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Tips and Best Practices: Media Relations Skills and Tactics

For the past 30+ years, journalists at the annual College Media Conference, hosted by the Council of Independent Colleges and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, have shared tips and best practices for campus PR pros to gain coverage for their institutions. This series of blog posts highlights the advice of journalists and PR experts on “Perfecting Your Pitch,” “Social Media Tips and Best Practices,” “Pitching Science Reporters,” and “Crisis Communications Best Practices,” and ends with a short post on “Journalists’ Pet Peeves.”


Pitching Science Reporters

  • Find relevant stories. From Lila Guterman, deputy managing editor for departments at Science News: Universities should focus on science stories that are important and relevant to her readers and that highlight something that is “the biggest, oldest, or farthest.”
  • Prep your interviewees. From Christopher Joyce, science desk correspondent at NPR: “We need your help getting your people to speak English. Communicate with us in a way we can use—we live by sounds bites.” He urged communicators to work with scientists to remind them they are talking to the public. Help them practice—and don’t wait until the last minute. “The larger mission is to get the message across to the public, which is woefully ignorant of science.”
  • Use an analogy, metaphor, or simile when relating complicating ideas. For example, a story about an asteroid field could compare real asteroid fields to those seen in the Empire Strikes Back, which many people will remember.
  • Pitch to local or regional science reporters. From Eric Hand, reporter at Science magazine: “Don’t discount secondary journals….You’re more likely to have better luck pitching stories to local or regional science reporters than those at larger publications that get so much news.”
Laura Wilcox