Dealing with the media
- How the media helps your career
- The media is not your enemy
- When you should engage with the media
- How the ARCCSS Media Communication Manager can help
- Interview tips
- Research has shown that when publishing in a newspaper of record, citation rates can increase by 70% in the first six months.
- A three-year research project across 100 Wiley journals showed the promotion of scholarly articles to journalists and bloggers increased paper downloads an average of 1.8 times and increased citations by 2 – 2.2 times.
- Anecdotally, every paper that has had an ARCCSS media release has led to a request for a copy of that paper coming to the media manager by a researcher working in a related field.
- Social media, particularly Twitter, can predict highly cited articles within the first three days of publication.
Before we even get into the fundamentals of media communication it is important for you to realize two points.
- You are the expert
- The media is not out to attack you.
You are the expert: A PhD student knows more about climate science than a journalist who has been in their job for 40 years. Journalists are generally more intimidated by your knowledge than you are by the interview.
The media is not the enemy: With the exception of certain shock jocks and known climate cranks, the media are interested in getting you and your research out into the public. If you have been called, then they are interested in what you have to say and expect their audience will be as well. As long as you check out your interviewer beforehand, you should easily avoid the cranks.
- A paper or journal article has been accepted.
- When you would like to respond as an expert to a media story or event
- To help promote an event or launch a product, webpage, app etc
- Policy submissions
- You can and sometimes should say no to media requests: If the request for an interview is going to deal with topics outside your area of expertise or where you don’t have a strong understanding of the topic, do not take the interview. If in doubt, chat to your media manager.
- They can help define the newsworthiness of a research paper. Feel free to call them if you have even the vaguest suspicion that what you have is newsworthy.
- General advice on media strategies
- They can help write a media release of opinion piece
- Pitch to key journalists
- Arrange film and photo opportunities
- Assist with social media campaigns.
- Arrange media events for significant pieces of research
- Prepare stories for newsletters
- Develop blogs on research
- Add stories to the ARCCSS website.
At some point nearly all of you will find yourself doing an interview. If you get a call from a journalist it is better not to answer straight away and off the cuff. Get their details, deadline, likely questions or subject matter and hang up, promising to call back. This will give you time to prepare. No interview ever needs to be done at the moment of the contact, no matter how insistent the reporter is.
There are two key points to remember with interviews.
- Keep it simple
- Key messages: Have three points prepared in priority order that you want to get across. Reduce these points to one sentence each.
- Analogy: Where possible, try and come up with a simple image/analogy that captures the essence of your research.
- Avoid jargon: In general imagine you are talking to a relative or friend who has no experience in your field. There are exceptions to this rule, which you can find in the next point.
- Think about your audience: Some audiences are well informed (farmers, people working in the climate field) and others less so (the general public). When approaching an interview think about the level of understanding of your audience and the tone that might suit them. The approach you take with say The Project or Triple J versus Lateline or 7:30 will differ considerably. The audiences of some programs also include a large number of policymakers (Q&A, Radio National - Mornings), so it can be useful to have this in mind when you respond to questions.
- Dealing with controversy: Consider where there could be points of controversy. Go over responses to these in advance.
- Specific info required: If you are being asked to comment on an article or specific piece of information, make sure you are completely on top of the subject.
- Research your interviewer: What are they like? What is their background? Your communications manager probably already knows the answer to these questions.
- Type of interview: Find out the nature of the interview, print, radio, television, pre-record or live.
- Notes: With newspaper, radio or phone interviews it is good to have notes – particularly your three key points - in front of you. These help you to stay on topic and keep the interview in your areas of expertise.
- “I don’t know”: Do not be afraid to say these three words in an interview. It is important you do not try to answer questions outside your area of expertise. That way lies trouble. Saying you do not know and that is a question for another expert immediately closes down that line of questioning. It helps you control the interview.
- Answer succinctly: Your first response should be to answer the question in a short and sharp manner, then explain why. Do not go into qualifications around your response before you answer, that is the quickest way to lose an audience.
- No jargon.
- The power of reframing: If a journalist asks a question where the basis of that question is incorrect, immediately explain this and then reframe the question for them. A common example of this in our field is equating global average temperatures as being the same as global warming.
- Don’t try and fill the silence: Many interview subjects have verbal tics, saying “um”, “ah” or even tutting to fill the space between sentences and thoughts. Silence is powerful. It shows you are thinking and creates a nice tension that keeps the audience listening to what you have to say. By contrast, once pointed out, verbal tics can distract from your message.
- Wear conservative clothing with few if any patterns.
- Be aware of your body language – look engaged and interested.
- Vary the pitch in your voice.
- Be comfortable with silence.
- Be excited about your work. The best communicators always seem to express enthusiasm.
Relax, smile, it’s a conversation not an inquisition and you know more than the person questioning you.