Media Tips for Researchers
SHARING YOUR RESEARCH THROUGH THE MEDIA
Effectively communicating to the public through the media is one of the key ways for researchers to share their discoveries and generate understanding and support for the academic research mission.
The following tips can help if you are expecting to do an interview soon or simply want to be prepared when a reporter calls.
Before you agree to an interview:
Journalists are almost always racing the clock. Return calls promptly, but remember that you are not obliged to do an interview on the spot. If you need time to prepare, ask for it. Don’t be afraid to ask the journalist for the information you need to prepare:
- What is your article about?
- Why are you writing this now (i.e., what is the “news hook” or the reason for the story)?
- How much time do you need for the interview?
- Who else are you speaking to?
- What is your deadline?
Each medium has different requirements. For TV or radio, for example, ask:
- What is the format?
- Is it live?
- Will there be a panel and if so, who else is on it?
- Get the reporter’s name and contact information, and call back at a mutually agreed time (once you’re prepared).
During the interview:
Explain the significance of your work to everyday life. What are the implications? Why should someone outside of your field care about this?
The journalist won’t use everything you say. Decide in advance on your two or three key points and make them clearly.
Use language that the layperson will understand. Simple, straightforward explanations, free of jargon, reduce the chance of distortion or error.
The reporter does not know as much about your area as you do. And he or she may have received the assignment only an hour ago, so don’t be surprised if the reporter seems unprepared. Have patience in clarifying facts and issues that may seem simple to you.
Do not tell the reporter how to do his or her job. Reporters know their audiences, and the requirements of journalistic writing are different, for example, from those of an academic journal.
Researchers are justifiably wary of their results being overstated and creating false hopes. Minimize this possibility by outlining clearly and concisely the main findings, how they fit into the bigger picture, and the need and direction for future research.
If you have additional images or video that might help illustrate the story, offer these (provided you have copyright to do so).
If you are promoting a publication or paper, ensure you understand and abide by the journal’s embargo requirements.
You won’t get to review the reporter’s story before it runs. But do let the reporter know that you are available to answer any further questions or clarify information. Provide a phone number where you can be easily reached to check facts.
Some media outlets have “beat” reporters who follow particular areas. Like most of us, reporters tend to call back the people they know will help them do their job well.
Treat the interview as a developing relationship. There is no substitute for having a good personal relationship with a reporter specializing in your area based on respect, reliability and credibility.
Don’t be afraid to show your enthusiasm for your work and mention your department and, of course, the University of Toronto!
Get into the University of Toronto Blue Book!
Add your name to the University of Toronto’s Blue Book of experts for media. This enables media to find you and reach you easily when they need your expertise for a story.
It’s a simple process to sign up — you just need your UTORid and password. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Being in the Blue Book indicates a willingness to respond to media inquiries and to do so in a timely way: reporters are often on tight deadlines.
If you are contacted by a reporter and are unable to respond yourself, simply redirect the inquiry to email@example.com.