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UCL Media Relations team Introduction




date:Mar 22,2013 source:互联网 editorial staff:linan clicks:

The aim of the UCL Media Relations Office is to achieve the best possible media profile for UCL across the range of external media. We work to achieve this in close collaboration with staff at all levels across the university.

This guide is intended to answer some of the most frequent questions posed to us by the university’s academics and staff, and explain how UCL people can best use the resource that is the Media Relations Office. Please feel free to enter into direct communication with us if you require more information, are unclear on any point, or if you would like to come and visit us and see how we work in practice. We are also happy to come out and visit any part of UCL and explain in more detail how we work.

1. Basics
1.1 Why does UCL have a Media Relations team?
1.2 When should you contact the Media Relations team?
1.3 How soon should you make contact with the Media Relations team?
1.4 What can you expect from your contact with the Media Relations team?
1.5 What do the Media Relations team do on a typical day?

2. MR and Communications
2.1 How do the Media Relations and Communications teams work together?
2.2 Which team should you contact first?

3. Who will want my story?
3.1 How do you know if your announcement is a story?
3.2 Is it news?
3.3 How does news selection work?
3.4 What are the alternatives to news coverage?

Working with the media
4.1 How will the Media Relations team promote my story?
4.2 To what extent must I make myself available to the media?
4.3 What is UCL Experts and how does it work?
4.4 What if journalists wish to speak to me outside office hours?
4.5 Do you provide media training?
4.6 What if the media contact me with a bad news story?
4.7 What are the guidelines on talking to the media?

And finally…
5.1 What if my question isn’t answered here?
5.2 Whom should I contact in the Media Relations team?

1.1 Why does UCL have a Media Relations team?

UCL has a Media Relations office because the University recognises that a positive media profile is vital to UCL’s reputation with the wider world and in enabling it to maintain and enhance its status as one of the world’s leading universities. It also recognises that this activity is most likely to be successful when co-ordinated by a team of professionals used to working with the media and with an understanding of the needs, priorities and ways of working of both UCL and the media.

A positive media profile has a number of potential tangible benefits:

• Raising of income, whether for research or other projects
• Recruitment of students and academics, both in the UK and internationally
• Contribution to the wider world’s understanding of the subjects in which UCL experts frequently lead their field
• Reinforcing the view of external stakeholders and the wider public that the institution is accountable, transparent, and the source of much valuable work
• Providing recognition for the work that goes on at UCL, and giving staff, students and alumni a warm glow of satisfaction
• When negative stories emerge, ensuring these are seen as isolated incidents emanating from what is, primarily, a highly-regarded institution.

The Media Relations team can work to enhance the public profile of UCL and its staff, and use its specialist knowledge to ensure information coming out of UCL is presented in a way that will maximise its chances of achieving media coverage. For instance, the overview that the Media Relations team has of activity across the university enables us to plan ahead, and work strategically to ensure that we present our stories to the right media at the right time. The team is also dedicated to tracking down the most newsworthy stories across UCL and ensuring that these receive the coverage that they deserve.

