Using Branding to Advance Your Career

12 01 2013

To most researchers, “branding” is a seemingly crass marketing process used to sell products from candy bars to computers. Scientists may also be vaguely aware that their institutions spend considerable time and effort developing and protecting their brands.

But whether scientists know it or not, they are “branded” as well, and sinceWin Without Competing cover branding is fundamentally a communication strategy, it’s quite central to the topic of this blog.

In this post, I asked branding expert Dr. Arlene Barro, a behavioral educational psychologist, to explain branding as it relates to scientists and their careers. Her answers also offer insight for journalists and public information officers.

(Of course branding is just one aspect of career management. Scientists need to develop an array of communication and other skills to succeed, and the best source of information is Science magazine’s Science Careers web site) .

“Can you imagine a world without brands?” asks Barro, declaring that unless professionals strategically think about their brands, they are presenting themselves as anonymous without even knowing it.

“First of all, if you don’t understand that you have a brand, you can’t sell it,” she says. “And secondly, if you don’t understand what that brand is, you can’t sell it.”

Barro’s insights are particularly cogent because she has an academic as well as business background. She holds a PhD in education with distinction from UCLA for her doctoral dissertation on creativity. She has served as a visiting professor in the medical education department at Ben Gurion University in Israel; a dean at the medical school of the State University of New York at Stony Brook; and as a professor at Thomas Jefferson University’s medical school in Philadelphia.

At the National Cancer Institute, she administered a $60 million public and professional education program, founded and directed the NCI’s first educational research and evaluation branch, and envisioned and directed a first-of-its-kind national program to educate physicians and other health professionals about disease prevention, with a focus on cancer.

As creator of the Right Fit Method for career success and management, she is now a branding and hiring expert—heading Barro Global Search, Inc.—who works with high-level executives and employers. The Right Fit Method is the focus of her book WIN Without Competing!, nominated for a business book award, which mentors job seekers on how to present themselves as the One Right Fit to employers.

To motivate job seekers to recognize the importance of their brand and whether it’s effective in their job search, she developed the app iBrandU4Hire: Rate Your Brand Zero to Hire.

How do you define branding in the context of your work with business professionals, and how might that definition apply to scientists?

Before defining “branding’” I think that it is important to recognize that the job search arena has changed dramatically over the last five years. The economic downturn, coupled with the strong focus on social networking and online resume or curriculum vitae submissions has created a significant need for branding. In order for employers to find you, your online submissions must have a distinct, intriguing, and recognizable brand. Employers must grasp your brand in a flash. You must differentiate yourself from others who do what you do. Whether you’re a business professional or a scientist, you face the same challenge. How can you meet that challenge?

Here are my five “branding commandments”:

  • Recognize that you have a brand, even if articulating that brand is not easy for you to do.
  • Broadcast your brand to succeed in your job search.
  • Pitch your brand by phone before submitting your resume or curriculum vitae online.
  • Avoid blasting your resume from Burbank to Bombay.
  • Overcome and eliminate objections and distractions to your candidacy, which appear on your resume and curriculum vitae.

Your brand has two sides like a coin: the written script (resume or curriculum vitae) and the verbal broadcast (interview). And you must know how to brand both sides. Do not assume that the usual professionally prepared resumes or curricula vitae will include your brand. Resumes and curricula vitae are no longer just factual representations of your career history. They must be carefully crafted to communicate your brand to convince the employer to hire you.

As for the interview, you must carefully orchestrate the encounter to demonstrate that you are the right fit for the job. The goal is to stop the employer from interviewing other candidates after they have interviewed you.

Is branding just a process undertaken during a job search, or does it have broader applications?

Branding must be used for all aspects of your career advancement. Once you capture the right job, you must reinforce your brand to advance. Depending on what that specific career goal is will determine the communication strategies that you must implement. Of primary importance is engaging the right people in conversation. This may sound obvious, simple and easy. It’s not. The art of conversation has declined. Why should you chat when you can email or text? In fact, many job seekers perform poorly at interviews because they cannot carry on a conversation to convince employers to hire them.

