Organizing, Managing, Communicating and Leveraging Information and Knowledge to Support and Deliver CRP Results: A hands-on Workshop on Approaches, Tools, Systems and Services

Addis Ababa, 17-20 October 2012
Co-organized by IWMI/Water, Land & Ecosystems and ILRI/Livestock & Fish
Back to the event agenda

Building block 'Working with the media'

To understand how media works
  • To understand the ‘reach’ of the media
  • To determine whether they are useful partner for science and research

Media views itself as:
Media is the mirror of society. Media tells society the story of what is happening in society. It reflects society to itself
  • To tell that story effectively, media requires:
Face: From the media's perspective, every story has a face. It could be a celebrity, a CEO, a trusted expert, a government official, a dignitary, an author, a beneficiary, and even a victim
Finances: Determine how the product or service affects a consumer's purse strings.
Front Door: Deliver the information with local flavor. Place yourself as the audience and bring the story home to the front door. Find the angle that speaks directly to our audience and the media's audience. Is there a local family that best represents the story? Is there a local doctor that can relay this issue? Can the information or data be delivered by state, county, town?
Fear: There seems to be a gravitation toward fear giving meaning to the phrase "if it bleeds it leads" e.g 911, al shabab in the Horn of Africa, Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden…. Fear can play a role as a backing soundtrack to many health, political, and socio-economic issues to name a few. While we don’t want to create the fear, we need to understand the current media climate and leverage it for our benefit.Fix: What would an agony aunts column be without her response? Why do people read the horoscope? A major reason people turn to the news is for answers to their questions and solutions to their problems -- what we call the Fix! Facts: Before calling the media, ensure the press release has all the information a reporter will need and keep it within hands reach. Prepare background notes that they can refer to.
Discussion points
Walk the bridge: helps to make effective transitions. Picture yourself walking across a bridge to safety, away from dangerous issues. Also, picture yourself walking toward your goals, toward the key messages you are seeking to deliver. DON’T leap from one topic to another with no logical transition in-between.
Flag it: "The most important thing for people to remember is." "The critical issue is." "The focus of the debate is."
The reach of THE MEDIA
The non-researcher – wants to know what is happening in the world and how it will affect them. The closer to them the more important it becomes
  • The politician or policy maker – what affects their audience affects their voters. Often they make decisions NOT because the science is good but because they will lose or gain votes.
  • Media - A good advocate for the research enterprise, for funding, for use of what works and makes life easier
A natural tension exists between journalists and their sources, often because stories are driven by controversy; and scientists often feel uncomfortable in this setting. The press sometimes wants to report new and untested information and focuses on the personal side of science and scientists. This can be good in humanizing science, but it also has drawbacks. Media liaison/comms staff need to

Engaging the media:
Helps create name recognition/branding. Be First:The "first" based on how you position your product, service, situation. Create an image or identity in the minds of a target market ; Differentiate it from all other competitors.

Determine what is newsworthy;
Target information to appropriate media;
Help the scientist prepare for interviews; and
Position him or her as an expert resource.

Use publications, such as newsletters and annual reports, and forums, institutional tours, web site material, and other activities that highlight an institution's expertise to the public or press.

Scientists should provide 3-5 key points of their papers (published papers) to aid the information flow, inform media /comms person when they accept a speaking engagement, and when they receive an award.

Should also help develop the news release and select visuals and help put a human face on the new research. Scientists also need to understand that they will need to set aside some time for an interview.

Who is doing well in the media?
IFPRI: invested the most in doing it professionally. They target policymakers, and for years much of their comms budget went just to media, while the rest of us centres just did media occasionally. In recent years IFPRI has moved to diversify communications, putting out a new 'magazine', for example, while the other centres have professionalized their media work.