Case studies of the potential benefits of positive media coverage
Case Study 1
Grant Museum move
In March 2010 the UCL Grant Museum of Zoology reopened in a new venue, the Thomas Lewis Room in the Rockefeller building.
The team at the Grant Museum approached UCL Media Relations and UCL Communications team early on in their eight month move. They wanted publicity to target key audiences, specifically, Londoners who might visit the museum, the UCL community, the museum and natural history industry, and some technology publications who could showcase their new iPad research which was carried out in conjuction with the UCL Centre for Advanced Spacial Analysis and the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities.
Ahead of the official launch of the Grant Museum, UCL Media Relations drafted a press release and UCL Communications put together a slide show of images documenting the Museum's move. Some images of the museum were also made available on the UCL news flickr account.
The press release generated national and London-wide coverage including the Evening Standard, Time Out, New Scientist, Wired, BBC News Online, BBC London (TV), the Guardian, the Independent, Nature News, the Daily Telegraph and various museums journals and websites. Coverage and information about the reopening was also tweeted from @uclnews and @UCLMuseums.
Jack Ashby, Learning and Access Manager at the Grant Museum, said: "The Museum reopening was covered by most of the major news outlets and we thrilled with the interest that Media Relations generated. Many of the stories reported unusual and interesting aspects of the move, and good relationships have been started up with members of the press.
"The press coverage has increased interest in all aspects of our services, from day-to-day public visitors and people coming to events, to academics from across the world who had never heard of the Museum and are now coming to use our collection in their teaching and research."
Case Study 2
Voicebox transplant
Medial research stories often involve a number of universities, hospitals and other interested parties such as funding bodies. UCL Media Relations are experienced in working with multiple organisations to plan for high profile stories and highlight the role UCL scientists have played.
In January 2011, Professor Martin Birchall (UCL Ear Institute) was part of an international surgical team who announced that they had carried out an operation to restore the voice of a US woman who had been unable to speak for more than a decade.
The team replaced the larynx (voicebox), thyroid gland and trachea (windpipe) in the 52-year-old woman, who had lost her ability to speak and breathe on her own. The 18-hour operation was one of the most complex transplant surgeries ever performed.
The announcement was made at UC Davis in California at a media briefing attended by Professor Birchall. An interview with him was filmed in advance by UCL Communications and edited together with footage of the patient. We then worked to highlight his role in the operation to the UK media.
The story attracted significant media coverage worldwide, and the UCL video was used by a number of media outlets. UK media highlights included:
BBC News Online, The Guardian, New Scientist, Daily Telegraph, Sky News, ITN News, Daily Mirror, PA, The Times, Daily Mail, Metro
Professor Birchall said: "The story got a huge amount of coverage all over the world. I was very grateful for the support of UCL Media Relations in terms of promoting this story and co-ordinating interest and requests from UK media."
Case Study 3
In April 2011 Dr Ian Eames (UCL Mechanical Engineering) had a paper accepted by Mathematics Today, the membership magazine of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications.
The paper explained why individual tattoos move with time and showed how Dr Eames created a mathematical model capable of estimating the movement of ink particles in the body. With more than one third of 18-25 year olds in the USA sporting at least one tattoo, and body art generally increasing in popularity around the world, it was clear that a significant number of people would be interested in the possibility of seeing what their chosen design could look like in the future.
UCL Media Relations worked to disseminate the story to the media and then enabled journalists to have specific tattoo photographs run through the modelling process.
The press release generated extensive coverage in The Guardian, New Scientist, Financial Times, Daily Mail and The Sun, along with extensive overseas coverage including The Times of India and China Daily.
Dr Ian Eames said: "I thought the timing of the journal's publication was going to pose a problem because the paper appeared during the Easter vacation. Fortunately it made no difference to the UCL Media Relations team who were still able to make sure the news got to the press and were then able to support me by coordinating all interview and picture requests."
1.2 When should you contact the Media Relations team?

There are a number of different circumstances when you should contact Media Relations. These might include:

• You have findings from a research project that could be of interest to the media or a paper appearing in one of the scientific journals
• You are planning a conference or are making a speech of potential media interest
• You wish to explore the possibility of media training as you may be called upon to give interviews
• Your department or faculty wishes to mark a key date (a new building, an anniversary, a book or report launch, etc)
• You wish to explore how your department or institution could raise its media profile, with a specific end in sight (attracting students or staff, fundraising, raising public awareness of a particular issue)
• You are aware of a potentially negative story that may impact upon your department or UCL more widely
• You simply have general questions about the operation of the Media Relations team, or wish for information on any aspect of the functioning of the media.

If any of these applies, then please let Media Relations know, and we will address how we can best support the activity in question. Initially we will work with you to establish your objectives, as this forms an integral part of planning effective media activity, and will enable us to arrive at an initial assessment of the priority we will give the project in question. At the same time as contacting Media Relations, you may wish also to let your Head of Department and/or Departmental Administrator know – the Media Relations team is in regular contact with Departmental Heads and Administrators with the aim of achieving better coordination of news announcements.

1.3 How soon should you make contact with Media Relations?

If you have a piece of news or an event in mind that you think may have media potential, please contact us as soon as possible. It is almost impossible to contact the Media Relations team too early. For instance, if you have a paper appearing in Nature, it is worth letting us know as soon as the paper is accepted. Nature themselves will notify us a week before publication, but by then it can, in some circumstances, be too late to promote the paper effectively. For instance, the appropriate Media Relations manager may be on leave, or the author may not have thought to leave space in the diary ahead of publication for interviews to take place.