To advance your career, you must artfully communicate to set the stage for your promotion. Knowing what to say, when to say it, and how to say it could make the difference between getting a promotion or not. While you’re communicating, assess the extent to which your likeability factor is moving up. Don’t underestimate the impact of likeability on achieving that promotion. It could tip the scale from “no” to “yes.”

Why is branding necessary for all professionals including scientists to advance their careers?

You cannot assume that “the world” comprehends the significance of your accomplishments, appreciates your uniqueness, and values your positive impact on others. It is your responsibility to broadcast your brand.

I know that many scientists recoil at the thought of branding. They want and assume that their research will speak for them, and of course bragging and boasting are unacceptable.

I mentor a wide array of high-level executives. I have observed that certain professions appear to have an unwritten code of modesty. However, to advance in our society you must consistently and routinely reinforce your brand. I created the following effective protocol to do this:

As often as seems appropriate, perhaps semi-annually or quarterly, write a report summarizing your efforts and achievements. The frequency depends on the nature of what you do. Remember you will need to shed the cloak of modesty while you are writing these reports.

Be sure that your reports fit your readers, which should include your supervisor and others who evaluate your performance. To do that, you need to understand what they expect from you and what concerns they may have about you.

I recommend that you present each report in person, if that is feasible. This approach gives you the opportunity to discuss your efforts and achievements, as well as to obtain feedback. You will be amazed what you can learn while broadcasting your brand. You might even be asked to assume a new responsibility!

To encourage you to stand out to succeed, I want to share the story of my meeting with Jonas Salk, taken from chapter II of my book, “Make No Assumptions: Open Those Doors.”

As head of the NCI’s education program, my colleagues and I had sought his assistance. They had mailed several letters to the renowned researcher at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, but hadn’t yet received a reply.

As I wrote in the book, “While I was attending a professional meeting in nearby San Diego, I decided to attempt a different strategy. Although I understood that directly telephoning his office to ask for an appointment was a bit forward, it also seemed worth the risk—I couldn’t fail to reach Dr. Salk any more completely than my colleagues already had, after all. And because I refused to assume that I couldn’t make an appointment with Jonas Salk by phone, I tried—and succeeded. Dr. Salk’s assistant kindly listened to my request, then scheduled my appointment. A few days later, Dr. Salk graciously met with me for more than an hour.

“At one point during our time together, Dr. Salk suddenly and without a word of explanation left the room. Was the meeting over? Should I leave? I wondered. But I opted instead to make no assumptions about what his disappearance meant and simply waited to see what would happen next. After several minutes, he returned with a number of documents cradled in his arm, publications authored by him that he hoped would assist and encourage us in our research program.

“As I departed, he escorted me to the door and blew me a kiss goodbye. How charming he was! Back in Washington, my colleagues were astounded by my chutzpah and delighted by my success—an outcome I simply never assumed I couldn’t accomplish.”

From a branding perspective, how should scientists navigate their careers to assume different functions such as: manage a large laboratory, become a corporate executive, or independent consultant?

Scientist can assume many functions during the course of their careers. Each new function may require learning additional skills. For example, if you are interested in pursuing management you want to be sure that this function is the right fit for you. To do that, think about the responsibilities associated with management such as interacting with a wide array of people. If management is the right fit, you should gradually build up your management experience and skills. Then, craft your resume or curriculum vitae to emphasize the function that you are pursuing. Be sure to create a distinct, intriguing, and recognizable brand to highlight that function. The goal is to clearly differentiate yourself from others who are seeking the same position. Do not expect the employer to figure out your brand for you. They must visualize your brand instantly! It is up to you to set the stage for them to do that both on your resume and curriculum vitae, and at your in-person interview.

 Describe the mechanics of the branding strategy process that you go through with corporate clients. For example, what is a “branding package?”

