Academics now regard working with the media and taking part in interviews about their views on immediate global events as an essential part of their role and their career –according to a new report being released by ExpertFile (the global sourcefor experts) today.
ExpertFile commissioned interviews with 30 of the most media-active faculty members drawn from across UK universities to identify what ‘drives them’ and what they would say to encourage more of their academic colleagues in seizing and making the most from media interest in their work.
The report author, Justin Shaw, who has 30 years’ experience of promoting academics in the media and a past career in journalism, says that only 10 per cent of a total of 210,000 UK academics are engaged in media work or similar frontline external promotional activities. This low level of engagement is also identified by a Welcome Trust survey of UK researchers – which found that 82% of them have never had broadcast interviews and 77% have never been interviewed by the press.
To counter this limited experience, the ExpertFile report (called Academic Experts And The Media – Benefits and Realities of Working With Journalists) uncovered a more recent hunger and drive to make the ‘use’ of media more of a mission in academia. You can download the report here. Typical comments from those with immersive media experience include:
“Surely the whole point of being an academic is that, in some way, we are trying to make the world a better place. It could be in a thousand different ways, but otherwise, what is the point of us being here?”
“It’s our job as academics to create new knowledge and new lines of enquiry, and they should be shared, and if there is no intention to do this, then it is a failure in the system.”
“I also think it is part of your job, whether you like it or not. Because if you look at the way academics in Britain are assessed, the impact of your work and public engagement are important metrics of how you are assessed, so if you are frightened of it, you must get over it because for academics it is expected, just as much as writing papers or teaching students.”
The report – which is being launched at the CASE Europe, an international conference of university communications and marketing leaders in Birmingham’s International Convention Centre today – also provides recommendations for those in communications and PR roles in universities, drawing on the needs of media-active academics.
In their eyes, press officers need to be far more proactive, support academics with more detailed backgrounders on the topics (and news context) that they are being interviewed about, and think harder about supplying images that reflect more accurate messages (in line with research findings or academic observations). An idea of assigning dedicated ‘media mentors’ from among more experienced academics was also put forward.
University leaders and managers should also radically change the way they perceive “media work” by allowing time and (back up) resources to support academics in taking up media opportunities and by adopting a more serious attitude to this important route to public engagement and to reputationenhancement.
As a result of the report’s findings ExpertFile is now investigating a campaign to double the number of UK academics actively engaged in working with the media.
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With offices in New York, Toronto and London, ExpertFile empowers leading organizations in the corporate, healthcare and higher education sectors to build reputation and revenue. Clients include Birmingham City University, Berkeley Haas School of Business, Unum Group, IDC, and Emory University.
The report – ‘Academic Experts And The Media – Benefits and Realities of Working With Journalists’ – is available here. For more information about the report or to speak to the author directly you can reach Justin at firstname.lastname@example.org.