Lessons learnt from the Web of Profit: Getting the most out of working with academic research partners

Cathy By Cathy

Earlier this year I posted about a project that Spark conducted with academic researcher and criminologist, Dr. Mike McGuire, and Bromium. I figured it was about time I provided an update as promised, as well as some insights gathered on working with academic partners.

Overall it was a huge success. Alongside our US partner, Rich Mullikin, we generated more than 70 pieces of coverage, which included 12 pieces in national/business titles such as: Financial Times, Politico, Fox News, BBC News and The Guardian.

Bromium and Dr. McGuire conducted 17 interviews, 12 with key business and national media, including: Fortune, BBC, Financial Times and The Economist. We have received a number of inbound requests from media to talk to Dr. McGuire and Bromium, giving the research great long-tail of coverage which is still reverberating today.

Significantly, the news also reached influential ears within government, with the ripple effect spreading as far as the Australian Consulate. Not to mention there has been over 400 report downloads, helping to drive traffic directly to the Bromium website.

The report was so well received we are now expanding the research, re-engaging Dr. McGuire to delve even further into the Web of Profit to gain an even better understanding of the actors involved – so watch this space!

As successful as the campaign was, there were a number of lessons learnt which I thought it would be worthwhile sharing for anyone else looking to engage with academic researchers:

1. Be original: With so much research in the market it is hard to stand out. To get noticed, you need to be unique. It’s important to research what’s already been done. If there have been similar studies, think about how are you going to add something unique to the debate?

2. Have a clear brief: Having a clear hypothesis that you want to test with the research is really useful. Developing a clear brief ensures all parties involved are working towards a common goal, making it easier to stay on track.

3. Pick the right partner: Do your homework and find a partner that really understands what you are trying to achieve and is willing to work with you to get there – preferably someone with relevant experience and contacts, as this will be invaluable once the project starts.

4. Let the researcher do their job: This research was successful in large part because it was genuinely independent and not manipulated. While we developed the hypothesis, we did not try to influence how Dr. McGuire conducted the research or to massage the results. We trusted Dr. McGuire and allowed him to apply his criminological expertise; ultimately this strengthened the end product and ensured that the research maintained its integrity.

5. Timing: As with any content project, there is always less time to get things done than you would hope for. Editing and proofing such a huge body of work takes a lot of time, and if you are up against it with a fixed deadline, this is not to be under-estimated – it’s a mammoth task!

We are now engaging in other projects with academic partners, so watch this space for more interesting projects in the future. If you’d like to talk to Spark about how academic research might help you achieve your organisational goals, then please contact the office on +44 207 436 0420 or email [email protected].