You’ve built your contacts of people and organisations with whom you could communicate and collaborate. The next step is to build effective relationships.
Effective relationships take time and commitment for researchers and their contacts. It is important to carefully select which contacts are worth developing more deeply.
Mapping and grouping your contacts into those that are most likely to be interested in your research, and also most likely to influence the impact of your work, will help you to decide on your relationship development strategy.
You can use tools like an interest-influence grid to assess your contacts. Your organisation’s research office or academic development unit should also be able to advise you on training in stakeholder mapping or stakeholder analysis.
When developing relationships from initial contacts you should:
- maintain contact with people you have met through electronic and face-to-face mechanisms. It can be useful to schedule how often you intend to communicate with your contacts and the key messages you want them to know
- encourage informal as well as formal interactions, for example, propose that people who generally only meet each other at formal business meetings have a social gathering
- consider starting slowly and getting to know individual contacts, rather than jumping in with specific proposals and demands
- be sure that your objectives for relationship building are clear: if you are seeking someone’s short term input or looking for a longer term collaboration
- be prepared to set aside some time in your work calendar for relationship building.
Think carefully about the aspects of your project that will be of most interest and benefit to the contacts you are targeting. It is important to think about what they want to know rather than about what you want to tell them.
You should also consider that policymakers and business managers can be inundated with information. They may only be interested in your research if they can clearly see how they can contribute and benefit, and understand the assistance they are being asked to provide.