How can business schools make a greater impact on business? One way is by creating a wider audience—and, in the process, showing the practical application—of their faculty's scholarship. The two schools below have developed simple strategies that have effectively expanded the reach of their research. Both were recognized as part of AACSB International’s “Innovations That Inspire” challenge. (See “How Business Schools Are Transforming Education, Making Impact”)
The Smith Brain Trust at the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business in College Park. Three years ago, the Smith School hired a new director of communications and a staff writer to develop an e-newsletter that translates faculty research for the public and shares faculty insights on current events. The result is the Smith Brain Trust. Sent out every Thursday afternoon, the e-newsletter has 45,000 subscribers, including 30,000 Smith alums. The school also has developed a companion website to allow readers to share content over social media.
Originally, the newsletter was intended to be an all-text publication, but the director of communications, who also is an artist, decided to experiment: For one issue, he produced a hand-drawn animated video to accompany a faculty member’s narration. The video was so popular that the school now regularly incorporates video and infographics into the e-newsletter, which can be viewed on a range of devices.
The communications team uses content from the Smith Brain Trust as the basis for not only 30-second radio advertisements, but also op-eds that have appeared in publications such as The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. For the e-newsletter itself, the school now achieves an average “open” rate of 17 percent, which translates into welcome exposure for the school. Last year, for instance, the Smith School promoted its annual thought leadership conference in the e-newsletter, by including stories about the faculty who would lead panel discussions. The results were striking: Registrations from the business community rose to 175, up from 66 the previous year.
A sample of the e-newsletter is available at www.rhsmith.umd.edu/faculty-research/smithbraintrust/weekly-newsletter. Find samples of its video and infographics at www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNAnHvHCUzs and at www.rhsmith.umd.edu/files/unicorns-aberman3.pdf.
The Research Translation Competition at Massey Business School in Palmerston North, New Zealand. Most business schools recognize that the business community rarely reads research published in academic journals. However, they might find it challenging to motivate professors to rewrite their scholarship for larger audiences. Massey University solved this problem with a competition, which encourages faculty and staff to translate selected research papers into formats that nonacademic audiences will use and appreciate.
For the competition, the school invites faculty to summarize their recent research in articles that range from 1,000 to 1,500 words. The judges—who include members of the business community and the school’s communications adviser—read the submissions and respond to each author with feedback on how the article might be improved for nonacademic readers.
The judges then award cash prizes to three winning articles based on the value of the findings to the business community, the quality of the writing, and the quality of the author’s oral presentation. Two other winners are recognized with awards for Top Early Career Researcher and People’s Choice.
In 2014, the competition received 19 entries. In 2015, it received 30 entries, submitted by faculty from a range of disciplines. The event held at competition’s end to recognize the winners was initially meant for faculty, staff, and board members, but members of the business community now also ask to attend. The finalists and their article topics have been featured in videos shown at the Massey School’s speaker series event, “Big Issues in Business.” With the encouragement of one of the school’s advisory board members, one finalist had an article published in Britain’s Institute of Directors magazine.
The competition is now a national event that attracts media, practitioners, and government representatives. It has become a way for the school not only to showcase its best business research, but also to prove that academic research has great relevance to business.
To watch a video based on the winning entry from associate professor Valentyna Malnyk, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3ga89sdLnM.