I think that it is important to understand how my branding package evolved. I own a retained executive search firm. I present one Right Fit candidate to my client-employer and close the search. This has worked well. Notably, using my Right Fit Method I made forty placements with Tom Lombardo, the Founding Editor-in-Chief of WebMD. Lombardo wrote the foreword to my book, WIN Without Competing!, explaining the impact of my Right Fit Method on WebMD.

After my book was published, I received many requests, including those from scientists, asking me to mentor them on how to master my Right Fit Method. Recognizing what employers look for from a branding perspective, I developed my signature branding package which I create in concert with my executive clients.

The branding package I’ve developed, which works with scientists as well as business executives, consists of

  • Concentrating on figuring out what your next career step should be, before discussing your brand.
  • Creating a written brand and developing key points to articulate your brand during interviews.
  • Crafting your resume or curriculum vitae or both to support your brand.
  • Capturing the employer’s attention to focus on your brand, using my unique strategies to overcome distractions and objections.
  • Convincing the employer to hire you on the first in-person interview.

You can use the branding package for many purposes including presenting yourself for a position at your current institution or to a new employer, as well as for other career advancement goals. To enhance my branding program, I developed resources for my clients, which include my book, radio show and newsletter.

Branding is a lifelong process, which should be incorporated throughout your career. You can even turn a wrong fit career situation into a right fit, or prevent a wrong fit if you know how to manage your brand.

Many mentees say that my mentoring has transformed them. Yes, they are different. I showed them how to change, but they changed their own behavior and achieved the career success that I knew that they could, either in industry or academia. You can, too!

To contact Barro, email DrBarro@WinWithoutCompeting.com or call (310) 443-4277. Her company is on the Westside of Los Angeles adjoining UCLA.

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Presidential Politics Neglecting Science: Seeing a Silver Lining

14 10 2012

As the presidential candidates and their surrogates pound away at each other in the final weeks of the campaign, science is almost never mentioned. The candidates only rarely cover such critical issues as global warming and biomedical research funding, aside from the highly commendable effort by Science Debate 2012 to elicit answers from the candidates to key science-related questions (must reading for any voter).  This Science article contains a good analysis of the candidates’ positions (subscription required).

While many see this neglect as something of a dark cloud looming over science—a view with which I certainly agree—I also see a silver lining that should be taken into account, and in fact taken advantage of.

Obviously, the candidates don’t spend much time talking about science and technology because there’s more vote-getting mileage in haranguing each other about the economy, health care and slips-of-their-silver-tongues.

But another major reason for their relative silence on science is that science and technology constitute Mom-and-apple-pie issues. The public likes and respects science and scientists. As NSF’s Science and Engineering Indicators has consistently shown, the public strongly supports scientific research and has confidence in the scientific leadership. And public polls, such as this Harris Poll and this one consistently rank scientists as among the most prestigious and trusted professionals. So, scientists and science supporters shouldn’t worry so much about the paucity of science discussion by the candidates during the election.

But we should worry very very deeply about what happens to science budgets and science-related issues after the election. For example, this report from the AAAS highlights the damage that sequestration could do to R&D budgets.

After the election is the time to take advantage of the silver lining—the public’s support and respect  for science and scientists—to launch a concerted campaign not only to support science and technology budgets, but to advocate for rational science policy on such critical issues as global warming.

Fortunately, there is a legion of science advocacy groups that can help any scientist willing to invest in such a communication effort. (See this list from the Explaining Research references and resources.)

Scientists can also educate themselves about the history and nature of the political neglect of science by reading Shawn Lawrence Otto’s articulate and compelling book Fool me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America (Rodale, 2011). Otto is co-founder and CEO of Science Debate.

Otto argues persuasively that scientists must see themselves as a force for political good:

Wishing to sidestep the painful moral and ethical parsing that their discoveries sometimes compel, many scientists today see their role to be the creation of knowledge and believe they should leave the moral, ethical, and political implications to others to sort out. But the practice of science itself cannot possibly be apolitical because it takes nothing on faith.

Otto declares that because of science’s relentless reliance on experiment and data, “science is inherently antiauthoritarian and a great equalizer of political power.”

