Science journalists are busy people. They were 20 years ago, and they’re even more so today, thanks to the demands of 24/7 media coverage and even budget cuts.
So any given day, most journalists have multiple stories to write, all whilst juggling social media postings, future articles, and meetings. Working successfully with science industry reporters is about respecting these challenges, but also providing what they need to tell a great story.
As you seek to spread the word about your company through science media, keep in mind the following best practices.
When approaching a journalist with a story idea, be succinct; focus on the “news” and why the reader would care. What’s the human impact?
As you develop your pitch, research the publication and the journalist’s recent and prior work. Meeting face-to-face with media at conferences and trade shows is a great way to understand their role directly. If it’s a local or regional publication, be clear about the business’ connection to the local area. With a story that’s technical in nature, you’ll want to ensure the content you’re suggesting is on par with the audience’s knowledge base and sophistication with scientific concepts. And finally, offer a knowledgeable, high-level company official to serve as the spokesperson. At industry trade shows, it’s helpful to have company experts on hand and coordinate meetings to speak with journalists to develop this relationship organically.
Prepare your spokesperson accordingly to prevent them from delivering dry, technical answers or trivial facts.
A media-briefing sheet for your spokesperson can help them stay on message. Such a document should include the journalist’s basic information, notes about his or her writing style, and the types of questions to expect. A tip about the reporter’s favorite sports team or love of coffee can also be added, as a talking point to help kick off a positive exchange. Have your spokesperson practice calm and considered responses for their least favorite topics. Remind spokespeople that it’s a journalist’s job to ask tough questions; it’s not personal and they shouldn’t respond aggressively.
When your spokesperson sits down to begin the interview, it’s important that he or she is ready to speak the reporter’s language.
Corporate jargon turns up on many lists of journalists’ pet peeves. Buzzwords that lack true meaning fall under the same category; steer your company representative away from talking “solutions,” “dynamics,” or “paradigms”. For technical scientific language that is necessary, add an explanation of how your team defines the word. Likewise, don’t go overboard with promotional messaging. Overly promotional perspectives are un-quotable and can discredit everything else the interviewee says. Appreciate that this is not a marketing forum. Being extensively quoted as an expert source achieves long-term brand recognition, a much greater prize than a one-time company plug.
As journalists scramble to finish an article within deadline, details such as photos often get pushed from their immediate radar.
Providing headshots, official product photos, and any other useful images help the journalists tell their story and secure your company added coverage. Save the reporter time by emailing key dates, details, and full names with double-checked spellings. If a scientific paper is referenced during the interview, follow up and provide the full version.
A good media strategy requires preparation, diligent execution, and smart follow-up. Both you and the reporter want to tell a great story — and by helping them access solid information, well-prepared sources, and interesting viewpoints, you’ll ensure the best possible outcome.
For a window into journalists’ perspectives, look no further than social media. You’ll gain insider knowledge of how they like to operate and what news catches their eye. If you’re stuck on whom to follow, start with this Life Science Top 10.
The hard work is worth it. Securing great press for your company’s stories, experts, and newsworthy events will help elevate your reputation with customers and future clients.
What’s your secret to success when working with science industry journalists?
Share your thoughts in the comments section. To further prepare your science spokesperson, check out the interviewing tips on the AAAS website.
Keywords: Best Practices, communication, corporate, Industry, interviewing, media, media relations, media strategy, PR, science journalists, trade shows