Workshops, Seminars and Conferences

Presentation 4: A Secret Worth Sharing: Enhancing visibility in media by Alex Kirby

Alex Kirby started his presentation by saying that GRID-Arendal has been a very well kept secret and that it should no longer be a secret anymore. Bridging the gap between science and policy, between people and policy is a good aspiration.
The media can be a gateway to voters and decision makers and it can help GRID-Arendal to have an impact. Joining forces with the media can be a powerful partnership in giving information to people, who will then use it or who may use it to put pressure on policy makers and politicians.

Anyone who wants to inspire needs to wear his knowledge lightly. Providing the audience with heavy science or knowledge upfront lessens the chances of inspiring. They won’t care about what you know until they know that you care. Then they become more receptive to wanting to know about it. The less you tell people about something the more you can expect them to react. Part of what is happening in terms of technology development is that as information grows attention span tends to become shorter. Focusing on core messages and distilling them into something powerful and dependable will lead to impact.

According to Alex GRID-Arendal’s selling point is its ability to translate and transmit science into the language of the street. GRID-Arendal knows its stuff and knows how to turn it into something that the media understands. It remains objective, unemotional and good in ways that could trigger interest and cause people to react. GRID-Arendal however, needs to work on making itself known to the media. The media needs to know of GRID-Arendal and what it offers and how to get info when they need it.

Alex offered the following tips that would help enhance GRID-Arendal’s visibility in the media:

1. Tailor what GRID-Arendal does to different target groups. Tailor to individual journalists your aiming for. Maintain an up-to-date press list. Organize press trips to increase the media’s understanding of issues. Dedicate a space in the GRID-Arendal website for journalists. Maintain a full contact list of journalists in the areas where you are working that you can contact if any issues arise.

2. The media needs speed and formation that is tailored for them. What people want is something that will give them a simple, yet comprehensive overview of interlocking environmental crises. Urgency and comprehensive approach matter to the media.

3. Tailor the stories you offer and the way you offer the stories. It is important to know about upcoming news stories. Subscribe to Nature/Science magazines, Eureka (US) and Galileo (Europe). Visit regularly.

4. Learn how to write a science story. A well written science story is not just a list of facts. It should relate seemingly abstract facts and figures to the realities of daily life. One can bring a story to life by describing and quoting people. GRID-Arendal knows so many people and their experience of what the changing environment means. Help the media get to know them. GRID-Arendal has a wealth of materials that should be put out. Tell the media that it is there and help the media use them.

5. Learn how to write for the web. Stories should be around 75-80 words in length, headlines around 31-33characters, and the rest of the story not be more than 4 sentences long.

6. Stories should be fair, non-libelous, a good summing up of the story, and include sources. Be passionate. Be excited, so people will be, too. If speaking to children, speak as if you are a child yourself. The passion and excitement will come alive. Think in terms of headlines. Think that less is more. Explain in very simple terms, using simple words. Understand how the media works and how they are subject to news agenda and editorial whims. Do not pout out non-stories.

7. Write stories in simple language. Offer materials you have – press releases, publications, graphics, tip offs, guides to resources, regular updates on news, features, summaries, backgrounders, audio-visual materials, news conferences, glossaries, experts for interviews, etc.

8. Have the capability for instant reaction. If a story breaks in your field, get to your press contact within 10 minutes, put out a release and offer your experts to speak on the issue. Build a reputation for yourself. You will be quoted, you will be used.

9. Get to know journalists. Build relationships directly with them and you will get results. Keep in minds that they are always under pressure. Make it easy for them. Spoon feed them with bite-size information that they can absorb. Get to them first before the competition and they will respond. Don’t hope for too much. Be prepared to be disappointed.