Data scandals, intellectual property theft, research misconduct, harmful experiments and holding the world record for time to completion are all examples of the kinds of things graduate students don’t want media attention for. But what should you want media attention for?
I always start my thesis workshops on what a master’s or PhD is not. It’s not a ticket to the New York Best Seller List and no one is going to make a block-buster movie out of it with you as the lead. Having said that, if your plans for media saturation aren’t quite so grand, then it is important to think about how much media exposure you want your research to have and how you will handle a reporter who gets wind or your cool research project.
Fiona Clarkson is the Postgraduate Marketing and Communications Coordinator at the University. She says has been a journalist and communications professional for over 20 years but I say she looks way too young and this can’t possibly be true. Either way we are lucky enough to have her sharing her wisdom on why it is a good idea to have a media presence.
The question of whether you should try and attract “mainstream” media attention for your research can be a perplexing one.
It’s journal articles and the like that really add value to your career, right? And everyone knows the media just beat everything up, and/or get things wrong, don’t they?
Besides which, nerve-wracking much? What if I’m misquoted? What if I sound like a dork?
Well here’s one reason: imagine you and another freshly minted PhD are interviewing for a post-doc role. And you both have wonderful theses. And you’re both awesome people. And one of you has newspaper articles giving your research publicity – with the potential to bring ongoing public attention to your work. In the modern funding environment, a public profile is a good thing.
Here’s another more philanthropic reason: I’ve not met a PhD candidate yet for whom the chance to add to the body of knowledge isn’t one of their raison d’être. But how much real value are you adding with a stunning thesis that is shelved only in a library? Let’s spread the joy and the knowledge.
Or what about purely practical reasons? Need survey participants and short on funding? Media attention to your project can reach further than any advertisement.
With careful preparation and thought, talking to the media needn’t be a scary proposition.
Yes, news in today’s modern world does seem to hinge on a catchy headline and a bit of conflict. But knowing that and preparing accordingly, with facts and figures and consideration to what a journalist needs (not just what you want), can have fantastic results. And avoid potential dork-ery.
Check out part two of this series for how to attract media attention and prep for an interview.
Fiona Clarkson, Postgraduate Marketing and Communications Coordinator