Category Archives: Blogging
A couple of months ago, I joined Stempra, a network of people working in science public relations, media and communications. The network supports members with events and training on a variety of topics to stay up to date with good practice for high quality science communication.
Last night, I attended my second Stempra event, Going global – working with international press – an intro on how to promote your work internationally. Following on from being a media spokesperson at Cancer Research UK and then an intern at the Science Media Centre a couple of months ago, I wanted to attend to bulk up my knowledge on all things science media and meet like-minded people.
The speakers came from diverse backgrounds, so their insights included many different scenarios and they shared some excellent advice about how to approach international comms. The speakers:
- Linda Capper, Head of Communications, British Antarctic Survey
- Daisy Barton, Media Relations Manager, The Lancet
- Stuart Coles, International PR Manager, King’s College London
- Ellen Rose, Director, Communications and External Affairs Leader, J&J Innovation Centre
This blog post is primarily intended as a learning record for myself, so the outline below covers the broader questions you’d ask yourself for any media story anyway, but expanded with yesterday’s specific insights about working on an international scale. And below that are a few gems about working with international press that fall under the category of things to watch out for.
- How will I get this story out?
- News services like EureakAlert or AlphaGalileo to share press releases far and wide
- Global news agencies like Reuters, Press Association, and Associated Press
- Social media – Twitter is a great place to connect to journalists around the world
- Collaborators of the story may have international links – use their networks
- Stay abreast of conferences that link to your stories
- Discover local PR agencies
- The BBC is a valuable global resource
- Why do I want to promote this story? Who will care and why? A multitude of possible answers, which may differ between all those involved internally.
- Strategic objectives
- Particular relevance to a country or on an international scale
- Researcher’s preferences
- A way to build contacts and reputation
- Monitor and evaluate – who else did care about the story?
- Google News’ alerts and Google Translate are your friends
- Specialist software if you are lucky enough to have the £££
And some extra gems about possible pitfalls, things to watch out for, and questions to ask before embarking:
- BBC country profiles have a wealth of info, including about a country’s media and are a great place to start if you feel a bit stuck.
- Different countries follow different reporting styles.
- The media culture can vary greatly between different countries – i.e. check whether there are any controls on the media.
- For the above two points, don’t assume that English-speaking countries conduct business in the same way as in the UK.
- Check time zones for setting embargoes.
- Not all countries obey embargoes, so make sure you know who will or will not!
- Make sure you know recent news in the country, or a country’s attitude to your topic to better appreciate the relevance of a story and to prep your spokesperson accordingly.
- Find out whether the country in question requires a spokesperson who speaks the local language.
- Check the local news agenda – trying to promote something during the build up to an election, or when a religious festival is on, may mean that your story falls to the bottom of the pile.
Please feel free to comment if you are one of the speakers or if you attended the event and have anything to add (or correct, but hopefully I haven’t made any glaring errors)! Or if you have any additional input to the conversation.
OK OK, so perhaps that title is a bit over the top given that I haven’t published many blog posts at all as yet but here is the reason for that.
In this new uncertain world outside of the protective womb of academia, I am now left to fend for myself – gone is the umbilical vessel feeding my brain nutrition in the form of seminars and stimulating coffee break conversations with colleagues (when we weren’t talking about hummus or cheese). Gone is that warm and protective environment – so familiar by the time of completing my PhD and two research posts in the same institution, surrounded by friends and being shielded from the big bad “real world”. After spending so long studying and in the academic environment, I enjoyed the work and the nurturing and stimulating atmosphere but I also think that my skills can probably be better applied to science outside of research. It is hard to make the break and leave that familiarity behind – the real world demands a lot more. I have had a lot of positive feedback but am lacking in experience outside of academia and unfortunately, public engagement doesn’t count enough at the moment with the employment situation so terrible for all. Great – overqualified and under experienced!
