Media training can be useful for researchers thinking about how to communicate economics more effectively, as outlined in this brief extract from a guide to working with the media that I wrote for the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) back in 2000.
An important part of the communications strategy of any organisation is to build the capacity to handle the media across a broad range of staff. This is particularly important for a research organisation where the people the media really want to talk to are the researchers. So while a press officer can provide a valuable focal point for media relations, it is worth developing researchers’ media skills, training them in the best ways to communicate research results on paper, in conversation with journalists and other non-specialists, and in broadcast interviews, whether live or recorded.
The key thing you want to develop in a team of researchers is the ability to communicate with all sorts of groups not just their peers. It is a highly valuable skill to be able to give the one-minute version of your research findings (for TV or radio) and the ten-minute version (for public presentations and for conversations with journalists) as well as the standard fifty-minute version of the academic seminar.
Much of this training can be informal, but it may be worth holding specific media training workshops to which journalists could be invited to talk through their perspective on research promotion. This has the additional benefit of providing an opportunity for you to present them with your latest outputs. You may also want to invite other academics who have made a name for themselves as media dons and can provide the wisdom of their experiences.
For individual researchers seeking to enhance their media skills, there are courses available, some through ESRC. Or you can try to teach yourself via ‘on-the-job’ training. The proliferation of broadcast and online media in recent years provides numerous opportunities for researchers wishing to develop their writing and media presentation skills. Writing for a local newspaper or a multi-authored blog, for example, will give you your first publication outside the academic world, and a chance to see if you have a taste for writing for a non-specialist audience. Similarly, an interview on a local radio station or a TV programme broadcast in the early hours of the morning to half a dozen people will provide practice in being a talking head. From these beginnings, you can aim to be a regular contributor to the Financial Times or the BBC’s Newsnight.