In this article, Lucy Goodchild discusses a new project within Elsevier’s journal marketing department to identify and share good science, while Sacha Boucherie explains how the Newsroom can help. Goodchild also guides us through the reasons why sharing science will benefit your journal.
There are 12,360,691 articles in 2,500 journals on Elsevier’s ScienceDirect as I write. How many stories are among them? How many exciting discoveries, fascinating facts and important findings?
Elsevier’s Marketing Communications & Researcher Engagement department is currently piloting a content marketing toolkit of resources for editors and marketing communications managers; the toolkit helps editors to identify potential stories and marketing communications managers to write them. Together we can tell research stories across a variety of communications platforms, from Elsevier Connect to Twitter (and who knows – maybe we’ll be making science comics in the future…).
Get creative: try out the toolkit
It can be very difficult to take a step back from a topic when you’re as deeply involved in it as most researchers are. And that’s exactly where the toolkit comes in – it helps us to step back from the science and see the story.
The story telling process is simple, and the key step – which is the one you can take as an editor – comes first.
Step 1: identify the story
Sounds simple, but this is where the real added value is. As an editor, you see the articles as they come in and, crucially, you know whether the science is new, surprising, or important. By flagging up potential stories, you can help promote the journal.
Step 2: identify the audience
This is where we come in. The marketing communications manager looks at the proposed stories (much like a newspaper editor considers the day’s content) and decides what can go where. One story might be best for an interview with the author on the journal homepage, one could be a catchy message on social media, and another might be a great press release. We use the channel tree to help with this.
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Step 3: create the content
The author is important here and the marketing communications manager contacts them with a set of plain English questions about their research. We then use the relevant template to create the story in the right format for the chosen channel.
Step 4: publish, promote, measure
After approvals, we publish the content and promote it across the relevant Elsevier social media channels – we currently have 160+ which together led to a 2,800% increase in visits to our journal homepages, ScienceDirect and Elsevier.com in 2013. We also measure a number of things, to determine how successful the outreach was. We look at the number of views a story has received, likes and shares on social media, comments and engagement, and we also gather qualitative feedback from authors.
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Eagle Eye: spotting great stories
You can use this checklist to determine whether the article you want to suggest for promotion is newsworthy.
- Timing - is it new? (i.e. online for 4 weeks or less)
- Impact - does the research impact many people?
- Result - is there a clear finding that you can summarize in one sentence?
- Emotion - does it make you feel happy/sad/surprised/angry?
- Entertainment - is it an interesting and entertaining story?
- Location - could the research be interesting to regional media?
- Celebrity - does the research relate to a celebrity? (this means a recognizable 'star', which could be an elephant or Jupiter or a Prime minister)
- Novelty - is the research fresh? (It's best if it hasn't been press released or covered in the media)
Have you ticked three boxes or more? This could be a story we can promote - please send it to us! Got questions? Contact your marketing communications manager.
How Elsevier’s Newsroom can help
Once you have accepted for publication a research paper you think is newsworthy, interesting, ground-breaking or highly impactful to society, we can help you promote the paper and, indirectly, your journal. To get that process going, just contact your marketing communications manager who will then contact the Newsroom (email@example.com). Together we can determine the required next steps.
The list below provides an overview of the main channels and services we have available for promoting research through the media.
Used to highlight papers presenting the highest impact research or special issues of journals, press releases are distributed to science media across the world through global newswire services. Depending on the focus of the research highlighted, they may also be sent to a specific group of journalists or to media in a specific region. Typically, a press release will highlight the key findings of the research, an outline of the method and include quotes by the authors and/or editor.
These are a shorter version of a press release – typically 250 words in length. Results do not necessarily need to be ground-breaking; the topic just has to appeal to the general public. They contain the key findings of the research and its implications in lay language; quotes do not need to be included. Similar to a press release, research alerts are distributed globally to science media platforms and to a tailored list of media.
Elsevier’s Research Selection
This e-newsletter allows us to promote a number of different research papers in a single mailing. Each fortnight, it is sent to a global media list covering 1,600+ subscribing science journalists. Research included is fun, topical, or otherwise intriguing, and topics often touch upon aspects of our daily lives such as health, food, diet, sports and sex. Each edition highlights 5-8 research papers which are summarized in a couple of sentences with links to the full article online, enabling journalists to further interpret the results and determine the story angle. Articles included are in-press and have not been available online for more than 6 weeks.