It could be that your story is strong enough to be pitched to TV documentary makers. This is normally an extremely lengthy process, as ideas need to be pitched to film-makers, who in turn then need to be commissioned, before the film itself is made.

In conclusion, the sooner we are aware of a story or event of potential media interest, we can begin to plan an appropriate handling strategy and ensure the story gets the treatment it deserves.

1.4 What can you expect from your contact with the Media Relations team?

The UCL Media Relations Office is a resource available to the entire UCL community. So if you are within UCL and contact us, you can expect a timely response to your query or request for assistance. At the same time, to function effectively, and given the sheer number of departments, institutions and individual academics who are entitled to request our services, the Media Relations team has to prioritise to function successfully. Thus all requests for support will be judged according to two basic criteria:

• The potential for media interest in the project/story
• The extent to which working on the project in question will benefit UCL’s overall strategic objectives, as set out by the Provost and Senior Management Team.

The first criterion is generally established by the team in dialogue with the academic or department who have brought us the story – this area is dealt with in greater detail in Section 3, Who will want my story?

The second criterion – strategic relevance – is arrived at through appropriate consultation with the university’s leadership, notably the Provost and his Senior Management Team, as well as the university’s Communications Office, which has taken the lead on developing the corporate communications strategy that has been endorsed by UCL Council.

A number of key documents will shape and direct our Media Relations strategy:

• The Provost’s White Paper, setting out a ten-year strategy for UCL
• The corporate communications strategy that has been developed by UCL’s Corporate Communications and has been endorsed by UCL Council
• UCL’s Corporate Plan 2006 – 2012

If in any doubt, we would always encourage you to contact the Media Relations team as early as possible with anything that you feel may attract media attention. After assessing your story we will provide you with our view of the strength of the story, how much time we will give it and how we will work with you to promote it.

1.5 What do the Media Relations team do on a typical day?

A typical day for a member of the Media Relations team will probably include:

• Monitoring coverage of UCL across the media, and looking through the media to keep abreast of all issues of potential relevance to UCL (HE reports, Universities UK communications, government announcements etc)
• Drafting a press notice to highlight the work of a UCL academic
• Responding to journalists asking to be put in touch with a UCL expert for a particular programme or article
• Attending meetings with UCL academics, Heads of Departments or Deans to advise on media activity
• Accompanying a camera crew coming in to interview someone at UCL
• Liaising with colleagues in the Communications Office to share information on future stories
• Monitoring UCL’s profile on social media, including blogs, twitter and facebook.

Media relations and Communications

2.1 How do Media Relations and Communications work together?

The Media Relations and Communications teams are two constituent parts of corporate relations, based within the Communications and Marketing Office, and between them are responsible for maintaining and raising UCL’s public profile.

The Media Relations team is concerned purely with obtaining the best possible coverage for UCL in the external media. Our primary role is providing the interface between the university and news media, offering good stories that support UCL’s strategic objectives to the appropriate publication, programme, website or social media outlet.

The Communications team is primarily engaged in writing news for UCL News, which is filtered through to numerous websites across UCL. They also produce audiovisual material to support UCL’s corporate communications themes, available on UCL’s audio and video page, UCL’s channel on YouTube, and UCL on iTunes U. The team produces printed publications including the UCL Annual Review, About UCL  and the alumni magazine UCL People. They can also advise staff and departments on effective printed and electronic communications materials.

Activities of the Communications team are aimed at a range of internal and external audiences. Similarly to the Media Relations team, this team assesses story suggestions according to agreed institutional priorities and target audiences. Both teams regularly share the suggestions they have received, and discuss the best way forward on a case-by-case basis.

2.2 Whom should you contact first?

If you have a story idea, or wish to discuss enhancing the profile of your department, it is probably worth contacting both Communications and Media Relations in the first instance, and we will then informally discuss your requirements before formulating our response.

The two teams are in regular contact with a view to agreeing communications priorities jointly, exchanging story suggestions, and ensuring that these receive the best possible profile. The teams also meet formally on a weekly basis. As a general rule it is worthwhile contacting both teams if you have an event you wish to promote or a story to offer, although in practice these will in any case find their way from one team to the other given the close nature of our working relations.

