Building contacts will generate lists of people and organisations with whom you could communicate and collaborate. As effective relationships take time and commitment for researchers and their contact, it is important to select carefully 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.
There are several tools to help you assess the interest and influence of your contacts and your research office or academic development unit can advise you on training in stakeholder mapping or stakeholder analysis.
Tips that can help you develop relationships from initial contacts:
- Maintaining 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 with individual contacts, with 'getting to know you' rather than jumping in with specific proposals and demands. Relationships take time to develop and sharing information you hold with others will encourage others to be open with you.
- Be sure that your objectives for relationship building are clear: are you seeking someone's short term input or looking for a longer term collaboration?
- Be prepared to set aside some time in your work calendar to enable relationship building to take place.
Policymakers and business managers are inundated with information and may only be interested in your research if they can clearly see how they can contribute, what assistance they are being asked to provide and how they could benefit.
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.