Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Practical Tips for Scientists Interacting with the Media (from Will Gater at NAM)

In my opinion one of the best sessions at the UK National Astronomy Meeting held in Llandudno this April was a "Meet the Press" session aimed at giving scientists information on how the press works, what will help them.

 In that session Will Gater presented a list of practical tips for scientists who want to/have to interact with the media. I thought it might be useful to reproduce them here (based on the notes I took in April, so my apologies to Will if I'm misrepresenting what he actually said!).

1. Have a person webpage (my comment about this is that it always surprises me when scientists don't have this as it's so easy to do in a university setting). Will's advice for the website was that it should (a) be kept fresh; (b) list your specialisms/research interests; (c) give clear contact details; (d) have a list of your recent papers; (e) contain information about your career path/biography.

2. Have a head shot ready (should be high resolution).

3. Understand the lead times on publications when thinking about making press releases. For example magazines plan issues 4-5 weeks in advance, while newspapers work on much shorter timescales.

4. Understand how the media find information about science stories. Will listed (a) press releases; (b) tip offs; (c) reading papers on the arXiV; (d) twitter (and he said that this last one was really useful to see the whole process of science, and get a sense of what researchers are talking about).

Will then went on to give some advice on the contents of a good press release. Which from my notes were:

1. Give clear contact details.

2. List the names of people involved in the research.

3. Put the main result in the first paragraph along with who has done it.

4. Have a clear headline (try to write it like an article - since, rightly or wrongly, many online articles will be a verbatim copy of the press release).

5. Clearly list the wider implications.

6. Provide a high resolution image (300 dpi).

For interviewing, he advised that you think about in advance what the questions might be (what do you worry about the most). He suggested that if you talk about how it felt to do the research that will add a lot.

 You can follow Will on Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. A comment from Will on Twitter: "I'd add no. 7 for the press release checklist is a link to a copy of the scientific paper too (if there is one)."