13 November 2009

Communicating a new research output: IFPRI strategies

What does it take to create a buzz around a new research output? Luz Marina Alvare and Chris Addison share some insights into the communication and knowledge-sharing approaches followed by IFPRI in launching a new book: Millions Fed: Proven Successes in Agriculture.

This project has numerous audiences - media, agriculture and development policy workers, researchers and the public – and we had to create a suite of products that all of them could embrace while still meeting the needs of each group. To achieve this, we had to integrate the different media approaches and products from each communication unit and research area into one campaign.

The core products are a book describing 20 cases from around the world showing success stories backed up by a series of discussion papers with case studies illustrating evidence that the interventions worked.

To communicate these issues to a broader audience and reinforce the communications process, we developed three further products:

a booklet highlighting the project as a whole and some of the key findings

a video trailer to accompany the book and draw attention to it

a full video summarizing the book as a whole and providing the most powerful presentation of key messages

Our plan - outlined in the diagram below - uses a variety of products to promote the key messages and generated various new products [click on the image for larger size].

click for larger size

Following an analysis of the take up of recent IFPRI products, we confirmed our thinking that traditional Web channels are the most important for many of the audiences. The Web site is used as the main repository of the products and we measure Web site traffic to understand the effectiveness of our efforts. Using the title of the project ensures good indexing in Google and our own Web site features the products in key locations. Email campaigns appear to be the next most successful in bringing visits, not only through online email but also via direct visits from local email partners.

Looking ahead, we see great potential in using infomediaries to promote to communities we cannot reach directly. Social media is also increasingly important.

Below is a snapshot of sources of overall visits prior to the media launch of the book [click on the image for larger size]:

click for larger size

We are monitoring our activities during the official media launch and will provide a follow up story of our findings on what worked and what didn’t. At the end of November, we will review how the product has been taken up through the Web, which approaches proved most valuable and review lessons learned.

'Millions Fed' aims to identify and examine successes in agricultural development and provide insights into the lessons they offer. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) called upon the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to assess the evidence on what works in agriculture -- what sorts of policies, programs, and investments in agricultural development have actually reduced hunger and poverty.

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