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Swansea University
Researchers’ Media Toolkit:
a guide to engaging with the media


Researchers’ Media Toolkit: a guide to engaging with the media

1. Introduction – Page 2

2. You and Your Research – Page 2
Ideas for promoting your research
Developing a personal webpage

3. Working with the University Public Relations Office – Page 3
When to contact the PR Office
Who to contact in the PR Office

4. Your Research and News – Page 4
How do you know if you have a good story?
Is it news?
How does news selection work?

5. Engaging with the Media – Page 5
How to prepare
Top tips for interviews
Specific tips for broadcast

6. General Tips and Training – Page 7
Sources and links

7. Case Studies – Page 8
Research as Art Competition 2012
Skeletons from the deep – The Warship Mary Rose
Translation Arrays – Shakespeare’s Othello
8. Talking about research to a wider audience: How to create a ‘soundbite’ – Page 11


1. Introduction

Swansea University recognises that a positive media profile is vital to its reputation. By helping you,
the research community, think about how to disseminate your research advances and communicate
your messages to a range of stakeholder groups, Swansea University can support your academic
profile while continuing to demonstrate its status as a research-led university.

A positive media profile has a number of potential, tangible, benefits for you and Swansea
Raising income, whether for research or other projects
Recruitment of students and staff
Contributing to the understanding of the breadth and quality of research being undertaken
at Swansea University
Reinforcing the view of external stakeholders and the wider public that Swansea University
is accountable, transparent and the source of valuable research work
Strengthening your reputation as a source of expertise

2. You and Your Research:

By promoting your research you can:
Increase the regional, national and international profile of your work
Enhance awareness of your research with current and prospective funders
Contribute to public understanding of important issues by sharing your expertise and
Demonstrate that the public funding of research is money well spent
Develop your professional networks
Get exposure to new ideas and possible collaborations

Ideas for promoting your research:
There are many options and channels available to promote your work depending upon what you
want to disseminate and who you want to reach.

These include:

Momentum - the University’s research publication
University website research pages
SAIL - the University’s alumni magazine
Bridging the Gaps - website, events and activities
Interdisciplinary Research Week, 25 February – 1 March 2013
SURF: Swansea University Research Forum, which organizes a regular series of research
Swansea Science Cafe, which organizes a series of monthly research talks
Managing your academic profile on sites such as:; Google Scholar;
Researcher ID
Research Information System (RIS) and Cronfa – making your research available to the
wider academic community and influencing search tools such as Google scholar
Personal web page
Social Media - Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube
Regional, national and international publications and websites

One of the easiest and most direct ways to promote your research and your research interests is
via a personal web page: Think of your web page as a ‘shop window’ for you and your research;
something which is engaging and attractive to journalists and which will draw interest to your ideas.
Keeping it up-to-date is essential as more and more journalists search webpages to find experts they
believe willing and capable of speaking with the press. By presenting yourself in a professional and
engaging way, you are indicating to journalists and other audiences you are a potential source of
expert comment.

Make sure your web page includes your profile, accurate contact information and includes links to
any prior media work, to demonstrate you are an able and reliable source.

Two examples include:
Dr Richard Johnston
Professor Harold Thimbleby

3. Working with the University Public Relations Office:

The PR Office team has the expertise and experience to communicate your successes and
achievements to maximum impact. To achieve this, forward planning and partnership working are
essential, in order to yield the best results.

You should contact the PR Office when:
You have findings from a research project that could be of interest to the media
You have a paper appearing in a high-impact scientific journal
You are planning a conference or making a speech of potential media interest
You have been awarded a significant research grant or award

It’s never too early to have a conversation!
The earlier you tell the PR Office about a news story or event with media potential, the sooner they
are aware and the sooner they can plan an appropriate handling strategy with you, to ensure the
story gets the treatment it deserves.

Who to contact?
In the first instance you should email detail of your news story to or you can
contact Jacqui Bowen, Public Relations Manager or Dr Kevin Sullivan,
Public Relations Officer


4. Your Research and News

How do you know if you have a good story?
Using external media to reach an audience is potentially a very profitable exercise. But it is
important to remember that the media are not in existence for the purposes of conveying the
information you need to impart. Their primary and abiding purpose is to inform and entertain their
desired viewers and readers with information that they believe their audience will find interesting.

