Section 4: Topic 1
The importance of planning
Lack of planning is one of the key reasons why media engagement fails to generate demonstrable impacts. There are two reasons for this:
Missed opportunities. Many researchers don’t identify media opportunities because they don’t have a structured plan for generating impact from their research that could have pre-identified points on their pathway to impact where media could have helped them generate benefits at scale for the people they want to reach. As a result, when opportunities do arise, researchers are ill-prepared to identify or exploit the leads that are generated, or convert them into measurable benefits they could claim as research impact. Researchers who are supported to develop a structured impact plan for their research are able to identify opportunities for media engagement in advance that they might otherwise miss, and identify specific steps that will take them from media engagement to measurable benefits for target groups.
Poor targeting for impact. Without clear impact goals, press offices may prioritise angles and outlets that do little to help generate targeted impacts. To address this, get researchers to tell you the ultimate benefits they want to achieve from their research, and for whom. Ask them to think about how media coverage might help them reach these people to achieve these goals. Based on the impact goals and beneficiaries identified by researchers, prioritise key messages and actions that could be embedded within stories, and identify the type and scope of outlets you will target.
Researchers need a plan to generate or identify the media opportunities that are most likely to deliver impacts for the groups that can most benefit from their research. Planning ahead also makes it easier to evidence whether your media engagement actually makes a difference or not.
Logic models are a fast and powerful way of planning for impact in ways you can evidence. By thinking ahead with a tool like the Fast Track Impact Planning Template, it is possible to identify things you would expect to see on the pathway to impact (milestones) and consider indicators of impact or other evidence that might show when expected benefits have been achieved.
There are three steps: 1) you need to identify impact goals; 2) then you need to design media activities that will achieve these goals for specific beneficiaries; and 3) you need to identify indicators to monitor impacts as they arise.