Monitoring for coverage
The Newsroom scans media across the globe for coverage on research published in Elsevier journals. These media clips are included in daily media reports to Elsevier publishers and marketing communications managers. We can particularly focus on selected journals if they have recently made announcements to the media.
@ElsevierNews Twitter account
The official Newsroom Twitter account, @ElsevierNews, currently has 6,800+ followers, and this number is growing steadily. Our follower profiles include bloggers, journalists, academics, faculty, librarians, doctors, Elsevier editors, publishers, and marketing communications managers. All press releases, research alerts and Research Selection editions are tweeted.
Working with journalists directly
At times, science journalists look for an expert to help interpret or comment on particular study findings. On these occasions, we may, through your publisher, seek your expertise. Similarly, you may be approached by members of the media directly, as may the authors publishing in your journals. In all these cases, we appreciate remaining informed about your media activities and are happy to support and advise you.
Opening up articles for promotional access
Over the past months, the Newsroom has increased efforts to promote research papers by opening them up to external audiences (e.g. media and the general public) for a specified period of time. This action may be tied to a press release or research alert, allowing journalists to link to the full article in their stories. On other occasions, this can be done to highlight an article as a “must read” on the journal homepage or through social media channels.
Our support is not limited to the above list and for all specific cases, questions and suggestions we are here to help, brainstorm and advise.
Science communication: why bother?
In his 2008 book The Discovery of Global Warming, Spencer Weart talks about the relationship between scientists and the public in the 1970s, concluding that “most scientists already felt they were doing their jobs by pursuing their research and publishing it.” Although much has changed, marine biologist and filmmaker Randy Olson still thinks there’s room for improvement. In his book Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style, he encourages scientists to “lighten up”, and says science communication should be done through storytelling.
But why? And how will it help your journal?
Enable authors to engage with the public
It’s a competitive environment for researchers today, and funding requirements often include references to public engagement. Authors are more attracted to journals that provide the possibility of engaging with wider audiences on the research they publish. By providing them with opportunities to promote their research and engage the public, we can support their research, their funding applications and, ultimately, their careers.
Improve recognition of the journals
Researchers read newspapers. They search on Google, scan blogs, follow Tweets and watch the news. Reading about research published in a particular journal on a platform they trust can have a very positive effect on their perception of the journal.
There’s also evidence to suggest a link between exposure, usage and citations when it comes to scientific articles; the more an article is mentioned publically, the higher chance it has to be noticed, therefore read and – potentially – cited. Higher exposure and usage result in improved recognition, which could lead to increased submissions.
In support of science
Science is helpful and useful. It changes the lives of ordinary people on a daily basis. In 1985, The Royal Society published The Public Understanding of Science, on why science communication is important to society. According to the publication, “More than ever, people need some understanding of science, whether they are involved in decision-making at a national or local level, in managing industrial companies, in skilled or semi-skilled employment, in voting as private citizens or in making a wide range of personal decisions.”
The door swings both ways – research can gain big benefits from engaging with the public. Research suggests that active engagement between scientists and the public can greatly increase the scope of projects. According to a recent article in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, “We simply need to be more creative about getting research to the people – instead of expecting them to come to us.”
Note from Ed: Don’t forget, you can also promote journal initiatives via Editors’ Update. While we don’t publish research, we are always keen to feature articles written by editors about topics of interest to your peers, e.g. thoughts on peer review, advice on how you have dealt with a challenge, ideas for journal improvements or simply a topic you feel strongly about. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SENIOR MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER, LIFE SCIENCES
Lucy Goodchild joined Elsevier in November 2012, promoting Elsevier’s immunology and microbiology journals and conferences from the Amsterdam office. She has a background in science writing and press relations through her previous work at the Society for General Microbiology and Imperial College London. Goodchild earned a BSc degree in genetics and microbiology from the University of Leeds and an MSc in the history of science, technology and medicine from Imperial College London.
SENIOR PRESS OFFICER
In her role, Sacha Boucherie works closely with Elsevier's journal publishers, editors and authors at one end and with science journalists and reporters at the other end with the aim of spotlighting and promoting interesting, topical research articles. She is based at Elsevier's Amsterdam headquarters and holds a master's degree in social psychology at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands.