We sat down with (journalist at The Economist and formerly an economist at the IFS) to ask her advice for economists looking to reach out to journalists. Watch the short video and check out her key tips.
1) Journalists have no time
You’re not the only person trying to grab their attention, so your headline needs to be as clear and as early as possible. Tell them the key takeaway, why they should be surprised and even why they should care, and do it quickly.
In a research paper you will leave your conclusion until the end of the abstract and it won’t be seen again until the conclusion of the paper. When talking to journalists: the conclusion needs to come first and be hammered home. That’s what journalists mean by a headline.
2) Think about your audience
Tragic as it may be, most people won’t be excited about a new dataset. Practice by explaining your findings to an outsider (maybe a friend or parent) to see how they respond to your findings.
Often, the conclusion that matters most for journalists – and by extension the public – is a different one to the conclusion that matters most for researchers.
3) Have fun and be passionate!
People respond to passion and enthusiasm. If you have worked for months or even years on a research paper, then it must matter to you. When the results come out it is easy to get lost in the detail, but you must not forget why it matters to you. If you share that enthusiasm and show why you have spent so long on this project it will be far easier to convince people to take notice.
4) People matter
It’s difficult for people to really grasp what, for example, a 2% rise in income means, especially if they feel that they’re not part of the ‘average’ group you might be talking about. Give them a tangible example, like ‘a single mum of three would gain/lose this much’ rather than something abstract.
5) Tell a story
You should always be telling a story. Researchers tell stories in their papers, with the context and ‘what we know now’, before telling about their method and their findings. Journalists and the public need stories as well – but often the emphasis should be more on the findings and what they mean for people rather than the method.
People matter. Stories matter. And the telling of the story is as important as the identification itself.