So you have a snazzy new result and you want to share it with the world? There are plenty of reporters out there looking for a good story.
Interactions with the press can lead to good things – recognition by your institution, your department and even funding agencies. But there is risk involved — interactions with reporters can be problematic if the story they tell isn’t one you like.
In the best cases, stories are a collaboration between scientist and reporter. Here are 10 tips on how to foster productive press interactions.
BEFORE THE PRESS CALLS (OR YOU CALL THEM):
- Work with your institution’s public relations staff. They can help you prepare.
- Ask for the major theme and angle of the article.
- Ask for the interview questions in advance.
- Anticipate misconceptions.
- Write down short sound bites and talking points. Stick to them.
- Test communication ideas on novice audiences.
- Be careful of what you say – chopped quotes can come across terribly. Don’t ramble or an offhand comment may be the quote that takes the prime spot.
- Ask for permission to check your quotes before publication.
- Be ready with images to share and let reporters know how they can use them.
- Be prepared for short turnaround times.
This last point is important. Some interviews have to be arranged and conducted within 48 hours. Other times you may work with a reporter over weeks or months, but still need to respond quickly to the initial contact. If you want to work with the press, you should be ready before they call.