How to prepare faculty for media conversations

In the past, faculty members tended to conduct their research more autonomously and rarely had to communicate their work beyond academic peers. However, today faculty researchers are being called upon more and more to communicate the value of their work to a variety of stakeholders outside of the traditional academic realm.

The importance of training faculty

Since research is most powerfully communicated by those who actually conduct it, faculty make up a largely untapped group of communicators. In many cases, universities have not adequately prepared faculty members to speak with media and explain their work in layman’s terms. In order to fill these gaps in preparation, chief research officers and their teams should provide faculty with training.

Prepare faculty to speak with the media

To help CROs and their communications staff prepare faculty to better communicate their research to external audiences, The University Research Forum has developed a Faculty Training Toolkit. The toolkit will be released over the next several months as part of our “Telling the Story of Research” presentation at our upcoming national meetings.

The first tool in this toolkit is an Effective Media Conversations Planning Worksheet.

Faculty are often wary of speaking with the media, sometimes due to a poor past experience or concern about the media misrepresenting their work. However, if faculty are properly trained to speak with journalists, popular media can serve as an important ally for researchers promoting their work. An effective conversation with the media can lead to increased coverage, interest, and support for faculty research.

In order to help faculty overcome their hesitancy towards the media and best prepare them to have conversations with news reporters, communications staff need to help faculty members better explain their work in a bite-sized medium and avoid potential pitfalls in the conversation. The Effective Media Conversations Planning Worksheet provides faculty with a series of questions to think through prior to speaking with the media.

By completing the worksheet, faculty can generate a list of key talking points and responses to commonly asked questions. Additionally, communications staff can use the completed worksheet to assess whether faculty are communicating their research in a digestible manner and identify areas for improvement or clarification prior to the media conversation.

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