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Paparazzi Calling: Communicating Your Discoveries To The Media

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Author: Jennifer R. Lloyd | Category: Career Development | November 05, 2015

You are doing amazing things. You’re uncovering knowledge about our world and insights into the human body that can shape the future.

This is not news to you. You likely wouldn’t be committing your days (and sometimes nights) to this effort if you didn’t value the outcome.

But it might be news to those outside the UT Health Science Center or even outside your department or lab.

You can’t create change in a vacuum. Just as you need your fellow scientists to execute research and fulfill the mission of the UT Health Science Center, you need to reach the broader public in order for your discoveries to have their full impact.

Perfecting the delivery of your research to the media and the public is a science unto itself. Here are a few pointers to help you get started on this journey.

Eight Helpful Tips To Gain Media Attention

1) Know Your Audience

This is a two-part tip. First, you need to identify the media outlets and specific journalists most likely to report on your research. Yes, this involves reading or consuming the type of media in which you want your work to be featured. 

Expecting a journalist or producer to lavish you and your project with attention when you haven’t learned the first thing about their work or area of coverage is unrealistic. 

Second, think through what the reporter’s general audience looks like. A television reporter is looking for something vastly different in an interview than someone writing for an industry-specific magazine. Each is sharing with very different audiences through different media. 

(Photo credit: miss_rogue / Foter / CC BY-SA)

2) Build A Relationship

Just as you network in the office, begin making connections with the journalists you respect. 

Follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites where you can retweet or share the stories they post. 

Email the journalist with a specific compliment about their work when they cover your field.

Also, be sure to let them know that you’re available if they cover that topic again. 

(Photo credit: / PixabayCC0 Public Domain)

3) Identify What Is Newsworthy

Here are a few attributes that can up the news value of a story pitch:

Has something happened this week or will it happen soon?

Is the idea a fresh take, a major departure from the norm or just plain weird enough to keep you talking about for a while?

Would the story add local perspective to a national or global issue or trend?

Is it a truly great story with characters and plot?

(Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer / Foter / CC BY-SA)

4) Not Everything Is News

The stories that reporters feature vary by day and by season. This can be both an opportunity and an obstacle. 

Many a great pitch has been pushed aside by more dramatic news of the day. This may be tough to take, but try to put in perspective. 

Whatever that more dramatic news was, it likely wasn’t good news and you should probably be thankful you weren’t involved. 

(Photo credit: / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA)

5) Make The Pitch

Work with your communications office to learn best practices for sharing your ideas with the press. 

Sometimes a quick email may suffice instead of a full press release. 

Do not assume that a press release will get automatic press coverage because reporters get many of these a day. 

(Photo: Email. Photo credit: / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA)

6) Visualize Your Work

Be prepared to offer visual opportunities for either video or photos. 

Seeing yet another speaker standing behind a microphone at a press conference is beyond boring. 

Get in the lab and show the reporter your work. Also, think of any graphics that you might have in your published studies that could be shared as visuals. 

(Photo credit: / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA)

7) Prepare For The Interview

For most news outlets, the best scientific sources are those who can take complex topics and distill them into simple phrases. 

Practice explaining your work as you would to a relative at Thanksgiving who works in a different field. 

Don’t condescend when a reporter asks a question about your work. The reporter is likely not an expert in your field. They are interviewing you because you’re the expert. 

(Photo credit: boellstiftung / Foter / CC BY-SA)

8) Emphasize The Big Picture

Be sure to convey how your discovery or research has or might contribute on a larger scale — to the health of the city, the nation or mankind. 

Use statistics and trends to build your case. 

As long as you stay within the bounds of facts, don’t be afraid to convey your hopes for how this discovery might change the future. 

Be lofty. 

(Photo credit: Christopher Chan / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND)

Jennifer R. Lloyd is the Director of Law Communications for the St. Mary’s University School of Law and is a Career Advisory Council member for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She oversees communications, media relations, marketing, and advertising efforts for the School of Law. She also manages content on the School of Law’s website and social media accounts. She was formerly the higher education and scientific research reporter for the San Antonio Express-News.

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