3K. Getting media attention for research – organising a media event
A media event can be anything from a press briefing to a tour of a new laboratory. This can increase media interest in your institution and help you to build good relationships with journalists.
Identify the journalists you want to invite and issue the invitations at least 3-4 weeks ahead of the event. Plan the logistics and technical aspects in advance.
Make sure that you have enough press kits for the journalists who are going to attend. The press kits should include background information about the project, as well as the full titles, names and affiliations of all the relevant scientists and collaborators.
It is not necessary to provide elaborate meals, but make sure you have good coffee and tea, lots of fresh, cold water, and light snacks available for your guests.
Start on time, and stick to the programme. Create time and space for journalists to interact with the researchers individually.
The researchers whom you want to feature must prepare short, easy-to-understand talks or comments. They must also be on stand-by for interviews and photos. Provide interesting things or actions which the journalists can photograph or film. It is very powerful to allow the journalist to test or use research equipment (if applicable) as this first-hand encounter always makes for better writing.
“Once you have hosted journalists at an event, remember to continue your relationship with them, to build their expertise in the subject and to keep them abreast of relevant developments.” Shirona Patel, communication manager at the University of the Witwatersrand
Points to think about
If you have not organised media events before, it may be worth your while to meet with an experienced event organiser at your institution or in your region to go over the planning for your event.
Inviting journalists as observers during special science experiments or events can also be an excellent way to get media coverage for science. For example, you could invite one or two journalists to attend some pioneering surgery, or accompany a research team on a special field trip.