To be successful in promoting the research work emanating from Swansea University the PR team
needs to take an outsider’s view of the project or story being proposed in order to offer journalists
stories that meet their publication’s criteria. Not doing so could be potentially damaging for the

By contacting the PR team early they can help assess your proposal and advise upon a best course of
action, to reach your intended audience.

Is it news?
Journalists receive a huge volume of news releases, emails and phone calls every day. On top of this
they are also under pressure to meet tight deadlines - so your story must stand out. The majority of
people contacting the PR office do so with a view to featuring in regional and national newspapers
and broadcast media; arguably two of the most competitive areas in which to place stories. To
assess the viability of your story you can ask yourself the following questions (or explore them with
the PR team) at the outset, for the demands of the THES will be different to The Western Mail:

Is it about something that has yet to happen? Newspapers generally cover stories either on
the day they happen or the following day. They are unlikely to cover anything older as a
news story. Non time-sensitive developments might be more appropriate for an article or in-
depth feature, for example.
What’s the ‘hook’ or the news angle of the story? Being awarded funding can sometimes be
an angle, but in general the media prefer to know about real outcomes, breakthroughs or
Is this ‘new’ information, i.e. not already in the public domain?
Think about your audience - Is it something that would interest your neighbour, friend or
relative? How would you explain the story to someone who probably does not have
specialist knowledge of the subject? If you can do this easily then the chances are the media,
too, will consider it is a ‘good’ story with potential.
Is your story related to the existing news agenda? Could it potentially piggyback on that?
Have you got a great image, graphics and or exciting statistics and figures that could add a
different dimension to your story?

How does news selection work?
News selection is always, to some extent, a subjective business and, even a good story that is well-
presented will not guarantee print or broadcast space. This applies, especially, when a major story
breaks; if it’s big enough, editors will drop other items to make space.

If your story is picked up by the independent media and is selected to feature on BBC TV or the
regional press, then it’s probably because it’s interesting, deserves to be and has been presented to
the media in a way that they recognise it is newsworthy. (See case studies)


5. Engaging with the Media

There are many different ways of approaching the media to get a story in circulation. One standard
method is a press release but this, by itself, is by no means the only way of promoting a story.

The more accessible you are to the media, the more likely your story is to gain coverage. Generally, if
you’re not available to take media calls and requests for interviews, it is unlikely that the PR Office
will be able to help you achieve the maximum exposure for your story. If you are unable to be
available around the time of publication, with advance preparation we can work around this, for
instance, by offering interviews well ahead to trusted journalists who won’t break the embargo.

If you are contacted by a journalist or are going to give a planned interview, the PR team or your
college PR rep will be able to give you guidance. In the meantime here are some helpful tips:

How to prepare:
Don't feel you have to comment straight away. You are allowed time to think about your
answer — get the journalists details and call them back later
Ask the journalist about the angle of the story, the format of the interview
(live/recorded/studio debate) and who else is being interviewed
Find out the journalist’s deadline and ensure you get back to them in plenty of time
Prepare two to three key points/messages and remember them. Most interviews only last a
few minutes and even then they may only use about 30 seconds of your interview
Think about some of the questions that may be raised and think about how best to answer
Consider answers to any difficult questions
Have facts and figures ready

If you’re going to be interviewed, contact the PR team for guidance


Top tips for interviews
Assume the journalist knows nothing
Use 'soundbites' - sum up what you want to say in two or three simple sentences.
(See section 8, ‘Talking about research to a wider audience: How to create a ‘soundbite’, for
Remember you are the expert in your field
Don't feel pressured into answering the interviewer's exact question — broaden out the
discussion and talk about the main points that you want to cover. Use phrases such as 'what
we must remember is...', 'the really important point is...'
Keep saying the name. Ensure that print journalists credit Swansea University and in the case
of broadcast interviews you can say it yourself .e.g. "here at Swansea University..."
Never say "No Comment"!
Use plain English
Be positive and sound enthusiastic
Make the interview as personal as possible so that people can relate to what you are saying
Avoid using jargon — keep to simple, layman's language
Paint pictures — use analogies and metaphors to help explain
Liken things to everyday situations and use examples
Be open, honest and realistic
Keep things in perspective
Don't be afraid to say that you can't answer a question because it's not your area
Some specific tips for broadcast
If it is for TV, avoid patterns (they can strobe) and blue shirts (they can disappear into the
Be vain - check your hair, makeup, shoes etc
Look at the interviewer not the camera
Don't fidget with clothes, jewellery or hands as this can be distracting to the audience
Stay civil no matter how much the interviewer tries to provoke you — it will only be you that
comes across badly on camera
If it’s pre-recorded and you aren't happy with your comment you can ask to start again