3 Who will want my story?

3.1 How do you know if you have a good story?

Using external media to reach an audience is potentially a very profitable exercise. But it is important to remember that the media are not in existence for the purpose of conveying the information that you need to impart. Their primary and abiding purpose is to inform and entertain their desired viewers and/or readers with information that they believe their audience will find interesting. If promotion of an organisation occurs as a by-product, that is ok, but it is not their job to provide corporate information.

This reality is one of the most frequently misunderstood aspects of the work of Media Relations. To be successful in our mission of promoting UCL, we need to take an outsider’s view of every project or story being proposed. It is ultimately bad for our credibility if we are continuously offering journalists stories that will not meet their own criteria of informing and entertaining their readers or viewers.

In working with you to arrive at an assessment of your proposal, we will naturally explore alternatives if it does not have the right profile for the external media. It could be that it is something of specific interest to the UCL community, in which case we would put you in touch with our colleagues in Communications. It could be, if you are seeking to reach an extremely narrow segment of the population, that a direct mailing could be the solution. We will seek to provide appropriate advice for every situation.

3.2 Is it news?

Naturally enough, many of the proposals that come to Media Relations are presented to us with a view to publication in the national newspapers or broadcast media, arguably the most competitive arena in which to place stories. You will get a pretty good idea of the viability of your proposal for this media by asking the following questions about it, or exploring these with Media Relations at the outset:

• Is it about something that has yet to happen? – Newspapers generally cover stories either on the day they happen, or the following day. They are unlikely to cover anything older as a news story. This is where an early approach to the Media Relations office can make the difference
• Is this ‘new’ information, i.e. not already in the public domain? (This will usually mean that the information is new)
• Is this something that would interest your neighbour or relative? – How would you explain the story to someone who probably does not have specialist knowledge of the subject? (a variation of this is whether you could explain the story in the time that you are in an elevator with someone). If you can do this relatively easily the chances are that the media too will consider it a ‘good’ story with news potential. If not, it may require a different approach to achieve coverage
• Is your story related to the existing news agenda, and could it potentially piggyback on that?

3.3 How does news selection work?

By and large, news either tends to be bad, focusing on controversy, or offering information that organisations would often prefer was not in the media at all. The most prominent stories in a randomly selected recent copy of The Independent are: a parliamentary report stating that the Allies’ programme to rebuild Afghanistan is in crisis, a sex scandal implicating UN staff in the Congo, continuing bad news for President Bush in Iraq, the report on the failure of the Beagle 2 mission to Mars and a punch-up involving ASLEF union leaders at a barbecue.

As Nigel Hawkes, Ex-Health Editor of The Times, has said: “Stories about things going well are seldom stories. The opposite of a bad press is not a good press – it’s no press at all.”

News selection is always to some extent a subjective business, and even a good story that is well-presented will not guarantee print or broadcast space. This especially applies when a major news story breaks – if it is big enough, editors will drop other items to make the necessary space.

Having said that, if your story is picked up by the independent media, the very fact that is has passed the hurdles of news value and the scepticism of journalists and editors will only enhance its credibility with the target audience. If your story is on BBC TV or in The Times, it’s probably because first, it deserves to be, and second, it has been presented to these media in such a way that they recognise it is newsworthy.

What are the alternatives to news coverage?

The sheer diversity and specialisation of media today, allied to the difficulty of guaranteeing coverage in the mainstream news media, means that the Media Relations team will also work with you to consider other opportunities to achieve coverage for a story.


Newspapers are increasingly laden with specialist sections and supplements, while there are increasing numbers of niche television channels, and it may well be that your story idea or your work would be more appropriately pitched here. Specialist sections in subjects such as health, transport, education abound, and as these are aimed at an audience with a greater depth of interest in that subject, it could be that your story will gain a better hearing for those sections. The story will still need to enthuse the journalist or editor, who will assess it using similar criteria to those set out for news, but there won’t be quite the same time sensitivity, and you are less likely to be definitively bounced if the story isn’t perceived purely as news.

