Section 8: Topic 1
Working more effectively together across teams
This final section 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.
There are specialist polling companies that can target the viewers, listeners and readers of specific media outlets or programmes in a highly targeted way. For example, Prof Yamni Nigam from Swansea University had her research on maggot therapy featured in four episodes of the TV soap, Casualty, which has over 4 million weekly viewers. She commissioned a specialist TV polling company to find out what proportion of casualty viewers were aware of maggot therapy and its benefits for treating wounds that were resistant to antibiotics, and the extent to which they viewed maggot therapy as acceptable or disgusting. After the episodes aired, she had evidence of an increase in awareness and understanding of maggot therapy and a reduction in what she called the “yuk factor”. This was important for her, because she had already convinced clinicians to offer maggot therapy on the NHS but uptake by patients was low due to the disgust they felt towards the treatment.
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)