but it's worth repeating. You really want to consider what you're saying and how you're saying it. Are you using the people first language? Are you using language that people understand? Are you using asset-based framing? You really want to make sure that you're not unintentionally alienating people or talking down to people. You want to engage in an authentic and honest way, with humility.
Also, are you providing opportunities for bi-directional communication? Yes, you may be sending one pagers to members of the community, but are you responding to those community members if they reach out to you about a concern they have or questions they have? Because they have lived experience that while they may not have an advanced degree, they understand the context of whatever it is you're studying, maybe much better than you do. You really want to be open to what folks are saying back to you.
You also need to consider the budget and the timeline. So some of the tactics that I mentioned can be pretty costly, and so you really want to look at that when you're putting together your research budget. For example, something that we often see is folks say that they're going to develop a website. Now, there are ways to put together a fairly cheap website, but you do need to consider whether a fairly cheap website is going to meet your needs. Once the grant ends, do you have funds to maintain that website? Do you have the time to maintain that website?
If you're saying you're going to do a podcast, it may not be worth starting your own podcast because that can be quite a time investment and a financial investment. You might want to consider, instead, being a guest on someone else's podcast. And so those are just some of the things that you want to keep in mind.
For the timeline, some of these activities take a really long time, so you probably should not wait until your findings are published to start putting some of these things together. Once you have the findings, you should start developing your materials and then just hold them until your paper is published. Then you can be ready to send everything out.
We also want to consider equitable dissemination. Are the findings being shared in a way to advance equity and in an equitable manner? And are your audiences inclusive and balanced? On our audience list we had policymakers. We also had community members. Now, are you putting a lot more resources behind reaching policymakers? Really, you should be putting equal amounts of resources towards reaching both the people who have the power to make decisions, but also the people who are most impacted by whatever the research is that you're studying. So that is something to keep in mind. Within the audiences, are you only reaching out to specific members of that audience? You really want to try and be inclusive and include as many people from each audience as you can.
Tools & Resources (57:20)
So there are a lot of tools and resources that you can consider using. If you're sending an email or an e-newsletter, I would really recommend you check out some email delivery services. These are things like MailChimp or Constant Contact. The reason I say this is because it's then easy to put together a beautiful email. You can customize it, so you can have it say Dear Frank or Anne or whoever. And it also has metrics, so you can tell if people opened it, how they interacted with it, and whether there were certain things within the email they were more likely to click on. With these metrics, you can iteratively make your emails better.
There are also social media management tools, so if you don't have a lot of time and resources to engage on social media, you can schedule posts. Again, you have some analytics there so you can see how your post did. This is something like Hootsuite.
I would also recommend looking into something like Bitly. So this is a link shortener and tracker, so you can include links that are tailored to whatever the specific item is and you can tell how many people clicked on it, when they clicked on it. That information can give you a sense if something is working better than something else or if it’s not working at all.
Canva is a free tool online where you can create graphics and so they have templates. It's pretty straightforward to use. There are videos available online, so you can just Google how to put something together in Canva. There is Readable. So this is something where you can look at the reading, use and grade level of a document. If that's something that doesn't work for you, you can also just show it to other people. You can show it to your kids, your neighbors, your mom, your dad, you know, your brothers or sisters or your cousins, the people down the hall. That way you get a sense of if people understand what you're trying to convey.
You can also look at stock image sites. So that's something that you can consider. One thing about stock image sites is it can be, depending on the site, it can be a little expensive. So you want to shop around. At E4A we mostly use Shutterstock. It's pretty economical. If you are using stock or other images, make sure that you're including alt text. I wouldn't necessarily recommend copying and pasting what the stock image sites have on the page for alt text. Instead, I’d recommend doing a little group source and figure out how folks on your team would describe the image and incorporate that into the alt text you’re using. If you are wanting to put together a website, WordPress is a great way to go. It's pretty economical and easy to put the sites together.
In terms of implementation, I mentioned these already, but I just want to reiterate them. Start building relationships early on. It's never too soon to start building relationships. Develop the materials after you have the findings, but before publication. You don't need to wait for the paper to be published to start putting together your one pager or policy brief or toolkit or whatever you're trying to put together. Once you have the findings and you're pretty certain of them, you can start putting those materials together so that when the paper is published, you're ready to go. You can hit send and you can put all of those materials out into the world.
One other thing I also mentioned is you need to be flexible. So if you build relationships and you learn about audiences, you may decide that a certain tactic isn't going to work. There may be a better tactic. Something may happen in the world, like a policy could be passed, there could be a global pandemic, and it may impact how you're communicating or what you're communicating. So just be prepared that the dissemination strategy you end up implementing may be different than the one that you put together at the beginning of your project.
So some additional resources from E4A. At E4A we have virtual office hours twice a month. You're welcome to join our virtual office hour. We can talk about the E4A funding opportunity or we can talk about your dissemination strategy, if you're working on one of those. You can also request a workshop. We can do something in-depth about what we talked about today, putting together a dissemination strategy or really any topic that has to do with submitting to E4A.
There are also applicant resources available on the website and I would really encourage you to take a look at those. You can also reach out to us. So again, I'm Steph Cherntiskiy. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can also reach out to Evidence for Action. Our website is https://www.evidenceforaction.org or you can email us at email@example.com.
Thank you so much for joining me for this tutorial. I'll post the slides from this tutorial on the website as well as the transcript, if you prefer to look at it that way. I'll also provide time points so that you can skip around and bounce around to the things that you're most interested in, as well as the template so that you can fill out your own dissemination strategy.