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Research that captures the media's attention and why

For countless business schools and universities worldwide, the research that they produce defines them.

Many describe themselves as ‘research-led’ or as institutions renowned for the calibre of research they put out. And even more of them ring-fence vast sums of money each year exclusively for research-related purposes.

So it’s no surprise that communications and marketing teams at these schools, as well as the researchers themselves, are keen to ensure that as much of the research as possible is given the airtime it deserves.

But alas, not every paper or study undertaken finds its way into the likes of The Financial Times, or the Wall Street Journal. No, for countless researchers, achieving media attention around new research is an insurmountable challenge. But why?

Some put it down to the inflexibility of the news cycle. Others suggest that an element of elitism exists within the media, rendering only a select few institutions able to have their work featured. And some even blame the research itself, suggesting it’s not ‘newsworthy’.

So what does BlueSky Education think? A, B, OR C?

D – None of the above.

Ultimately, the way in which you communicate research to the media will determine how much press attention it gets.

So, what should schools be doing? And more importantly, what shouldn’t they be doing? With best practice examples from some of BlueSky’s clients, here are some of the key Do’s and Don’ts when looking to secure media attention around new research.

DO: Scrap all jargon/
DON’T: Offer what is effectively an extract from the research paper

There is no place for jargon in the media. The news – particularly mainstream national outlets, as well as global top tier media (such as the likes of Bloomberg, Forbes, and Reuters) – is meant to be accessible to all.

So academic jargon, taken straight from a research paper or report, is the last thing you want to include in a targeted pitch or press release to the media.

That’s not to say that a journalist, who’s spent the last five years covering that beat, won’t understand it. But your pitch or press release will be one of hundreds (more like thousands for some) of emails that they will receive that day – so going with an overtly challenging message will do you no favours.

No, when promoting new research you need to keep things clear and to the point. Keep the language clear and accessible; highlight the most important – and interesting – elements of the research; and ensure that the journalist whose attention you’re trying to capture understands the magnitude of the findings. In other words, make sure they full appreciate why this research matters.

That leads me on to my next ‘Do’ –

DO: Utilise key facts and figures
DON’T: Be vague

One of the best ways to effectively convey the importance of a study is to utilise the facts and figures provided within it.

An example to demonstrate:

A professor at Imperial College Business School analysed the daily behaviour of 1100 CEOs to ascertain the type of the business leader they were, and then categorised each Chief Executive into one of two categories. He used this study assess whether each CEO was the right fit for the company they worked for. He found that many were ill-suited to their firm. In fact, he found that 17% of those surveyed were in the wrong job.

Supporting Imperial in promoting this research, BlueSky Education utilised that key figure provided within the research, placing it in the headline of a press release drafted around the study. The headline read: 17 percent of CEOs are a wrong fit for their firm.

The research was picked up in a number of leading trade publications, as well featuring in the Irish Times, Forbes and the Irish national radio station, Newstalk.

Why did this work? It worked because we offered a clear, quantifiable finding that the media could use. Facts and figures are clear and digestible for the press. They’re easy to understand, and so are easy to report.

Making it as easy as possible for the journalist to take your press release and turn it into a news story is a key first step for getting any research published.

Want to know more about writing an effective press release? Check out this tutorial from BlueSky’s Katie Hurley:

Katie Hurleys Top Tips for Writing a Press Release

 

DO: Give context for new research

Finally, giving new research context within the current news cycle is a great way to get your study placed.

More often than not, journalists – particularly those at national newspapers – already know what they’re wanting to write about – so simply sending them a paper, no matter how good that paper is, just won’t cut it. You need to help them realise why this paper is relevant to the current news cycle if you’re hoping to break into it.

What’s topical about the research? How does it add to the conversation? By putting the research into the context of the wider news environment, you’re more likely to get your research placed.

Take this report from LSE IDEAS, The London School of Economics’ foreign policy think tank. Published in line a major development in global space exploration, the report featured on The Financial Times and New Zealand Herald.

Promoted via a press release, one of the opening lines of the release read: The report proves timely with the launch of the first module of China’s new orbital space station, just over a week after the US continued its successful new era of crewed spaceflight with the launch of another SpaceX Crew Dragon.

By making it clear to all media that the report was highly relevant to ongoing global events, the report was quoted in a long-read article in the FT.

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Promoting new research can feel like an uphill battle. But it doesn’t have to be. By following these Do’s and Don’ts, you’ll be on your way to effectively promoting your institution’s new research, gaining the media exposure that your faculty deserves.

For support in promoting your business school or university’s research, contact  BlueSky Education today.

Jonny Stone-2Author: Jonny Stone

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