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Pitching the media for research impact

research impact Sarah Travers TV interview

UK Universities spend a lot of time and energy making sure that their research has positive benefits on society and their communities. Research impact matters to university researchers, so public engagement is important. If you’re a researcher working at a UK university and want your research to help shape public opinion, what can you do?

In our work, we’ve developed media engagement strategies to connect organisations with external audiences in everything they do. Along the way, we’ve learnt a few lessons about what works and what falls flat when you’re pitching your stories to busy journalists. Media engagement can be a pathway to research impact, so it’s an important tool in your arsenal. Here are five simple considerations to underpin your media engagement strategy:

Audiences

1. Identify the key audiences for your story. Who does your research benefit and what media outlets are they likely to use for their news? Consider a blend of local, regional and national newspapers and radio stations, regional TV news or national TV news and of course social media channels. Research impact begins and ends with the beneficiaries.

Media channels

2. Research your selected media channels and identify the journalists and correspondents interested in your subject area. Don’t worry about getting in touch.  Journalists are always on the lookout for good stories, and will probably be glad to get to know you. Your Communications Office can help you here – they’ve worked hard to build up relationships that can help you build a profile for your research.

Social media

3. No media engagement strategy would be complete without a social media plan. Will your key audiences be on Facebook? If your research appeals to a business audience, LinkedIn is an important channel. Snapchat, Pinterest and Instagram can be used to appeal to different audiences as well. Twitter might be appropriate to reach policymakers and business leaders. And don’t forget, Twitter is a super tool for reaching out to journalists!

Keep it simple!

4. When writing your media releases or conducting an interview, try to avoid jargon. Every discipline builds up its own vocabulary but specialised language only creates a barrier between you and your audience. Journalists will retell your story for their readers or viewers, so make that easier for them by creating a concise, easily understood narrative. Remember Einstein’s dictum “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Collaborate

5. And don’t forget about the power of collaboration. Research impact in a mutually productive relationship can only help everyone. Liaise with your research partners to identify contacts and relationship they might have to pick up on your story and increase its reach. Make sure that they know in advance if you’re planning a media campaign – that way everyone can play their part to make sure your hard work finds a ready audience! Any coverage you achieve will raise awareness of their work, so everyone’s a winner. #giversgain

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Nine questions for a successful media interview

Sarah Travers media interview

So you’ve been promoting your story on social media, sending out press releases, getting in touch with journalists and doing everything you can to make sure your organisation’s message is heard in the media. You really want to secure a media interview for your story. You have no budget for a PR agency, and you’re happy to take the task on yourself. You’ve just awarded yourself ‘top PR’ in your own mind and nipped out for a coffee to tell your friend in the next building all about your hard work. And when you get back to your desk, you have a message to return a journalist’s call – they want an interview. Props to you!! So what do you do next?

Here’s a list of nine questions to ask the journalist to help you prepare:

 

  1. Collect the basics – name, news organisation, tel contact, Twitter handle
  2. Tell me more about the story you’re working on. Are you approaching the story from any perspective?
  3. Who else are you interviewing?
  4. What’s the format – print, TV, radio, live, over the phone?
  5. What exactly do you need from me?
  6. What journalist will be conducting the interview?
  7. How long will the interview take?
  8. Do you have a deadline? Respect this! Journalists are under huge pressure to meet deadlines, help them out.
  9. Spell your name and organisation name – preferably email it!

When you’re working up your next campaign, careful preparation gives your media interview a greater chance of success. Print off this list to prepare your messaging for an interview that’s more interesting for the viewer, more helpful for the journalist and helps to promote your organisation better.