Hosted by Loughborough University’s Graduate School, “Using Media to Publicise Your Research” was a one-day training event for researchers and academics to help familiarise them with interactions with the media. Both of the speakers were ex-BBC journalists with a wealth of experience in dealing with academics.
The first exercise entailed describing my research to an imaginary class of 12-year-olds, a surprisingly difficult task for researchers who spend the majority of their time discussing their work with their peers.
The speakers gave some insight into being a journalist in order to help us academics work with them. They opened with “The first rule of journalism: First simplify, then exaggerate”. Academics are often found guilty of making things too complicated and trying to cover too many aspects of their work. Keeping the content to a minimum with only one or two take home messages is a must when dealing with media. Other tips included replacing nouns with verbs in headlines or titles, what makes a good news story and what journalists find difficult to work with.
Following this, the speakers staged and scenario to demonstrate how to take control of an interview. This was particularly useful for parrying difficult or awkward questions and answering questions with the answers you have planned to provide.
The second half of the session involved a 3-minute interview that was videoed to review later. I was given my first question, as this is often the case in an interview. With that in mind, I had to organise some background material and prepare for the interview. Each participant had their interview recorded and we all gave feedback on the videos at the end. A few things became clear, maintain eye contact with your interviewer, resist from moving or fidgeting and definitely do not look into the camera. After reviewing the feedback, we all had the opportunity to do another 3-minute interview, this time with different questions.
This event served as a basis for some of the skills needed to communicate my research to a wider audience. The common pitfalls are fairly obvious once they are explained but acting on them in another task entirely. Having completed this course, I would feel much more comfortable talking to media or a wider, non-academic audience about my research. However, the way to really improve and develop confidence is through practise.
Joe Holt, Cohort 1