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:
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.
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.
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.”
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