Paul A. Petruzzi, DLitt, Deb Roney, MA, The Lockwood Group
This article is part of the Medical Publications 101 article series, which serves as an introduction to various topics that are relevant to medical publication professionals.
As medical publication professionals, we know the importance of disseminating scientific information clearly and accurately. We work methodically and meticulously on each publication (or publication plan), striving to ensure that the final product is comprehensive, transparent, and ethical—designed to present unbiased medical research that will help readers make informed treatment decisions. But that’s only half the challenge when considering how to create the desired impact and increase the clinical value of a publication.
Determining how and where to engage the audience that will most benefit from the data is also critical. Who is the publication speaking to? Are the data presented in a way that the reader can easily digest? Is the publication available from a source that the target audience reads and trusts? Will the publication reach the audience for which it is intended? These are some key questions that need to be asked when creating an impactful scientific publication. Considering the audience is also important for congress abstract submissions and post-acceptance presentations (perhaps more so than for manuscripts, as congress attendees will likely be from a specific discipline), the same questions listed above apply.
Who Is the Publication Speaking To?
Each reader brings an individual reading lens, shaped by unique experiences, interests, and knowledge, that influences how a publication resonates with that reader. Specialists, internists, family physicians, payers, nurses, and pharmacists each bring and take away something different from a publication. Careful consideration of tone, structure, and message, dependent on the intended audience, will result in meaningful and relevant publications.
For example, a nurse who has daily contact with patients, perhaps answering questions about side effects and dosage, may have very different interests and needs than a treating physician. Similarly, while a publication focused on rare childhood epilepsy could be targeted to a general scientific journal with a high impact factor (IF) because of its interest and contribution to general medicine, it might just as reasonably (or possibly even more so) be targeted to a pediatric or specialty/neurology journal, as it has direct clinical relevance in these practice settings. Consideration of a specialty or therapeutic-area specific journal as an alternative to a general medicine journal may also have the benefits of an increased likelihood of acceptance and shorter publishing timeframes. In summary, it is beneficial and practical to identify both the focus of the article and the interest of the primary audience—then write, having considered both.
Are the Data Presented In a Way that the Reader Can Easily Digest?
Once the audience is identified, the data must be presented in a way that will resonate with the intended reader. Again, consider the person reading the article. What does he/she care about? What is the knowledge base? How much background is required, and how much is too much? What tables and figures might this specific reader find most appealing, and do they present the content in a way that is readily understood? Essentially, what will keep this reader engaged and reading? Ensuring that the data and information presented are aligned with audience perspective is essential in developing a relevant and impactful publication or plan.
Is the Publication Available From a Source that the Target Audience Reads and Trusts?
Identifying the best source in which to publish the article should happen after the target audience has been identified. Depending on the intended audience, simply choosing the journal with the highest IF may not always be the best strategy for every article. For instance, nurses may be more likely to see the publication if it appears in a nursing journal. Pharmacists may be more likely to see the publication if it appears in a pharmacy journal or pharmacy society newsletter or other specifically targeted source.
While it might seem that a primary article reporting the results of a randomized clinical trial would be of interest to a broad clinical audience reading a general medical journal, it could easily be overlooked if the subject matter is too obtuse or esoteric for the reader. Hence, while a universal approach to publication planning may seem practical, it assumes a “one size fits all” mentality when delivering scientific and clinical information that, in fact, may end up appealing to no one in particular.
Will the Publication Reach the Audience For Which It Is Intended?
This is the question that authors and medical publication professionals should consider most carefully, because if the publication doesn’t reach the intended audience, then the data will be overlooked—regardless of how beautifully written the manuscript, how robust the data, or how important the findings. Review past issues of the journals under consideration. Are the articles speaking to the audience that you would like to reach? Does its circulation meet your target audience (eg, is it global, regional, or country-specific)? What is the style and tone? What tables and figures are most common? Does the publication you are creating align with the aims and scope of this journal? Does the journal “speak” to your audience?
Creating an impactful scientific publication benefits from recognizing that different audiences have different priorities, levels of clinical experience, and preferred journals, media, and methods for communicating with one another. Ensuring that the key scientific or clinical information in your publication resonates directly with the intended reader is as important as the information being communicated. This careful consideration applies to congress submissions as well as full manuscripts.
Whether your publication lands in a journal with a high IF or one geared towards those with a more clinical perspective, if your publication reaches the audience that benefits most from the data, then the publication will have achieved its objective and desired impact.
|Who Is the Publication Speaking To?
|Are the Data Presented In a Way that the Reader Can Easily Digest?
|Is the Publication Available From a Source that the Target Audience Reads and Trusts?
|Will the Publication Reach the Audience For Which It Is Intended?