Certainly, scientists would prefer to spend their time doing research, which is more fun than testifying before congressional committees or buttonholing legislators. But choosing not to invest time in advocacy means yielding the political arena to what New York Times reporter Timothy Egan has dubbed The Crackpot Caucus. As Egan so pithily puts it

On matters of basic science and peer-reviewed knowledge, from evolution to climate change to elementary fiscal math, many Republicans in power cling to a level of ignorance that would get their ears boxed even in a medieval classroom. Congress incubates and insulates these knuckle-draggers.

And this ignorance is not just evident in a general sampling of  legislators, but in the members of the House Science Committee itself, as detailed in this Wired Science article by Brandon Keim, “Todd Akin and the Anti-Science House Science Committee.” Writes Keim of Akin,

. . . a man who, to put it gently, ignores what science tells us about how babies are made, helps shape the future of science in America. It would be shocking, but for the fact that many of the committee’s GOP members have spent the last several years displaying comparable contempt for climate science.

Ironically, scientists have a far greater level of public support and respect than does  the Congress that decides the fate of their research budget. Not to use that “silver lining” to its fullest extent risks damaging not only scientific careers and scientific research, but the very economic health and intellectual vitality of the nation.





The Hummingbird

21 07 2012

Sometimes we writers need to provide a respite from our all-too-tumultuous, sometimes-tragic world. In a departure from this blog’s usual topic, here’s a little story from the mountains of North Carolina:

I first saw the hummingbird as I was moving furniture on the screened porch. He was a bedraggled clump of feathers no larger than a cotton ball, slumped on the floor, wings spread. He had clearly been trapped in the porch after having flown in the open door, and had worn himself out flying against the screen. I felt responsible because the day before, I’d left the door open while cleaning. It was a sad irony that the little bird had flown thousands of miles from Central America on his migration, only to die on a screened porch in North Carolina.

Since I thought he was dead, I scooped him up to carry him outside. But somehow he didn’t feel dead in my hand. He moved slightly, and began to give out occasional faint cheeps. He was still alive! But he was limp, and his feathers were tattered from thrashing against the screen. I also knew he was dying because during summer hummingbirds only store enough energy to survive overnight, and this one had likely been in the porch for much longer, wearing himself out futilely trying to escape.

I thought he might have a chance to survive if I set him on a feeder. So I brought him upstairs and tried to position him with his claws gripping a perch and his beak inserted into the plastic flower. So all he had to do was extend his tongue to feed. It wasn’t easy getting him positioned because he weighed almost nothing and was so tiny. I dropped him several times, and as he hit the floor, I hoped I hadn’t injured him further.

I finally maneuvered him into a stable position and left him to go inside and get the camera. But when I looked through the window, I saw that he had somehow dislodged himself and was hanging upside down from the perch, clinging to it with a single claw. I repositioned him several times, only to see him work loose, but still hang on to the perch, literally for dear life. I had to do something else.

He needed to be in a position to feed without having to grip a perch. So I placed him on the porch railing and found a pink milk bottle top, filled it with nectar, and held it against his beak. Maybe the pink color would induce him to feed. Then, to give him more elevation, I placed him on a jar top so he could feed downward at a natural angle.

All the time, I was buzzed by the cloud of dozens of impatient hummingbirds who come to the feeders. One even swooped down to investigate the bottle top, hovering by my hand as I tried to get the little hummingbird to feed. Bees and wasps also buzzed me, but I held my ground. I realized my other hand was cramping because I was unconsciously gripping the porch post so hard.

The hummingbird still didn’t respond. His breathing was indiscernible, and only an occasional slight movement told me he was still alive. I persisted, keeping his beak in contact with the nectar. Then after fifteen minutes or so, he opened his beak slightly. He’d tasted the nectar! I waited, keeping his beak in the liquid. He began to open his beak more often.

