Speaker Highlight: Kristal Brent Zook

Repackaging Your Scholarly Work for the Mainstream Audience

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DCG Speakers Bureau sat down with professor and award-winning journalist, Kristal Brent Zook, to discuss faculty development practices within academia and how universities can tap into their scholars’ vaults of expertise to evolve their university’s brand.

As universities begin to transition into summer months, many are using this time to further develop their faculty as thought-leaders to mainstream audiences. University leaders have discovered that investing in their senior faculty’s development would benefit the university as a whole and faculty alike, making it a win-win for everyone. Faculty development has become a very critical practice for universities seeking to inspire senior scholars to produce new publications. The challenge of sparking new interest into senior scholars, who may not realize the great value of their years of research, has become a focus topic of discussion for Kristal Brent Zook.

“When the Freddie Gray event happened, it was found that he was raised in a lead-poisoned environment. The public immediately craved a way to process this news. Under these circumstances, a behavioral psychologist or other professional who has been studying the effects of lead poisoning for years now has the opportunity to explain his or her research using this timely story by pitching what’s called a “news peg,” explains Zook.”

A news peg is what makes a scholar’s essay or op-ed piece timely now. For example, you could be working for years on research about a specific topic, but your news peg might be just announced. It would be the reason why you wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to pitch at that precise and run the story.

“What universities and faculty fail to realize is that a lot of them do have a public brand name. To see an active faculty member publishing their work for a mainstream audience is an important benefit for universities as it heightens the brand recognition for potential incoming students who may be considering applying.

Faculty members actively speaking through mainsteam media will ultimately increase the university’s brand value by attracting more students and opportunities for the other faculty members as well.

“It’s a domino effect,” explains Zook.

In Zook’s highly acclaimed workshop entitled, Taking Your Research to the People: From the Ivory Tower to Breaking News, she helps senior faculty share their knowledge with the world. The workshop focuses on the five key elements of a pitch, including the news peg, to transform what may be a dusty article into something that an editor would chomp at the bit to publish.

Zook not only teaches her clients how to cultivate the skills to recognize and pitch an op-ed or a news story, she also serves as the bridge for editors and students, working with them both pre-and-post workshop to ensure that they successfully publish.

From the Ivory Tower to Breaking News is simply beyond a workshop: it’s a pathway to cultivating a more recognizable public voice and stronger brand.

“Kristal Brent Zook is a brilliant, creative thinker … She was able to answer more questions than I knew I had about transitioning from academic to trade publishing. Thank you for the invaluable faculty workshop!”
– Linda R. Young, Ph.D., Senior Staff Psychologist, National University, Seattle University

“Kristal is blessed with genuine intellectual curiosity, along with the instincts and drive of an old-fashioned reporter. Both she and her work are truly special.”
– Eugene Robinson, columnist and associate editor, The Washington Post

“I love to see great teaching, and Dr. Zook has the expertise and enthusiasm of a great teacher….not only did I benefit, but my students did as well.”
– Cindy Butos, Senior Lecturer, Trinity College, Hartford, CT

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