Media Attention for Your Research: How To Maximise It

Thursday 06 September

By Andy Tattersall, Information Specialist, ScHARR
The media are increasingly interested in research as a source of newsworthy material. There are several reasons for this, some of which are not always that positive.

Firstly, certain topics of published research are of interest to wide audiences, especially if we consider health, economic and environmental results. These areas of work have important implications for each and every one of us, hence why health research often makes the front page of the national press.

Secondly, published research is in abundance and the media can pick and choose which stories they want to cover. It may be the high impact public health research about sugar taxes or novelty research on the issue surrounding Brand personality of rocks.

In an age of Fake News and unqualified opinion, getting your research out into the world has never been more important, but also not always that straightforward.

If the media come calling
If you are fortunate enough for your research to receive national media attention then the chances are it will be shared, syndicated and published elsewhere across the web. In the age of social media and 24-hour rolling news, it is unlikely your research will be broadcast in a single location on the web.

Your research may be picked up other high profile news channels and agencies in addition to blogs and social media. This is why it is important that your first communications contain all of the key details that sit behind your actual research.

These are:
· The names of those involved in the research
· Their institution
· The research funder
· Link to an Open Access version of the research
· The DOI

The flipside of media coverage
Once news of your research starts to spread across the web there is not much you can do about it, hence why it is important to try and start as you mean to go on. One of the other problems we see with national and regional press is something called ‘Churnalism’.

This where the media use press releases to quickly create fast turnaround news items without the need for fact checking. In this case, it is essential you work closely with any media teams in your institution to ensure what leaves your organisation is correct, contains names and a link to the (ideally) Open Access research with a DOI.

If you work directly with the media it is important to insist they cover as much information linking to your research as possible. If you want to know where your research story is being hosted and how it is being received across traditional and social media then it tying a unique identifier (like a DOI or PMID) is essential. This means you can track the coverage and respond accordingly to it by employing altmetrics.
If the media do not include a unique identifier embedded in the story through hyperlinks it is incredibly much harder to track further coverage and potential influence or impact.

It’s harder to lie if the research is open
As more research becomes accessible via Open Access it benefits the process of science communication within society. This is tied to generating potential impact through societal change.

Media coverage of a story may not change Government policy, but it may bring a piece of research to the attention of a large audience who contain individuals and groups who could bring pressure for change. At this stage, it is mostly hypothetical, with social media yet to truly show evidence of societal impact through the sharing of research.

That said, the dissemination of research of course benefits us all. What we need to watch out for is those unfortunate occasions where agenda-lead media choose to cherry pick facts, portray bias or tell plain untruths.

Photo credit: flickr, eliztesch