Knowing your audience

Accessibility is Key: A journalist’s perspective on communicating research

By 12 December 2011

There have been a number of posts on Research to Action about researchers and journalists working together to communicate development research. Practical tips on how to target Journalists with your research through Twitter looks at the ways you can utilise social media’s ever-expanding reach to build up a following for your work. Friendship or Friction? Bringing journalists and researchers together highlights research as a valuable source for journalists and outlines practical skills that can build trust and collaboration between these two fields.

At a recent Global Development Network (GDNet) and African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) workshop on ‘Writing Policy Briefs’ in Nairobi, Kenya, a media panel was held for participants. One of the key speakers during this session was Nick Benequista, who worked for a number of years as a journalist writing on finance, business, economics and agriculture for Bloomberg news in Latin America.

Nick gave some great advice on how researchers can work alongside journalists to get their work into the public eye. He stressed that the most fundamental thing they should do is make themselves accessible, stating “If I have to call up your communications department to get authorisation to talk to you…I’m not going to call.”

He also emphasised the importance of academics working together with the media and outlined these key factors in making it this happen:

  • Think about media hooks – how to you connect your story to an event or story in order to make it travel in the news.
  • Be able to summarise your research quickly and succinctly.
  • Critical opinion is important, don’t sit on the fence and be specific with journalists as to how they should use your comments upfront.
  • Build good personal relationships with journalists and encourage open access and trust.
  • Do a made for media event through your institution to raise your profile (or if you cannot organise one yourself piggy-back onto another event).

Nick ended his talk with an element of caution, telling researchers that their research might not get directly into the media straight away but that it is just as important to draw attention to the issues behind your work, stating:

“A lot of the time researchers think that they are going to get their study quoted in the media, that’s unlikely to happen…Most of the time it’s your ideas that will get into the media.”

Watch highlights from Nick’s talk below:

For more information and material from this workshop, visit the GDNet blog.

  • Dorine

    couldn’t agree more! ACCESSIBILITY.