Module 5: Getting press office, professional services and research teams to work together for impact

This final module considers what you can do to work more effectively with professional services impact teams, and how you can motivate researchers to engage more proactively with you to generate impact. 

The survey showed that the majority of press office staff interact regularly with impact teams from professional services (40% once a week and a further 33% a few times per month). Professional services staff reported a similar frequency of interaction (50% once a week and a further 40% a few times per month). Respondents were asked how they thought press offices and professional services staff working on impact could work more effectively together, and there were many ideas. Broadly speaking these ideas fell into two categories: capacity building needs (for both groups, and for academics); and ways of increasing the amount and quality of engagement between the two groups.


Capacity building needs for all three groups were identified (mainly by professional services staff. Table 3 shows the range of capacity building needs. There was a recognition that press offices may need new skills, staff and incentives to respond to changing expectations around their role in generating impact. However, capacity to evidence the significance of impacts from media engagement was seen to be primarily the domain of professional services staff, who needed more training and access to data from press offices to perform this function more effectively. Both press office teams and professional services staff working on impact recognised the value of receiving training from their counterparts, or having opportunities to shadow each other. One member of professional services commented, “I would love some better training and advice and access to a flow chart on which part of the press, comms, marketing, events matrix to take things to. Currently if we go to the wrong person we just get told 'no' rather than passed to the right one”. Researchers needed more skills (and in some cases confidence) but it was recognised that time was a key barrier preventing engagement with media training.


In addition to these capacity building needs, a number of other suggestions were made that could enhance collaboration between press office and professional service impact teams to generate and evidence impact (Table 4). There was a strong focus through the themes that emerged on more regular and pro-active engagement between these two teams, and (in a targeted way) with researchers. A number of suggestions were made for achieving earlier engagement with researchers, so that media engagement and impacts could be more effectively planned. This was followed by suggestions for ways that engagement could be sustained with researchers after media engagement to enhance the likelihood of achieving impacts. 


Table 3: Capacity building needs identified by survey respondents for press offices, professional services impact teams and researchers that could enable more effective collaboration to achieve impact from media engagement

Table 4: Different ways press offices and professional services impact teams could work more effectively together (see Table 3 for additional capacity building options that could also achieve this)


Planning ahead for earlier engagement between press offices and researchers


Ways press and professional services teams could work more effectively together to generate impact

Need for ongoing engagement between teams

Planning ahead for earlier engagement between press offices and researchers

Planning ahead for earlier engagement between press offices and researchers

Despite the enthusiasm for increased engagement between press office and professional services impact teams, there was a recognition across those surveyed that researchers often do not engage with press opportunities. While there were good reasons for avoiding press coverage under certain circumstances (see Module 1), a number of suggestions were made to increase researcher engagement with both press offices and professional services teams around media engagement pathways to impact:

  • A demonstrable, strong evidence base of how media engagement has helped their peers in a meaningful way

  • Based on this evidence, face-to-face meetings with key researchers (identified with professional services teams) to discuss the potential benefits of media engagement for their specific pathways to impact (including those with impact potential as well as track record to avoid biasing attention to more senior academics)

  • Discuss benefits for career progression, particularly with early-career researchers, in partnership with academics whose careers have benefited from media exposure

  • Training for researchers based on evidence of impacts arising from media engagement

  • Re-frame the offering from press offices (in collaboration with professional media colleagues) as “press release plus impact data gathering for REF”

  • Work more intensively with academics with roles linked to impact (e.g. Director of Impact or Impact Champion) to explore the potential value of media engagement for impact in their group and make training opportunities more visible to their colleagues

  • Meeting with press officer as part of induction for all new researchers to build a relevant biography for the University website and/or expert database(s) to make them more visible to the media, and use the meeting to understand training needs and offer opportunities to learn


The researcher who suggested face-to-face meetings with press officers during induction commented that, “through this they can each learn about each other, and be better placed to engage with the media in future”. Another researcher wanted press teams to “show a genuine interest in the researcher and [be] explicit about how they can help”.


Drawing on their experience working with researchers on impact, colleagues from professional services talked about how they would, “show that you're interested in their research by attending events/lectures/seminars where they are presenting”. Another suggested, “It's all about building good trusting relationships and demonstrating effectiveness - then word gets out.” Another still suggested that their success in engaging with researchers around impact came from “putting themselves in the researchers' shoes”. Although these suggestions may not be realistic for already over-stretched press offices, they illustrate a growing appetite for increased engagement with press teams around impact and an emphasis on relationship building as a way to achieve this. This echoed the emphasis on early and ongoing engagement with researchers in Table 4, and calls for increased interaction and collaboration between press and professional services teams elsewhere in the survey. One researcher commented, “I think as a starter there needs to be more coming together. On my own campus, I'd like to see an afternoon set aside to get us both in the room to talk about impact. I would also like to see a bigger role for 'third space' academics [people who work between academic and professional domains] in media offices. My own institution primarily employs perky new grads who dream of journalism careers - they're lovely, but impact is not likely to be something they can 'get' naturally.” One member of professional services, summed up the emphasis on engagement and relationship-building succinctly: “Keep talking, get to know each other, the usual stuff - but it works.” 


Concluding paragraph here…

Module 1 / Case Studies / Module 1 Quiz / Module 2 / Module 2 Quiz / Module 3 / Module 3 Quiz / Module 4 / Module 4 Quiz / Module 5 / Module 5 Quiz