Last week we shared a blog exploring academic engagement with the media. It can serve as a vehicle to raising professional visibility and contribute to the national expertise in the specialist research area. We recognised that a media presence can be both essential and daunting. This week Wonkhe have another interesting blog – Invisible barriers keep many academics from the media – by Liz Gloyn from Royal Holloway. It’s another great (and quick read) highlighting how breaking into the media (or policy world) can seem an impossible task. It focuses on the difficulties in making connections and specifically getting on the journalist’s (or parliamentary staff’s) radar.
There is a large group of early career academics and mid-career scholars who would love to be doing more media work and to be building better connections with journalists, particularly women and people of colour. Yet invisible barriers get in the way..
When journalists want a comment on a story, they often want it very quickly, and they need to know it will be fit for purpose. Their instinctive choice will be to look through their list of pre-existing contacts and reach out to somebody they already know – which is precisely how academics with a high profile in the media maintain it.
Media appearances also breed media appearances: previous engagements make it more likely for other journalists to add you to their list of contacts. Getting on the radar of media people working in your field, or becoming “discoverable”, is a common piece of advice to people wanting to engage with the media, but in practice it is incredibly difficult to do.
It doesn’t help that the focus of a lot of media training available to academics focuses on what to do once you are in the interview seat, not how to get there in the first place. An informal call for experiences on Twitter brought out lots of responses from people whose media training had focused on how to be interviewed and what pitfalls to avoid – there was very little evidence that people were being given guidance on how to be proactive about publicising their expertise.
Fortunately here at BU we do support colleagues and focus on how to build your external profile through a range of sources. If you are looking for your research to create a policy impact then get in touch. We’d love to hear about your work and support your journey to parliamentary influence.