In case you missed our wildly successful May 8 brown bag, “The Science of Communicating with Scientists,” at the American Chemical Society you are in luck — Erica Hiar, WWPR Professional Development Co-Chair and moderator from the event sums up the top tips from the panelists below.
1) Know the reporter’s beat.
We hear this from reporters all the time, but it is always important to reiterate. Reading recent articles and areas that a reporter has covered can help structure and define a pitch (not to mention get coverage). Panelist Kimberly Leonard at U.S. News &World Report was so impressed by a pitch from Sarah Willey at Racepoint Group that she asked her if she could share it with our membership.
Here are the topline details: Sarah followed a recent Twitter chat Kimberly organized about children with diabetes and followed up with a pitch offering her additional diabetes story ideas. Sarah has gracefully agreed to let us share some of it, and the pitch went something like this:
I was following the Twitter chat on type 1 diabetes in kids yesterday and wanted to reach out on behalf of Joslin Diabetes Center. I’d love to run a few story angles by you –
Caregiving Topic: The challenges in treating elderly patients with diabetes. More than 40% of Americans with diabetes are over 65. For caregivers, understanding how to manage elderly patients with diabetes is quite complex, and they need aggressive care.
Lessons Learned: Inspiring stories of patients who have lived long healthy lives with type 1 diabetes for 75+ years: There’s a group of type 1 diabetes survivors who offer the ultimate success stories. They have lived long and healthy lives with type 1 diabetes – some for 75 plus years. Since 2005, Joslin Diabetes Center has awarded more than 3,900 medals to people who have lived with type 1 for more than 50 years.
Guess what!? Kimberly did write a story from this pitch, which demonstrates the importance of knowing reporters’ beats and areas of interest. Offer them useful sources and story ideas in your initial pitch. Read the U.S. News story here.
2) Reporters like (and use) breaking news expert sources.
Anhydrous ammonia, say what?! When panelist Anna Edney from Bloomberg News was covering the recent Texas fertilizer plant explosion, she needed experts to explain the cause of the explosion. Her research led her to liquid ammonia, or anhydrous ammonia, and she needed someone to go on record to break down the science for her and her readers. Anna said she wished someone had emailed or called her offering an expert. Read the Bloomberg News story.
3) More is often better (when it comes to digital content).
With more and more news being presented to readers online and through visuals (Buzzfeed, anyone?), the panelists all agreed that sharing links to photos, infographics and visual data not only helps them understand a story angle better, but they may use those visuals in their story. One attendee suggested using Google Drive to store photos, bios and other digital materials for reporters and offering the link in the pitch email — great idea!
4) Be prepared!
The panelists said that experts, executives and scientists should be prepared, available and natural. Have spokespeople break down the science and news as if they were speaking to a stranger about a topic they know nothing about (for me — football! End zone, huh?). Also, prepare spokespeople to be quotable for the reporter’s audience. Panelist Christine Dell’Amore at National Geographic News said she tends to use quotes from her interviewees that involve humor.