Media training 101: helping researchers become engaged academics

Over the next week my team at the University of Ottawa will be hosting media training sessions for professors. Although some of our experts are extremely media-savvy and understand the ups and downs of communicating their research to the greater public, others remain a little weary.

I recently read a blog by James Bell on Text 100-UK. He states,

“Media training is meant to help people communicate the messages that they want to get across.” 

It can thus be useful for professors who have a lot to say, but need to be succinct so that journalists can capture the essence of their comments.

One of the main concerns we run into is that researchers do not like when journalists use only part of what they say in newspaper reports or television interviews, as they feel it dilutes their message.

This is why media training is valuable: to help experts better understand how the media works so that they may communicate their vast knowledge in laymen’s terms, using smaller bites of information.

I first heard of the term “engaged academic” from uOttawa professor, Roland Paris, who is extremely media-savvy and communicates his vast knowledge on international security and governance by way of the mainstream media on a regular basis. He makes recommendations for getting professors out of their ivory towers:  

“Part of this engagement should include translating our own research into readable language and formats for people outside the discipline.”

The media is definitely one way to do this.

I am looking forward to meeting new professors this year with interesting research to share!

Photo credit:http://www.mediatrainingworldwide.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/110413-interviews.jpg

Will paywalls decrease traffic on news sites?

It’s no news that media companies are struggling with the rapid decline of the current print model. This morning I read an article by Mathew Ingram The ‘hamster wheel’ fallacy: why paywalls don’t mean better journalism. It got me thinking about how I reached my “maximum” allowable views of the Ottawa Citizen news site this month, and how I will not become an online subscriber any time soon.

As a PR professional, I consult several news sites on a daily basis: The Globe and Mail, CBC news, the NY Times, Forbes, Reuters, Radio Canada, Fast Company, just to name a few. I have a subscription to the NY Times, since they have a paywall, and I find their news indispensable. However, if other news sites were to put up a paywall, I certainly would not purchase a subscription to multiple news sites. A customer is therefore forced to choose – and I am choosing the Times over the Citizen, since I can get my local news elsewhere. This led me to wonder what others will do when faced with paywalls on multiple sites where they have become loyal readers. Will they subscribe to them all? (Doubtful!) Or will they be forced to choose? It will be interesting to see the impact paywalls will have on news site traffic…

I love Forbes model. Forbes has remarkably moved away from its traditional news site to become a top notch digital-first medium. In the article Inside Forbes: We’re Breaking Free of the Time Warp the News Industry Is Trapped In, author Lewis DVorkin chronicles Forbes’ two-year journey from the traditional one-to-many world of journalism to an inclusive, social and navigable model. They now have over 1000 “content creators,” consisting of freelancers, academics, experts, business leaders and Forbes staffers, who each work to create a following either on Forbes.com or on Facebook. Overseeing their communities and interacting with followers is a part of their job, and the site is built to allow for this type of interaction as a result of its social layer. Dvorkin states, “In all our actions, we’ve placed our confidence in the individual — to create expert content and assume accountability for it; to become welcome participants in the news process; and to act as enthusiastic agents who share and distribute our content.” WOW. As a result of its revolutionary site Forbes.com’s traffic has doubled over the past year.

This is the type of model that Canadian publications should pursue: one that focuses on building a relationship with their readers. In another article, Mathew Ingram emphasizes that focusing on this relationship can lead to monetization, and that in lieu of putting up paywalls news sites should consider different ways of rewarding their most loyal customers for engagement. Canadian publications that currently lag in terms of innovation should learn from sites like Forbes and Bloomberg by examining the steps they took to arrive at the interactive models they have today.

It will become increasingly important to embrace change and rapidly develop multiple strategies to deal with the dynamic landscape and test these strategies withreaders, or better yet, participants.

Journos and PRs: A love-hate relationship

The PR practitioner/journalist relationship is a topic of scholarly research as well as discussion on blogs, Twitter chats (see #muckedup#journchat#RaganSocial), and websites on the field of public relations. For PRs at the centre of these discussions, lies the question: what do journalists want? 

One would think that this is easy to answer: they are looking for a story; something that is unique, that captures human interest and that speaks to their audience.

However, it is not as simple as that. In a digital world, journalists are inundated with countless cookie-cutter press releases and pitches every day, and now receive them from multiple channels: email, Twitter, DMs, Facebook, telephone, etc. They are working in a 24-hour news cycle where content is king. Studies and consultants recognize the importance of rich content such as images, video, infographics and opinions to support stories.

How can PR pros break through the clutter? How do we avoid becoming that “annoying flack” that journalists want to ignore?

My daily interactions with journalists, a great deal of reading on PR blogs and sites and some pitching successes and failures have allowed me to gain a better understanding of what journalists are looking for from PR practitioners; however, it has also made me realize that there is no one recipe for success.

The changes this dynamic is experiencing with the advent of social media and the shifts in contemporary newsrooms continue to fascinate me, which is why I am doing my MA thesis on how to optimize the journalist/PR practitioner relationship in the digital era. My objective is to aggregate literature on this topic and conduct interviews with journalists in order to determine which practices could lead to mutually satisfying relationships. Whew!

My research (so far) in a nutshell…

Wordle created using Tagxedo.com

Stay tuned!

First Blog Post – A New Project!

I have been meaning to start a blog for quite some time now. Between work, my MA research, home projects, family engagements and everything else, I always worried that I would not have the time to populate it with valuable content on a regular basis. On the other hand, if I keep putting it off, I will never begin!

So – here goes! I am taking the leap into the wonderful world of blogging, after being inspired by websites and blogs such as Spin SucksPR DailyAnthony De RosaGround Floor Media, and a host of bloggers who write about the topics I love: PR, social media, news, media, marketing, brands, communication and technology.

As I embark upon the research for my MA thesis on optimizing the PR practitioner/journalist relationship in the digital era, I plan to share some of my ideas, as well as interesting articles, comments and anecdotes.

This blog will be a “work-in-progress” alongside my research. I am hoping that it will allow me to develop my skills as a blogger while contributing some insights and quirky content…

Comments and ideas are welcome and much appreciated!

MS