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22 September 2019
Career skills toolkit part 5 of 7: How to engage contributors to support your ‘Publishing for Research Uptake’ campaign. Print
Thursday, 13 March 2014 08:00

Where possible make your life simpler. This is particularly true in publishing. Motivate your contributors to contribute to your Research Uptake Publication, give them positive reasons for doing so, and give them a clear brief as to how you want them to contribute. You’ll up your response rate while saving everyone hours of unnecessary work.

Q: How do we get contributors on board?

A:By the time you’re ready to commission articles or content from your contributors, you have a great deal of strategy about your publication beneath your belt. At this stage you are very familiar with what you want for the publication and why. You know what the publication is trying to achieve and how you plan to achieve that. And you’ve already fine-tuned your production schedule to work out when it all needs to happen.

However, remember that many, or even all, of your contributors may know nothing at all about the publication you’ve been working on. Invest time in refining how you communicate your campaign goals and requirements to potential publication contributors. You want to put these contributors clearly in the picture, motivate them to want to get involved, and clearly tell them what you’d like from them, why and by when.

If you communicate the Research Uptake Publication vision and plans simply and clearly, and make it easy for contributors to understand and get involved, then you’re far more likely to get the participation you hope for.

Also – be nice, schedule helpful deadline reminders, and work on the collaborative relationship from the word go. It all pays dividends.


Q: PLATFORM2013 was very successful at motivating successful contributor collaboration. How did you achieve this?

A:For the PLATFORM2013 campaign we prepared three initial documents to send via email to our geographically dispersed contributors.

These included
* [1] A letter to DRUSSA VCs, Leaders and Champions about PLATFORM2013 – this included a simple explanation of RUC2013’s two goals, and a bigger picture context.
* [2] A Contribution Details form for PLATFORM2013 – this included seven key questions that guided contributors to provide exactly the information we needed, and to supply this information in an easy and abbreviated form.
* [3] Editorial Guidelines for PLATFORM2013 – this simply outlined what was required from each University in terms of style of written article content, images required and deadlines.


We drafted and redrafted these documents until we were sure that in part, and as a whole, they succinctly told the story we needed to tell, in order to get the response we hoped for. We worked hard on the words, tone and style of these written communications. We also supplied specific guidelines and dates. We did all of this to make sure we got back the stories we needed, when we needed them. We did this under a tight deadline and it worked. Learn from this.

Q: Are there interim steps that can be taken so that we can get an idea of whether we have clearly communicated to our contributors and whether they have understood, before they go to all the trouble of preparing their article/contribution?

A: Yes. Take a look at the supplied example of a  ‘A Contribution Details form for PLATFORM2013’ that served exactly this purpose. We gave contributors an early deadline for this form, and we also factored in time for the DRUSSA editorial team to give feedback on this form to the contributor before they went ahead with their article.

This gave us the opportunity to assess if we were getting what we needed for the publication we were creating. Eighty percent of  the ‘Contribution Details Forms’ were exactly on track – we think in part because we had clearly communicated what we wanted, so contributors had clear, unambiguous direction.

Including this Contributors-form-and-feedback ‘check-in’ step gave us a chance to a.) reassure the research-writers that were exactly on track. This boosted their confidence ahead of writing their final article. And (b) for those contributors who were a little of track – we had time and opportunity to: get in touch with them; to work on clarifying our own communication that may have got lost in translation; and to discuss and positively resolve issues on angle and content so that when the contributors were ready to begin writing their article they knew they were firmly on the right path, and could proceed with confidence.

The Contributor form process also enabled the editorial team to gauge at a relatively early stage if the publication content as a whole was in line with our strategy, and if the formula style was going to work out. This was very reassuring!


Q: Are their any ‘tricks’ to getting a good contributor response.

A:No, there are no tricks. If you are genuinely invested and work at getting a good response with regards to content for your Research Uptake Publication, you will get just that.

It’s important to work at opening up positive channels of communication, to provide deadline leeway to contributors when it will help, and to inspire confidence in every individual’s ability to produce great content – even the most seasoned communicator can assure you that belief and support boosts confidence, and confidence prompts action. Empowered and informed implementers and collaborators make things happen. Work on that. Also, patiently check in often with reminders of content due and with the offer of support if it’s needed. This can make all the difference to your response rate.


Find the previous post in this series: ‘Career skills toolkit part 4 of 7: How to project manage a ‘Publishing for Research Uptake’ campaign.’

Find the next post in this series: ‘Career skills toolkit part 6 of 7: How to produce and publish a Research Uptake publication.’


 Discussion: You may already have a concept for a Research Uptake Publication in mind. Have you given some thought as to how to engage with your contributors?