How-to

Promote your paper
in four easy steps

Angela Hopp
September 01, 2016

Congratulations! You have a new paper coming out. You’re proud of your team’s work, and naturally you want folks to know about it.

But it’s a crowded field out there. According to the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers, scholarly journals published about 2.5 million papers in 2014, and that number increases by about 3 percent annually. Meanwhile, a study published in the journal Research Trends found that “the number of authorships has increased at a far greater rate from 4.6 million in 2003 to 10 million in 2013.”

Translation: On any given day, you’re one of about 27,000 scholars vying for 15 minutes of fame.

The good news for you, though, is that most of those 27,000 people aren’t going to have promotion plans in place. But you will — if you follow the steps below.

Step 1: When your paper is nearing acceptance, contact the press office at your institution or company.

Press offices are staffed by professional storytellers. They’re there to help you tell your research story. If you do a good job of explaining your work to your press office, it could distribute a news release to reporters, write an article or blog post, shoot a video, and/or share the paper on social media.

Note: Ask the journal for its embargo policy in advance and share the policy with your press office. For more information about working with a press team on a press release, see “Go ahead, brag a little” in the March 2011 issue of ASBMB Today.

Step 2: Draft verbiage explaining the work.

Prepare written descriptions of your project and findings in different ways.

Start with a one-sentence explanation of the work. When I share papers on Twitter, which limits tweets to 140 characters, I usually start with the running titles. Running titles are short and, in the best cases, not laden with acronyms. This gives me room to tag the respective journal (for example, @JBiolChem) and include a link to the paper.

Now work on a blurb about three or four sentences long. It’s OK to start with “My team” or “I’m happy to share.” Make sure readers know this is about your accomplishment. A really great blurb will present the problem, the results and the potential impact. It’s a tall order but worth the time it takes to write, rewrite and rewrite.

Step 3: Gather appropriate visuals.

I’m sure I don’t have to throw a bunch of data at you about the power of visuals. I mean, really, who hasn’t gotten sucked into those video recipes on Facebook? We all agree: Images matter.

Identify a figure from your paper that best tells your story. If you have two or more illustrations that are related, you could combine them into an animation (GIF).

If you don’t have an image to share, find an image of the cover of the journal. Here’s a cheat sheet with all the image specs for social media platforms.

If you have video footage, make sure it’s in a shareable format. If you don’t have a video, make one. Your press office might be able to send a videographer to your lab, but the truth is that even a cellphone video will do the trick. Write a quick script that tells your research story in under a minute. Practice it. Shoot!

Step 4: Once your paper is published, share your news widely.

Email: First, modify your automated signature line so that it includes a link to your paper. (Example: “Check out my new paper on plasma fatty acids in the Journal of Lipid Research!”) Second, write to your colleagues. You can use the three- or four-sentence blurb you already drafted. If your press office wrote a news release, share a link to it and a link to your paper. Important: Be a good manager and/or team member and publicly praise your co-authors for their individual contributions.

LinkedIn: First, add the paper to your publication list. Second, prepare a status update. You can use the one-sentence explanation you’ve already written. Tag your co-authors, your institution and the respective journal in the post.

ResearchGate: Update your publications list.

Twitter: Prepare a tweet. You can use the one-sentence description you’ve already written. Upload an image or GIF. Tag the respective journal (and your institution if there’s room). Tweet this a few times over several days, making sure to post other stuff in between, because your followers might miss it if you tweet it just once.

Facebook: Prepare a status update using the three- or four-sentence blurb you’ve already written. Upload your image, GIF or video. Tag the journal or its publisher (for example @ASBMB). Now, you might be thinking that Facebook isn’t an appropriate medium for you because your Facebook friends aren’t scientists. I hear you, but I still recommend doing it. Let them be proud of you too. Show them that their tax dollars are hard at work.

YouTube: If you have video footage, upload it and use your three- or four-sentence blurb as the video description. Reminder: YouTube is a search engine, second only to Google in terms of usage.

Webpage/blog: Update your institution/company webpage and/or blog. Use the blurb you’ve written, images and video. If you have a press release, link to it too.

Angela Hopp

Angela Hopp is executive editor of ASBMB Today and communications director for the ASBMB.

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