Then I saw a subtle telltale movement in the nectar. He’d begun to flick out a tiny translucent tongue slimmer than a thread. Over the next minutes, his feeding grew more frequent, the tongue extending farther into the nectar. I could tell his breathing was growing stronger, because the iridescent green feathers on his back began to rapidly rise and fall. He moved his head slightly, another sign he was reviving. Since he was gaining strength, I took the chance to shoot a photo, holding the camera in one hand and the bottle cap in the other.

I continued to feed him, determined to stay until he either revived enough to test his wings, or finally died. I bent down to see whether his eyes were open, but they remained closed. Maybe he had been too far gone after all. The bottle cap needed more nectar, so I turned away to get the nectar jar.

And whoosh! He was gone! I caught only a glimpse of a feathered streak sailing away into the distance.





Multimedia E-books: Immersive or Subversive?

15 04 2012

It’s a troubling, even agonizing, question: How will authors who are crafters of text cope with the new era of multimedia e-books? For me, three recent articles brought that question into greater focus:

Knapp’s and Wattercutter’s articles cover how publishers are aggressively launching e-books as multimedia apps. Knapp cites three as exemplars of the features of multimedia e-books:

  • NAL’s “amplified” edition of Atlas Shrugged, which besides text Atlas Shrugged screenshotcontains video and audio of Rand, personal letters, original manuscript pages and notes, an illustrated timeline of author’s life and works, and an interactive quiz. The e-book also allows readers to share passages with others.
  • The narrated and interactive children’s book The Gift
  • The “novel” Chopsticks, which is the most non-linear of the three. It’s not a narrative story, but a collection of newspaper clippings, songs, and other paraphernalia that together paint a picture of a teenaged pianist and the boy next door.

A fourth example, The World of Richelle Mead, is not even a book, but a “free community powered, enhanced e-reading experience.” It’s more of a social media platform by which readers can buy the author’s books and interact with the author and each other.

Knapp quotes producers and authors both pro and con on the value of such e-books. For example, he quotes multimedia e-book producer Ian Karr as saying “Just as there can be stream of consciousness in writing, there can be a ‘stream of literacy’ in reading, where reading one thing lights the fire to start something new. The bottom line is just providing that richer experience.”

On the other hand, author Jay Bell declares “The more I think about it though, the more these ‘enhancements’ are probably too intrusive and will potentially get in the way of the story.”

And multimedia e-book author Andrea J. Buchanan declares in Knapp’s article “First and foremost, I’m a reader . . . So I want an immersive experience. As a writer, I was really conscious of respecting that. I didn’t want to put stuff in there because I could—I wanted to support and enhance the story.”

ChopsticksIn the most radical view of e-books, Wattercutter quotes e-book publisher Panio Gianopoulos as envisioning a far more social experience. Writes Wattercutter,

For instance, secret chapters could be unlocked as a person’s friends read a book. [Gianopoulos] foresees readers using a reddit-like model to up-vote characters or storylines they enjoy, or publishers forming partnerships with Foursquare that could reveal clues to readers who check in at certain locations. “Multimedia is more than a tie-in—done right it becomes a new kind of product entirely, a hybrid of book and film, or Facebook page and TV show, or something no one else has even thought of yet. . .

However, in a powerful argument for the preeminent value of text, Paul’s New York Times article reveals why unadorned prose is such a powerful medium. She reports studies of the effects of reading on brain activity, as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of readers’ brains. The researchers found that reading a text narrative activates not only the language regions of the brain. It also activates sensory-processing regions associated with the description being read. For example, reading descriptions of odors activates the olfactory cortex; and descriptions of textures activates the region that processes touch sensation. Similarly, descriptions of motion or activity stimulate the motor cortex that processes movements such as grasping and running.

Paul also cites fMRI studies showing that the “reading brain” treats scenes of characters interacting as if the reader was experiencing those interactions.

To me, these findings strongly suggest that integrating video, audio and interaction into e-books may not be immersive—keeping the reader engaged in a story. Rather, they might be subversive—distracting readers from the rich internal world that prose can construct within the reader’s mind.

