#ProTips for scientists interacting with journalists (updated)

Last week as part of UF’s Science Communications Academy we met with Steve Orlando, Director of UF Media Relations.  He gave some great tips for interacting with journalists, which I post here for my fellow students in the course.

  1. Be responsive – journalists are often on deadline. Ask what it is, since it could be as little as a few hours from now…if you respond to the email the next day it could be too late.  Five minutes walking to the class might be enough for you to talk to them, making it possible to interact even on a busy day. If it’s for TV or Radio, have them set up and then call you into the room when ready – no need to sit around waiting for them.
  2. Prep talking points ahead of time. Three or four is enough.
  3. Don’t be afraid to correct misperceptions but do it gently and if necessary repeatedly. With email puts on record
  4. Use simple words and sentences, avid jargon.
  5. Use analogies
  6. Paint a picture for them of complicated concepts.
  7. Be prepared to answer same question more than once, especially broadcast journalists – they want the soundbite just right.
  8. If at all possible explain how your research benefits society
  9. Know your limitations. Some speculation ok, but you need to know when to quit.
  10. Have fun, relax, and be human.

The SciComm Academy is a new initiative spearheaded by Ann Christiano and Joe Kays from the Office of the VP for Research, and it was a really great experience – kudos to them.


UPDATE: Donna Green Townsend, Multi-Media News Manager for the College of Journalism and Communications, provided her own list.

  1. Don’t forget you are doing research that matters
  2. become a cheerleader for your research
  3. get people excited about science
  4. having relationships with the media is where it’s at…know your local reporters
  5. take the media to the site; show them
  6. call them and tell them about your research
  7. make it relevant
  8. have an interactive website with lots of pictures
  9. remember it’s the MTV generation
  10. become a spin doctor
  11. work at being extroverted
  12. have tangible examples, i.e., if you work on CCA or landfills everyone has eaten on a picnic table and thrown out trash
  13. learn to summarize your research in 10 word soundbites
  14. If you’re disappointed in the story, there’s always another conversation on another day
  15. When you’re working with somebody new in the field of broadcasting or a news student and are disappointed, get over it. One day with experience they may be anchoring the national news!

So what do you think?

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