Well, I am now putting that to rights and is the reason why it has taken so long to blog again – I have been trying to sort out moving to London from Manchester, my home for the last 10 years. It has taken a little while to sort out the kerfuffles and logistics of moving and there have been many things to arrange. But now, kind and generous friends have taken me in and are helping me settle in whilst I try to overcome the hurdle of being under experienced. Next week, I will start a month-long internship at Breakthrough Breast Cancer to work with their Senior Information Officer – this will get the ball rolling for making contacts, getting some experience and seeing the difference in research in an office-based context.
Now that I am settled down a bit more, I can finally get back to blogging! This was greatly helped by the entertaining talks and inspiration last night at the first ever UK Science Blog Prize arranged by the lovely people of Good Thinking and Soho Skeptics. My first weekend in London and I get to go to something so fun that soothed and cradled my inner geek – like coming home and being embraced. The ten shortlisted bloggers gave very entertaining talks that I hope they write up on their blogs as they were varied and contained a mixture of humour (in one case complete hilarity – thank you very much Dean Burnett of Brain Flapping), advice and tons of inspiration. We were entertained halfway through by the amazingly talented Helen Arney who regaled us with ukelele music and also had us all in fits of giggles – I think I have developed science crushes for both, Helen and Dean! And really, Ben Goldacre was spot on saying that all the entrants were remarkable in doing such excellent work in sharing their passion so effectively with others all for the love of science and for wanting to break down the “us and them” barriers between scientists and the public. This last point in particular was emphasised in the talk by one of the shortlisted candidates – the anonymous Neuroskeptic – that it is vital to explain science to all, not just science geeks, because it is a way for understanding the world around us which is increasingly vital as the influence of scientific progress impacts us all in our day to day lives. How can we debate the big issues discussed in politics without having some knowledge of their influence and impact? It is a sentiment that I wholeheartedly share and is the reason I got into public engagement in the first place and why I am now doing this blog and why I imagine a lot of other scientists pursue public engagement or science blogging.
Now, normally, this would be written up as, ‘but there can only be one winner!’ However, the judges were so torn between two of the shortlisted candidates that they decided to have joint winners as well as the three runners up! Many congratulations to the runners up:
* Oliver Childs, Henry Scowcroft and Kat Arney that together run the Cancer Research UK Science Update blog to help people deal with all that conflicting information out there about the causes, prevention or cause and simultaneous prevention of cancer that seems to change from week to week in the mainstream media (Kat Arney also has her own personal blog).
* Ed Yong of Not Exactly Rocket Science explains expertly and with humour anything from birds that use passwords to spiky beetle penises.
* Dorothy Bishop of BishopBlog discusses many different academic-related matters and more and is a champion of the ‘oldies’ (her words, not mine).
The two winners then that are now even more highly recommended given that they are prize winners and all:
* David Colquhoun of DC’s Improbable Science battles ‘quackery’ – pseudoscience and alternative medicine – without rest whilst being a Professor of Pharmacology at UCL.
* Suzi Gage of Sifting the Evidence where she has fast amassed a massive following as she explains statistics and epidemiology. All the more remarkable given that she is still completing her PhD and as David Colquhoun quipped – he and Suzi were likely the oldest and youngest entrants for the competition.
For a very brief moment whilst I was there, I did feel intimidated in the presence of such eloquent, prolific and popular writers, feeling that I have entered the blogging world too late. But then I came to realise that I can learn so much and only move on up from here. As Suzi said in her talk, one of her tips – there will be at least one person out there that will enjoy what you have written and that is important. That was always how I felt doing schools events, some days there would be classes that consisted mostly of kids that had a fun trip to learn science at the museum forced on them but there would always be at least one that was dazzled by it and had wonder in their eyes, and that really does make it worth all the hard work you put into doing such things. So, I have a lot to learn and a lot to do from here on in. I have a few exciting projects that I may keep under wraps for now (until I learn whether the proposals are successful or not) even though they are making me quite giddy with excitement! Now that I am settled, one of them is to get writing and I have a few topics lined up. However, if there is anything to do with brains, developmental biology, fruit fly research or other biology topics that you want to know, feel free to suggest and I shall try to tackle them, or point you in the direction of someone that has already done it very well. Looking forward to some exciting times ahead! 🙂