I contend that prose has an “idea density” that video and audio do not. I also believe that prose has an “emotional density” that can be more deeply affecting than that of visual media. My ten-year-old granddaughter’s deep love of reading offers an excellent example of the lure of prose. She becomes so engrossed in text that she reads books while walking and must be guided to avoid lampposts and fellow pedestrians. When I watch her read, I see a young mind totally immersed in the realm of the written word. E-books’ interactivity, sound tracks, and video, it seems to me, would distract from that engagement.

I also worry that interactive children’s books such as The Gift will compromise teaching The Giftchildren to love reading. The interactive process might distract from the warm, intimate environment created when a parent (or grandparent!) reads to a child—an environment that will form a deep-seated enjoyment of reading.

I’m not arguing that multimedia e-books have no place in publishing. The added features of the amplified Atlas Shrugged do not intrude on the prose and offer new pathways for exploring the book’s history. And clearly, video and animation could enhance how-to books and textbooks.

But to repeat the question raised at the beginning of this post, how should authors cope with the issue, some would say specter, of multimedia e-books?

It’s an immediate issue for me, because I’m involved with both fiction and non-fiction projects. One of my science fiction novels is now under consideration by a commercial publisher. And I’m co-authoring a non-fiction book—tentatively titled Mysterious Baby—with my daughter, emergency room pediatrician Dr. Wendy Hunter, on the exotic physiology of infants.

So as a fiction author, should I offer publishers music and sound effects to accompany my book, as produced by the Booktrack service? Should I develop links to videos or background about my characters, the novel’s setting, or the technology it depicts? My current position is that I will ignore creating such content. I will concentrate solely on making the written story as compelling and rich as possible. If the publisher wants multimedia for the e-book version, a rather intense negotiation will ensue.

On the other hand, the Mysterious Baby nonfiction book might represent a stronger case for such multimedia. For example, parents might be greatly relieved by seeing video of a newborn in the throes of  harmless-but-scary involuntary jitters called benign myoclonus. It’s no more dangerous than hiccups, and seeing such a video might make it less likely that parents will rush their jittery baby to the emergency room.

But in writing this nonfiction book, I will also ignore the eventuality that it may become a multimedia e-book. Given the cost of such productions, the doubtful profitability of multimedia e-books, and the turmoil of constantly evolving e-book formats and readers, for now I’ll concentrate on writing, thank you very much.





Use QR Codes to “Amplify” Your Work

3 04 2012

Explaining Research web site

QR codes have become ubiquitous enough that they’re now a useful way to “amplify” your work. These two-dimensional bar codes—looking like crossword puzzles for masochists—enable audiences to scan the code with their smartphone or camera-equipped tablet to gain access to information or trigger actions. For example, scanning the QR code on this post will link you to the Explaining Research web site.

QR codes, short for “Quick Response codes,” were developed in 1994 by a Toyota subsidiary to allow data to be decoded at high speed. But the company decided not to enforce its patent, so the codes have come to be used around the world.

As detailed below, producing the codes is both free and easy, and when scanned by a smartphone, the code can open a text document, web site, video, e-mail address,  phone number, digital business card (e.g. a vCard), map page, WiFi connection, or event announcement. For a full list of examples see the code generator on the Kerem Erkan QR generator. Just click on the “Select a Code Action” dropdown list.

A generated code is basically an image file that can be printed or displayed on a screen. It can have a multitude of uses, including being displayed

  • on a research poster to offer a paper download or web site access
  • on a scientific paper to give access to raw data or background
  • on a brochure, magazine article, or business card to giver readers more information
  • on an office or lab door to give visitors information on research by the occupants, or even a video welcome
  • as a series of codes throughout a lab or other facility to create a virtual text or video  tour
  • attached to lab instruments or other machines to give instant access to operating manuals or other information
  • printed on t-shirts to introduce the wearer’s work to fellow conference attendees or the public (Both Cafe Press and Zazzle offer such shirts. QR codes can even be printed on chocolates!)
  • on an event poster to enable potential attendees to download details of the event
  • as the final slide in a presentation to offer access to the slides or more information

For educators, here’s another creative collection of 46 Interesting Ways to Use QR Codes to Support Learning.