6. Tips & Training

Many organisations produce guides, run media training or workshops related to public engagement
and science communication.

1. Research Councils: Check with your funding council to see what opportunities they offer

2. Sense about Science: produces a guide to the media for early career researchers
3. Institute of Physics: workshops on outreach
4. NERC Engaging the Public with Your Research: giving radio and TV interviews
5. Science Media Centre’s Top Tips for Media Work: advice and tips for engaging with the media
6. National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE): advice and guides about public
engagement and training opportunities
7. Vitae: promotes personal and professional development of doctoral researchers and research
8. British Science Association Annual Science Communication Conference
9. UWE Science Communication Masterclass
10. British Science Association Annual Science Festival
11. The Wellcome Trust

7. Case Studies:

1. Research as Art Competition 2012: For the past few years the Swansea University Research
Forum (SURF) has organised a Research as Art competition The aim is to communicate research in a
different way, through pictures and the stories behind them, to portray the beauty and diversity of
research to old and new audiences alike.

For the 2012 competition, organiser Dr Richard Johnston worked with the University’s PR team to
devise and deliver a communications plan to reach as wide an audience as possible.

Rami Malki (Computer Science) and Ian Masters
The PR team used traditional tools such as
news releases and online channels including
Twitter and Facebook, as well as, a week
beforehand, phone calls to key journalists, to
trail the announcement showcasing a gallery
of the previous year’s entries to whet people’s
appetite for what to expect. On the day of
the announcement details of the winners
were released in a ready to publish Flickr set
and an embargoed news release was sent to
key outlets, with full-size versions of the
winning images.

As soon as the results were announced, the pictures went live on Flickr and we directed attention to
them via Twitter and Facebook. A second news release was prepared, this time with comment from
the winner and sent to all media outlets, with links to the Flickr pages. The Flickr set has now been
viewed more than 1,300 times.

Press coverage was extensive: see below. The pictures were clearly the main draw. The winning
picture was featured on The Sun’s website, including a few hours on the homepage. The size of this
audience alone (9 million daily) makes it significant, but just as important given the purpose of the
competition is the fact that visitors to The Sun site would generally be a new audience for stories like

Key lessons:
Plan early with the PR team – at least 3 weeks ahead
Think pictures, not just words, for every story
Use different channels –Twitter/Flickr/media - to reinforce each other

Press coverage:
BBC Online – picture gallery
The Sun – story and picture of winning image
Wales Online/Western Mail – full-page feature and picture gallery
MSN news
Live Science


2. Skeletons from the Deep – The Warship Mary Rose

Swansea University sports scientists from the College of Engineering have been working with the
Mary Rose Trust, examining the remains of sixteenth-century sailors who drowned aboard Henry
VIII’s warship Mary Rose. Their work is shedding light on the lives of those on board, for example by
showing that many of them were archers, as the bones show evidence of the strain of repeated
training and bow-pulling.

Nick Owen a specialist in sports biomechanics from the College, worked with the PR team to put
together a news release about the research which helped to attract media coverage, including that
from the Daily Mail. BBC Wales Today contacted the PR team about the work and they came to film
and interview Nick. This resulted in further coverage in Wales.

The story was pitched to BBC UK, who also
came to film. Through their involvement BBC
UK had expressions of interest from the Today
programme and BBC Breakfast News.

