Top tips for Media Engagement

A short guide for our SAPC members

Speaking to the media can be a particularly effective method to allow your research to reach thousands or even millions of people, through TV, press, blogs and social media. It offers unique opportunities to create public awareness of an issue, help promote informed debate around a topic, raise the profile of work to funding bodies and decision-makers, increase the impact of the research and it may even encourage the next generation of scientists.

What makes news?

Your ‘news’ has to be newsworthy, it must be of interest to the audience, and you should know who your audience is. What may be of interest in the academic primary care world may not always be of interest to the wider public. In general topics that will be of interest to the media will, in some way, impact on ordinary people and their families. If the research is showing something new, adding to a current topical story or has that very wide interest then it may have the potential for media interest.

However, no one can guarantee media interest or coverage because a lot depends on what else is happening in the world on that day.

Nine Top Tips for working with the media:

  1. Contact your press office who will provide advice on the best way to publicise your research, help draft a press release and may provide media training.
  2. Before the interview try to obtain as much information as possible about the intended audience of the article/broadcast so you can tailor your answers to that audience.
  3. Before an interview try to get as good an idea as possible of the kind of issues the journalist wants to discuss, what areas will be covered - what is their angle on the story?
  4. Think of 3 or 4 key points that you want to get across. These can be written down but try not to scrip your answers.
  5. Think about what questions you might be asked and how you would respond.
  6. Keep your comments brief and to-the-point, even when dealing with complex topics. If you talk too much your key message may get lost or confused. Journalists usually want sound bites and short quotes.
  7. Present your work in clear and simple language. Avoid jargon, acronyms or long titles.
  8. Use everyday examples/case studies/anecdotes to make your points accessible and draw on short anecdotes, which the audience can readily identify with.
  9. For written media you may be able to do the interview over email and you ask if you can see a copy of the article before it goes to print.