Section 4: Topic 3

Design media activities to meet those goals

Now you know what you are trying to achieve, it is possible to harness the media in very different ways that are specifically designed to deliver those outcomes. For example:

  • You might advise a researcher to turn down an opportunity for an interview with CNN International and spend the time writing a press release for Farmers Weekly if they need to raise the awareness of farmers about a threat, technology or action they can take based on their research.

  • They might plan a workshop or open day for farmers and integrate that into their article to advertise the event and get greater engagement with the group.

  • Alternatively, they might link the article to a new online toolkit or other resource that enables wider engagement with the group across the country.

  • Then, they might use the coverage in Farmers Weekly as a route to get a speaking slot at the Royal Welsh Show.

  • While they are there, they might arrange to do an interview with the Farmer’s Guardian at the show to get wider coverage across that community.

  • While they are doing this, they might work with your press office team to get the coverage on social media, and target influential accounts who engage with large numbers of farmers and hashtags like #agrichat to get wider readership and funnel social media readers to your workshop/open day, online resource and show event.

  • At each of the events and via your website, they might incentivise people to leave their contact details so they can follow up with them long-term to provide more benefits and ultimately be able to follow up with a short questionnaire to evidence their impact, all GDPR compliant.

This highly targeted approach to media engagement stands in contrast to the usual approach which tends to maximise reach without being particularly sensitive to the audience. For example, research on desertification policy in Botswana may be targeted to UK and international media outlets to reach the largest possible readership, instead of focusing on getting into newspapers in Botswana (which have much smaller circulations) as part of a wider strategy to influence government policy in that country. Alternatively, research that led to a new scheme for UK arable farmers to get private investment in sustainable agriculture techniques that lock up more carbon in their soil might make it into the Guardian newspaper. However, despite being of interest to Guardian readers it would have done little to promote the scheme to the key target audience, farmers. This group might have been reached more effectively with a targeted campaign to get coverage in Farmer’s Weekly and Farmer’s Guardian, coupled with a social media campaign on Twitter using the #agrichat hashtag.

 

Having said that, there is still a role for media opportunities that get you significant coverage, as the more prominent the coverage the more likely you are to include your target groups. You are also likely to reach additional groups that you may not previously have been aware were interested in the research. This can be an important way of extending the reach of benefits from research. However, researchers have to be ready to walk through the doors that open to you after a major media opportunity, so it is important to make sure that they are easily discoverable via a Google search and have time in their schedule to follow up with the opportunities as they arise.