SciComm graphic of web search resultsIf someone’s interest is piqued about your research, what’s the first thing they do? They turn to the internet, of course! Most people want to know what you’re studying and why it matters: what is the impact you’re trying to have, the problem you’re trying to solve, the mystery about our world you’re trying to unlock? Your online presence can help answer the “so what?” about your work and help people see its value. And while you can’t control everything about you on the internet, using online platforms to proactively communicate your message will help leave your audience with the right impression.

What do you want to share, and with whom?

Determining what you want people to know will inform which online tools you use and how you articulate your message. It will dictate the kind of details you share about your research, which aspects of your work you highlight and whether or not you include personal stories so your readers get to know you.

  • First, consider your audience — who are you trying to reach and who is trying to understand more about you?
  • Then, consider the tools below based on your audience, the messages they are suited to carry and how they are connected to one another to tell the story of you and your work.


A website is a staple of any online presence and often the anchor from which to share digital content. This is usually the first place folks will look for all kinds of information: a description of your research, why you’re asking the questions you do, information about your background, how to get involved if there are partnership opportunities, if you’re taking graduate students or postdocs, who your funders are, news articles shining a light on your work… the list goes on and on. Be thoughtful about how you construct your homepage and navigation in particular, as this can make a good first impression on your visitors and help them find important content throughout your site.

Pro tips

  1. While a website’s capability to hold lots of information is important, it takes discipline to keep the information fresh, relevant and compelling. Be thoughtful about how you present your content, anticipate how people will find important information and make sure you have a plan to keep it up to date. The UW Sites Network offers an easy and free way to set up a WordPress site for UW faculty, labs and more.
  2. Be sure your site contains basic information for visitors who aren’t experts in your subject area. A short layperson’s description of what you do, who is involved and how to contact you will be invaluable to students, administrators, donors and others reading about your research from beyond academia.

Social Media

More and more scientists are turning to social media to talk about and share their work, especially on Twitter. In fact, some of the latest news in science and technology shows up on Twitter first. It’s a place to proactively put your message out into the universe, begin a conversation, solicit ideas and build relationships. Importantly, social media allows you to actively engage with your audience and point them towards other useful resources that may exist on your website, blog or elsewhere. Each social media platform has its own culture, benefits and drawbacks, so take some time to choose platforms that align best with your communication goals and take time to learn the culture and norms of each one.

Pro tips

  1. Don’t be afraid to experiment and practice with different social media platforms, styles and messages. Find the ones that work for your goals and stick with them, and drop the ones that don’t. There’s no need to use them all.
  2. Visit the College’s SciComm program online for more social media information and tips on our website under the heading “Engaging Online.”


Podcasts allow people to learn about your work by listening instead of reading. It’s a popular medium in part because of its portability and convenience; you can listen in your car, on your run, on the plane… nearly anywhere! Podcasts can range in formality and topic, be short or long, multi-part or stand-alone. A podcast is also an opportunity for people to hear your voice and get a sense of you as a person. The technology to make a podcast is quickly becoming easier to use and audio-only podcasts are less complex to produce than video.

Pro tips

  1. Don’t be afraid to take a conversational tone and share bits of your life and what makes you tick with your audience. Highlighting the human connections in your work helps listeners connect with your content.
  2. Upgrade your microphone. While built-in computer and mobile device mics are good enough for Zoom and phone calls, they often provide poor audio quality and don’t do a great job of mitigating background noise. Using an external microphone gives your listeners clearer, sharper sounding audio and lets them focus on the content of your podcast. Many external mics are designed to plug directly into your computer or mobile device and can often be found for less than $100.
  3. There is a great “how-to” for podcasts on the UW Libraries website.


Video has been a compelling medium for a long time, but like podcasts, video production has become much easier over the past several years, and producing quality video is accessible to more people. Nearly all of us carry a high-definition video camera in our pockets in the form of a mobile phone, and video editing apps are widely available which allow you to edit together your story in a visually compelling way. Video can be extremely versatile, too: sometimes a 10-second clip is just enough to whet your audience’s appetite to learn more, while a 5-minute video might unveil some of the mystery around your work in a more understandable and relatable way than something that is written.

Pro tips

  1. Just like social media, video production will take some practice. Play around with shooting interesting visuals and B-roll (footage over which you play narration) related to your work, and plan the length of your video to most efficiently communicate your message and stay within your audience’s rapidly dwindling attention span. Try taking a more conversational approach to talking about your work and look for opportunities to use visuals to communicate your ideas and give viewers a unique glimpse behind the curtain. Remember, you can shoot as much video as you want, so if it doesn’t work, you can always record another take!
  2. Audio is more than half of a video viewer’s experience, and bad audio can easily distract and make it more difficult to get your message across. Consider adding an external microphone to your video toolkit.
  3. Have a plan for distributing any content you create. How will you reach people and build an audience? YouTube and Vimeo provide excellent free video hosting and basic editing tools, but having a plan for sharing on social media, your website and professional communities is essential to getting your video in front of people.

Newsletter and Email Communication

People are unlikely to regularly check your website or blog for updates, so promoting your online work is important. Increasingly, people are returning to email as their go-to for following the content they care about, so consider an email newsletter to drive people to your website or other online content. If you have a lot of content, use a list of short descriptions and links to let your readers choose the stories that most interest them. You can likely use content you have already written for your blog or website to populate your newsletter, so the lift can be light.

Pro tips

  1. Building and maintaining an email list can be lots of work, especially at the start. If you think you might want to launch a newsletter someday, start planning how you’ll cultivate a list of subscribers. If you have a website, add a subscription form to allow visitors to sign up.
  2. Use one of the many inexpensive email newsletter tools available online to create, manage and send your newsletter. Increasingly, personal email applications like Outlook and Gmail limit the number of recipients per email, and don’t provide a way for your readers to manage their subscription or share the message.
  3. ALWAYS provide your recipients with an easy way to unsubscribe from your newsletter and be sure to follow all of your newsletter service’s privacy and subscriber management policies.
  4. Audience’s vary, but in general the best days to send emails and have people actually open and read them are midweek, either first thing in the morning or shortly after people’s lunch break.

In years past, scientists had fewer opportunities to really share their work and perspective with a broad audience. Now, there are countless online opportunities available to create connections. Careful planning in producing and promoting your online content can help show the world what you’re all about in compelling ways.