Reading Diary: Marketing for Scientists by Marc J. Kuchner

It's probably best to start with what Marc J. Kuchner's new book -- Marketing for Scientists: How to Shine in Tough Times -- isn't.

It isn't a social media jackass recipe book for "Success through Twitter." It isn't a detailed treatise on marketing theory. It doesn't come with a guarantee of grants, publications and prizes if you follow it's instructions. In fact, it's hardly about Twitter or blogs or Facebook or Pinterest or any of that stuff at all.

Instead, it's a primer on why getting your message out is a good idea.

Marketing for humans, in other words, where humans = scientists.

Kuchner's approach is quite straightforward and logical, meant to appeal to logical and rational science-types. He starts with a few chapters on the general principles of marketing -- why it's a good idea, how to approach it, what the main elements are of a good marketing plan.

And to make the medicine go down, the spoonful of sugar is some lively examples and experiences from his parallel career as a country music songwriter in Nashville.

First of all, he gives an introduction to general marketing principles like building relationships, selling, branding and the marketing archetypes that apply to science. These sections are quite well done as they bring some marketing concepts directly to bear on how a scientist can make her work better known.

He then applies those general principles to some specific areas where scientists would find it useful to have themselves and their work better known and better regarded: job offers, funding decisions, proposal writing, getting papers read and recognized, maximizing the conference experience, spreading the work about your work online, outreach to the public and government and finally, advancing the public understanding of science.

Yeah, I guess the common preconception about a book like this is, "Hey, I'm a scientist, what do I need to know marketing for? I exist in a world of pure thought and devoid of human emotion."

Not so much.

Kuchner emphasizes those areas of science that are the most human -- establishing and creating a rewarding career path, getting your ideas known and appropriately recognized. These are problems of human relationships and human systems.

If I can quibble a bit about the book, I do have a few small complaints. Island Press is obviously not a huge publisher. The book could have used a stronger editorial hand. It's a bit diffuse and repetitive at times, especially at the beginning when Kuchner is setting the stage. Sections that are supposed to be "theoretical" end up mostly practical, for example. Still, small quibbles in a generally very good book.

Another small quibble would be his approach to specific marketing tools and strategies. I appreciated that he didn't make this book solely about social media strategies but I felt he short-changed his audience a little by taking a bit of the other extreme. I really think he could have made a case that online tools are probably the best way to spread the word.

Who would I recommend it too? First of all, virtually any working academic scientist would find value here, except perhaps for the most wired and plugged in. Certainly any library that supports a community of academic researchers would find value. It's aimed at scientists but most of the lessons are generalizable.

Kuchner, Marc J. Marketing for Scientists: How to Shine in Tough Times. Washington: Island Press, 2011. 248pp. ISBN-13: 978-1597269940

(Book provided by publisher.)

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