Tips for Talking Science with Reporters

March 8, 2019

While working on a pitch this week, the Public Relations team came across a post from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) featuring tips on speaking about science with journalists.

AAAS asked a handful of science journalists how they interact with science and what scientists can do to better spread their message with the media.

This advice is as relevant as ever, especially as the University of Minnesota works harder to share our scientific discoveries with the press and the public.

Tips from the article include the following:

  • Speak plain English, and simplify the subject to the extent possible. Use an analogy or metaphor if appropriate. Remember that the press is a conduit to the public, and it is important to talk about science in a way that a general audience can understand. If you can speak about your subject in a clear way that a mass audience can understand, it will help produce a news article that will easily inform the public about your work.
  • Be accessible. If you want to promote your new research, make sure that you’re able to speak to reporters after we in University Relations put out a Research Brief on the subject. Further, reporters will often look for scientists to analyze or comment on research that others produce. You’re under no obligation to do so, but if you’re comfortable with that, consider helping a reporter out—it will help build a relationship when you have something of your own to promote.
  • Focus on accuracy. This may seem obvious, but ensure the message you’re sharing with journalists is complete and correct. Emphasize your main points with journalists during interviews to ensure they know what is most important. Respond only to questions to which you know the answer. Provide to journalists prepared material—papers, multimedia, etc.—that helps drive your points home and back up your assertions. Reporters value accuracy, so make sure what you’re saying is correct.

Read the whole AAAS post for more information about communicating with journalists. If you need more assistance, always feel free to talk to someone in University Public Relations. We’re at 612-624-5551 or unews@umn.edu.