Generating a QR code only requires entering the web URL or other text into one of the code generators listed below and right-clicking to save the resulting graphic image to your computer. There are, however, some issues to consider: For example, if you want to change the web site that the same QR code accesses, you’ll want a generator such as Delivr or Snap,vu that enable such editing. You might also want to track how many times the QR code was used, so you might want to use more feature-rich generators like Delivr, Snap.vu, or Qreate & Track.

Also, the URL or other text entered into a code generator needs to be relatively short. The longer the text string, the smaller the squares in the code, and the more likely are errors when users attempt to scan it. So, you might want to use a URL shortener such as bitly or goo.gl to shorten your URL (instructions below). However, such services have a downside in that they might be “glitchy.” So, try to use URLs hosted on your own domain. Some other tips:

  • Surround your code with plenty of white space when printing or displaying.
  • Label the code’s content by putting your name or other information above or below the code.
  • Color codes are possible, but make sure the colors contrast with one another.

Dawn Wentzell of the AuthorityLabs blog has a good set of  tips on using QR codes in her post Using QR Codes? You’re Probably doing it Wrong. Perhaps the most important was to understand that people are scanning your code using mobile devices that may not display a full-fledged web site properly. So, consider developing a fast-loading mobile-friendly site for them. Other tips include not using glossy paper for codes and not using Flash, Javascript or HTML5, which some smartphones can’t handle.

Here’s a list of code generators:

  • Bitly To produce QR code, first shorten the URL with bitly, then add .qr to the end of the shortened URL and use the link. The image of the QR code will appear on the screen.
  • Delivr
  • Goo.gl To produce code, enter URL to shorten, then click on “details” when the shortened URL appears to see the QR code.
  • GoQR.me. Associated with Zazzle. Offers an easy way to apply codes to t-shirts,coffee cups, etc.
  • Jumpscan enables creation of personal profile pages, for example for business cards.
  • Kaywa
  • Qreate & Track
  • QRstuff generates color codes, as well as wide variety of code types
  • Quikqr
  • Shopify
  • SnapMaze
  • Snap.vu
  • TagMyDoc adds QR codes to documents to enable sharing
  • Zxing

Finally, as easy as QR codes are to use, they might not be the last word in information-sharing. Newly introduced Touchcode doesn’t need a camera or a special code to distribute information. It’s an invisible electronic code printed on paper, cardboard, film or labels. Touch a smartphone or other touch screen to the print, and it reads the data.





“Marketing for Scientists” Charts a Path to Success

1 04 2012

The new book Marketing for Scientists belongs, not on every scientist’s bookshelf, but on their desk! It’s a useful, savvy guide for scientists on how to market their work and themselves, to the benefit of their career, their field, and science in general.

As author Marc Kuchner points out, scientists certainly need to learn marketing, given the uphill battle they face in publishing papers, winning grants, and getting jobs. And society needs scientists to market science, given such adversaries as climate change and evolution deniers, and those who cling to the dangerous myth that vaccines cause autism.

Wisely, Kuchner begins the book by correcting the misconception that “marketing” is a dubious business of selling snake oil. That’s an outdated definition of the word, he points out, offering a new definition that any scientist would be comfortable with:

Marketing is the craft of seeing things from other people’s perspectives, understanding their wants and needs, and finding ways to meet them.

Few scientists realize it, but they are already “marketing” each time they talk to a colleague, publish a paper, deliver a talk, or do just about any other communication. However, in my opinion, the vast majority are abysmally poor at these communications, because they do not heed Kuchner’s definition and consider the needs of their “customers.”

For example, he points out that the very basic concept of giving good customer service is an invaluable marketing tool. This service can be as basic as answering emails and phone calls promptly, and arriving at meetings on time.

