HealthSeptember 01, 2019

From a marketer’s playbook: Using PAFEO planning to promote your research

Read this article about PAFEO planning to highlight your content after publication.

By: Jim Fischer, Marketing Manager, Wolters Kluwer

As an author, publishing your research in a scientific journal is an achievement. It’s the finished product to hours spent researching, writing, finding the right journal, and going through peer review until the final version-of-record is published. Much time goes into this process and the repercussions of a published manuscript can mean a great deal to the field. However, a study found that almost 90 percent of papers in academic journals are not cited and as many as 50 percent of papers are never read by anyone aside from the author(s) and reviewers.1 For authors who have worked so hard, that thought can be daunting. However, it does not need to be.

The paradigm of traditional print publishing changed with the rise of Internet and has not stopped. When content was declared king in 1996, Bill Gates forecasted that readers “need an opportunity for personal involvement that goes far beyond what is offered through the letters-to-the-editor pages of print.”2 He was right across almost every media platform, including journals. Readers now need research quickly, easily tailored to their specific needs, and even better if some form of emotional involvement is there. Journals’ publishing—still traditional to its most rudimentary values—has needed to shift with the advancement digital communications. A reader can now use search terms and have five of the most relevant papers from a journal available to them within seconds. These online advancements, while creating a better user experience and simplifying research endeavors, leaves papers behind. How can you, as an author, overcome these challenges?

To circumvent challenges, consider yourself an influencer. Remember that you have all of the credentials needed to prove yourself an expert within your field. Additionally, there is likely a peer network of co-authors, students and colleagues to ensure that the research is shared, read and potentially cited. These are all invaluable things to have. For authors, a succinct content strategy is essential to ensure your work is read and becomes part of the relevant conversations. The success of any strategy starts in the planning.

Years ago, a collegiate professor introduced me to a simple acronym when it came to brainstorming almost any topic: PAFEO Planning.3 This brainstorming tool has proven useful in processes from creative writing all the way to developing a content marketing strategy. Once each element of the acronym is considered, a detailed mission statement for the project emerges to help keep you on task. As an influencer, strongly consider PAFEO Planning to highlight your content after publication. Here are the tools:

  • P is for purpose
  • A is for audience
  • F is for format
  • E is for evidence
  • O is for organization

For the sake of using PAFEO Planning in practice, let’s create a fictional topic. Imagine that you are a small university professor and have recently published survey research in a journal. The findings suggest that 80 percent of the sample (1000 university students aged 18-30) prefer to communicate with their primary care physician (PCP) electronically as opposed to actually going in the office. As the final version of record is nearing publication, you want to make sure your work is going to be read online.

Let’s begin!


Identifying the purpose is done by asking why you are promoting a topic. Some of the more common reasons are to inform, to persuade, or to entertain. When selecting the purpose for highlighting your work, remember there are implications to the tone your message will take. Depending on the scope of research or how you want your work perceived, it is recommended using an informational or, in rarer circumstances, a persuasive purpose.

In the fictional example, you have opted to inform.

To inform


In creating a strategy, the audience is the most important consideration. You need to ask yourself some key questions: Who are we presenting this information to? What is their level of expertise? What do they need to know? Additionally, you must be honest with yourself in that not everyone will be interested in your message. A good practice to consider is ranking your potential audience on a scale of one to 10, with one being least interested or likely to retain information and a 10 being most interested or knowledgeable. Target and create a message for the five-to-eight-range when selecting your audience. They’ll likely interact and further share this newfound information.

In the fictional example, there are several potential audiences based on your research: young adults as the sample was limited from 18-30, PCPs who may see a change in practice, communication scholars who may be curious about a generational shift. For the example, you opt to target your own university students because of both the sample, but also because it will create a conversation among them and peers.

To inform an undergraduate student audience with knowledge of introductory theories


Format is essential to consider in a promotional effort as it is the vehicle in which the message is delivered. As digital communications have evolved, it’s important to use some of these channels to your advantage. Here are a few examples to consider:

  • Leverage social media. Social media is a tricky thing to master. If social media is new to you, no worries! Our Lippincott® Author Talk! team have created an infographic to help get started on social media.
  • Consider email. While many promotions are done via email, sometimes it is a great approach to step back and modify the daily approach. Ask yourself in a day, how many personal emails do you send? How many of those emails are to colleagues directly with your research? Consider updating your professional email signature to include a link to your most recent published paper.
  • Consult press offices. Press releases provide opportunities to reach a lay audience. Ask yourself if findings will generate interest. Often, your institution has a public relations department to consider if the research will translate well in the press.


To inform an undergraduate student audience who only have knowledge of introductory theories about (key takeaway still to be identified) using social media, my own email signature, and inquiring at the university press office


In research, the evidence and conclusion are the key takeaways. Strong, well-worded evidence will help craft the hook for your message. The most creative hooks consider facts contrary to conventional norms. Oftentimes, these are most effective when asked in question format. Your audience will engage the question and the evidence is the answer they share and potentially cite.

In the fictional example, you want to explain why 80 percent of college students prefer electronic communications with their PCP compared to office visits. Some examples:

  • Why do 80 percent of college students prefer to communicate with their PCP electronically?
  • Has a simple visit to the PCP been changed forever?
  • What will the dynamic between PCP and patient be in coming years?
To inform an undergraduate student audience who only have knowledge of introductory theories about research indicating 80% of younger adults prefer electronic as opposed to face-to face communication with their PCP using social media, my own email signature, and inquiring at the university press office


Now that the strategy is determined, the last stage is to organize its implementation. On larger marketing teams, we identify the best resources for a team and a calendar layout for the project. As an author about to promote a published manuscript, consider a calendar reminder system, similar to this one:

  • Step one [insert date]: Article publishes online
  • Step two [insert date]: University press release deploys
  • Step three [insert date]: Email signature updated linking my article online
  • Step four [insert date]: Social media post sharing press release
  • Step five [insert date]: Social sharing with colleagues begins
To inform an undergraduate student audience who only have knowledge of introductory theories about research indicating 80% of younger adults prefer electronic as opposed to face-to face communication with their PCP using social media, my own email signature, and inquiring at the university press office. This will be organized using the calendar previously identified during brainstorm.

The way journal readers access content is changing rapidly and authors have potential to influence the readership of their work. You just need to strategize in advance. Always remember to consider your available resources and if lost, ask to know what is out there. And remember, PAFEO Planning is here to help get the process started.


  1. Meho LI. The rise and rise of citation analysis. Physics World. 2007; 20(1):32-36.
  2. Bill Gates. January 3, 1996. Content is King. Web Archives [July 11, 2018].
  3. Kennan, J. 1987. Using PAFEO Planning. In Harty, K. editor. Strategies for Business and Technical Writing. 6th ed. New York (NY). Pearson Education. P. 7-15
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