Organising and carrying out filming can be
time-consuming, but Nick and his team,
including colleagues from the Mary Rose Trust
in Portsmouth, made themselves available to
be involved. Having expert interviewees, plus
artefacts such as skulls and longbows, made it
a very alluring package for the BBC.
Nick Owen: Meet the Ancestors

Key lessons:
A press release, if you use one, should be the start, not the end, of the process.
Be willing and available for filming/interviews if you want to turn press interest into press
Offer interesting things/locations for filming, as well as people

Press coverage:
Daily Mail
BBC News
BBC – Wales Today
BBC Online
World News Inc
Medieval News - blog also covered the story


3. Translation Arrays – Shakespeare’s Othello

An interdisciplinary project, involving researchers from the humanities and sciences, is looking at
variation in translation (, using the example of a single couplet from
Shakespeare’s Othello.

If virtue no delighted beauty lack,
Your son-in-law is far more fair than black

Led by Dr Tom Cheesman from the Department of Languages, Translation and Media, in the College
of Arts and Humanities, the research team are gathering as many versions of the couplet, in as many
different languages, as they can; from Albanian to Yiddish, and including different forms of English.
The aim is to create an interface, combining text analysis and data visualisation tools to produce a
‘Translation Array’, which will enable scholars to explore translations and reach a global
understanding of important works, including other Shakespeare plays and the Bible. By creating new
ways to read texts on screen, scholars will be able to compare versions, highlight those with the
most and least variations, which, in turn, leads to new questions about cultures and history.
The research featured in the Research Institute of Arts and Humanities and on the University website. As a result, a journalist
contacted Tom to ask for an interview, which Tom gave. The result was a large piece on the project
in the Western Mail.
By highlighting this coverage and the project in general via Twitter and tagging appropriate
organisations such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, this prompted the RSC to reTweet some of
our tweets on the issue to their thousands of followers. More significantly still, the Royal
Shakespeare Company contacted the research team to ask if the translations arrays project could be
included in work the RSC were doing on a digital Shakespeare initiative.
Key lessons:
Newsletters and websites are used by journalists, as well as by their intended audiences
You don’t always need a press release; there was none for this story
Targeting relevant people – selectively – on Twitter can pay dividends
Being available to talk to the journalist was – again - what got the coverage

Press coverage:
Western Mail

Translation Arrays

8. Talking about research to a wider audience: How to create a ‘soundbite’
A soundbite needs to answer the questions: “What we’re doing, why, how it will make a difference”.
To be understood by a broad audience your answers to those questions should use:

Plain English
Short sentences
Concrete example
1. Dr Kasia Szpakowska, Department of History and Classics – My new research project: ancient
Egyptian demons
“I am absolutely thrilled to have this opportunity to bring the world of demons into the limelight.
While gods such as Osiris or Isis are familiar, the darker side of religion and ominous entities such as
“Sehaqeq”, “Fiery-Breath”, or “Consumer of Hearts,” have remained in the shadows. New digital
technology will allow our team to explore their world and make it accessible. I just hope that the
demons don’t mind being brought out of hiding and behave themselves.”

2. Professor David Ford, College of Medicine, CIPHER project – a complex project in one paragraph:
its importance, what the work involves, and how it’ll make a difference
“CIPHER represents a serious step forward in the way health research is conducted. At Swansea, we
have a history of using advanced high powered computing and with the help of HPC Wales, we can
use powerful computer systems to meet the challenges of analysing the huge volume of data
collected by the NHS and public sector, turning it into research findings that help us all to
understand illness and disease and to improve health policy making.”

3. Professor David Turner, Department of History - Perceptions of disability: what my book is
about, in one average-length sentence
“My book tries to uncover hidden experiences and cultural meanings of disability in the past and to
show the relevance of historical research for understanding issues affecting people with disabilities
and their families today.”

4. Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, Microbiology - Why research matters and how it makes a
“We are looking for global strategies to tackle global pollution and ensure safe food and drinking
water for the world’s growing population. Part of my role is to promote stronger links between the
UK and US microbiology societies and with others across the world, so that we can all work together.

“It is no use academics and researchers working in silos. We need to be tackling issues like disease
prevention and pollution together. Microbiology is vitally important in how we understand the
world. Some of the greatest advances in medical science, for example, have been made by
microbiologists like Alexander Fleming and Louis Pasteur.
“The world’s population is growing rapidly, and if we are to meet the challenge of ensuring there is
enough food for everyone, and continue to try to prevent the spread of disease, then we need global