It may be summer break for the undergrad students but ECRAG-ers are still hard at work. As a special treat, the August meeting was a pizza party! We were all delighted about the new addition of pizzas to Fresh Thinking caterers menu and naturally the ‘ice-breaker’ question was “what is your favourite food?”. It was no surprise that EGRAG taste buds are diverse, from the healthy fruit and home grown veg to the not-so-healthy pizza and king prawn bhuna and the plain weird- eggs!
The theme of the meeting was one that both excites and terrifies most healthcare researchers: how to get your research into the media. Luke Harrison from the press office (favourite food jambalaya) gave a fascinating insight into the world of media and how even early career researcher can be part of it.
More than ever we are being encouraged to disseminate our research beyond journal publication and engage with the public … what better way to do that then get it out into the media. While I was happy to sit at my desk and wait for someone to tell me my research was media worthy, Luke’s take home message was be proactive and contact him! Here are more of his top tips and pearls of wisdom:
If you’re still not convinced, here’s what’s in it for you?
- More people becoming aware of your research. A piece in an online blog can increase your journal paper citations 10-fold!
- Big impact: don’t be snobby about the daily mail, it’s the most read online newspaper in the world.
- Networking and collaborating- increase interactions with people in the same/different fields.
- The press office engages with politicians; great start to change policy.
- Engage directly with the public, maybe even recruit participants.
- Altruism- get good quality research (and positive healthcare stories) in the media.
- It can be fun and doesn’t take a lot of time!
- ‘Media’ doesn’t just refer to newspapers and TV but encompasses blogs, social media and many more. Don’t forget a printed newspaper lasts a day but an online blog can be around forever!
- Novel research: even if your results are inconclusive there are still options.
- Reactive media: your opinion on a news story or is your research related to a big news story
- The press office will advise you on the many different options and what will suit your story best
‘Hook’: the key word that grabs people’s attention
There are 6 types of ‘hooks’, find the one for your research to make it stand out.
- Location: Is your research local? The Birmingham mail may be interested. If it’s related to the NHS then you’re looking nationally. Or maybe it’s a condition, such as stroke, that’s global, then it’s a world health story.
- Person: If you’re a high profile person then you can be the hook, but at an early career level a case story might be more achievable.
- Timing: (sometimes luck) what’s being talked about at the moment e.g. Robin Williams and depression. Need to be aware of what’s going on in the news.
- Quirkiness: Anything different or usual, this captures the imagination.
- Trend: There are patterns of health care issues in the media- mental health is commonly talked about or it could be due to the time of year e.g. dieting in January/ skin cancer in the summer.
- Controversy: You don’t have to pick a fight but anything that goes against public opinion, such as something new or a myth busting story (e.g. carrots and seeing in the dark).
Getting the most out of the press office
- BE PROACTIVE and contact them!! Even if you only have the tiniest inkling that the media might be interested get in touch and ask questions.
- Tell the press office the ‘hooks’ of your research.
- It might only be a small part of your research that gets into the media but that will draw people to the rest of it.
- Write a clear abstract. Imagine you are talking to a smart 16 year old!
Just to reiterate one more time, don’t be afraid to contact the press office. Luke is the contact for health sciences (firstname.lastname@example.org), he is very approachable and promises that he will never get annoyed by us pestering him with our research! You will get a tailored approach every time from the press office and they will do the hard work. Thanks again Luke for an inspiring talk!
The Conversation http://theconversation.com/uk
Guardian Healthcare Blog http://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/series/today-in-healthcare
Daily Mail Health http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/index.html
Live Science http://www.livescience.com/health/
Keep an eye out for details of our next meeting.