However, Kuchner’s techniques extend far beyond etiquette coaching. He explains strategies for turning people who have never heard of your work into advocates. And again, it’s not snake-oil-selling he advocates, but clear honest communications and building relationships. He points out that “There are walls between universities, walls between research groups, walls between one scientist and another.” He asserts that “Each wall between scientific subcultures can only be penetrated by a real, organic human relationship.”

He also offers sound advice on “branding”—another word that might give scientists pause. But he uses the modern definition of branding as “the set of all expectations consumers have about a company or product.” And his strategies aim at helping scientists build their brand; achieving a reputation for creativity and quality. What scientist could possibly object to that!

In his book, Kuchner parses “customers” whom scientists are trying to reach—e.g. students, junior scientists, senior scientists, funding agency staff, and press officers—and details their concerns and how to meet them.

Kuchner also offers practical marketing techniques for getting job offers, writing proposals, producing papers, benefiting from conferences, giving talks, and using email and the internet effectively. And again, these techniques are based on communication skills, not on the old concept of marketing as crass salesmanship.

He also offers excellent insight into communicating science to the public and to legislators, and to marketing science itself to a public that all-too-often harbors wrongheaded myths about science and scientists.

As a final summary “cheat sheet,” he offers a list of marketing tips for scientists. Here are a few choice ones:

  • When you communicate with people, use their names.
  • Carry a prop; tell a story.
  • Everyone is wondering What’s In It For Me? (WIIFM)
  • Creating new research questions is as good for your career as answering old ones.
  • Promote your Signature Research Idea and it will promote you; promote the idea, not yourself.
  • Focus your research; become the go-to person in your subfield.
  • Make videos about your work and put them online.




“A Bee in a Cathedral” Offers a Trove of Science Analogies

14 02 2012

Tired of writing clichéd science analogies like “…the size of a pinhead,” or “…the distance from the earth to the moon”? The new book A Bee in a Cathedral and 99 Other Scientific Analogies, by Joel Levy, can rescue you from the slough of triteness. How about these?

  • A human being consists of as much energy as is found in the matter of 30 very large H-bombs.
  • Every cell in your body, except red blood cells, contains roughly two meters of stringlike DNA molecules.
  • The energy released by a single hurricane could power the entire U.S. for six months.
  • Even a normal thunderstorm generates power equivalent to the energy consumption of the entire U.S. for four days.
  • A chunk of neutron star the size of a sugar cube weighs more than the human race.
  • All the hominid bones ever discovered could fit in the back of a pickup truck.
  • Every day the heart expends enough energy to drive a truck 20 miles. Over a lifetime, it could power a truck to the moon and back.
  • To see what it’s like to be your own heart, try using a teacup to empty a bathtub in 15 minutes—then do it again and again, without stopping, for the rest of your life.
  • The sun burns through matter at a rate equivalent to a million elephants every second.

And finally, of course, the title analogy: “If an atom were blown up to the size of a cathedral, the nucleus would be no larger than a bee buzzing about in the center, while the electrons would be ‘orbiting’ near the outermost edge.”

But A Bee in a Cathedral is more than a collection of neat analogies. It also explores the power of analogies, and it uses its analogies to explain some of the major concepts in science. Writes Levy

…analogy is so powerful that it is central not only to the communication of science but also the process of scientific advancement itself. Analogy is a key element of the mysterious phenomena of scientific inspiration and creativity, and the history of science is filled with examples of breakthroughs achieved by analogous reasoning.

He cites, for example, how Robert Boyle was inspired to develop his theories of gases by imagining gas particles as coiled springs; and how August Kekulé came up with the ring structure of benzene when he dreamed of a snake biting its own tail.

Levy’s writing exemplifies the use of analogies to explain dozens of concepts in physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, earth science, the human body and technology. So as a reference, the book is a great cheat sheet for science writers trying to explain phenomena as diverse as entropy, gene function, supernovae and volcanoes.

Levy also champions analogies as a means to make science more accessible and fun, declaring “science is like a houseplant—it needs to be taken out of its dingy corner and put in the sunlight once in a while if it’s to flourish.”

And that, of course, is a delightful simile to explain why compelling science writing is so important!