Specialist media
There are plenty of opportunities beyond the national media that we would explore for stories that may not be appropriate to the nationals. These include:

• Trade publications
• Specialist journals
• Regional/local media
• Online media
• Special interest programmes (science, health, etc).

Many of these may not have the reach of national newspapers and TV news, but, as specialists, the audiences they attract may be far more useful to you than the broader sweep offered by the nationals.

Social Media

The Communications and Marketing office are increasingly engaging with social media to promote news from UCL.  Our social media guide gives a good overview of current activity in this area.  Social media is a good way of reaching niche audiences, or those that may be harder to target through traditional news media.


If your story has a particularly strong visual element, video is a great way of telling your story.  Media Relations, collaborating with Communications, has had considerable success in getting videos (which are hosted on our YouTube channel) embedded into online news stories. 
In March 2010, UCL Media Relations promoted a about the discovery of a new species of dinosaur – Linheraptor exquisitus. UCL Communications produced a video interview with Michael which was used for media purposes alongside a widely issued press release. The video, featured on UCL’s homepage and YouTube channel, has received nearly 7,000 views.
The Media Relations team will explore these possibilities with you when you bring a story to our attention. In addition to knowledge gained through experience, we have access to software packages that enable us to compile up-to-date distribution lists of correspondents, publications, websites and specialist programmes according to their areas of interest.

4 Working with the media

4.1 How will the Media Relations team promote my story?

There are many different ways of approaching the media to get a story out there. Following your initial contact with us, we will work up a strategy that is appropriate to your particular story.

One standard method is a press release, worked on jointly by the academic involved and the Media Relations team, and then distributed to appropriate media. This is a frequent accompaniment to a paper being published in a journal. Some journals promote their papers in the media, others provide a more limited service and others don’t do it at all, so the Media Relations team is available to provide the necessary level of support.

A press release is by no means always the best way of promoting a story. Many journalists prefer an exclusive, and, in the right publication, such an exclusive may later be picked up by others. On occasion we may advise a briefing for a number of journalists, or a one-on-one contact with a chosen journalist on a targeted publication. We will think over the options and propose various ideas as part of our service to you.

4.2 To what extent must I make myself available to the media?

Quite simply, the more accessible you are to the media, the more likely it is that you will receive coverage. If a journalist cannot make contact with you easily to discuss your work, they will soon go elsewhere for another story. Generally, if you are not available to take media calls and requests for interviews at the time of release, it is unlikely that we will be able to help you achieve maximum exposure for your story.

For instance, if we are working to gain coverage for a paper at a conference, it will help the coverage if you remain easily contactable to pick up on interest. If you are abroad for the week leading up to publication with your mobile switched off, you won’t get the coverage that you might expect if you are readily accessible and flexible. If you are unable to be around at the time of publication, with advance preparation we can work around this, for instance by offering interviews well ahead to trusted journalists who won’t break the embargo. (This is another reason why early communication with the Media Relations team is important.)

4.3 What is Find an Expert and how does it work?

A great way of increasing your and your Department’s visibility across the media is to be included on the UCL Find an Expert system which allows journalists to search online for appropriate academics from UCL. This resource is used by media to locate experts on any given issue that they are covering. If you wish to be included in the database, please go to the website to fill out your profile or contact us for more information.

4.4 What if journalists wish to speak to me outside office hours?

The same principle set out in Section 4.2 applies in the same way to calls outside normal office hours. Academics – and universities – with a reputation for returning calls and being accessible will receive more coverage than those who do not.

The UCL Media Relations Office runs an out-of-hours service for media, who will on occasion come to us in evenings and at weekends looking for an appropriate expert. (Journalists may also contact us seeking to contact a specific individual whom they have earmarked through the Find an Expert system.) We hold a list of out of hours contact numbers for key UCL spokespeople, and are constantly adding names and areas of specialities to this list. If you would like to be added to this, please contact us with your details or fill out your profile via our web pages. Journalists calling out of hours are often struggling to find an appropriate expert, so this can be a good opportunity to get into the media if you are interested in doing this.

The UCL Media Relations team never gives home or mobile numbers to journalists without specific authorisation from that person.

If you are approached directly by the media and require support or advice, the Media Relations team can be contacted out of hours – to obtain the relevant number either check on the media pages on the website, or call the daytime number, from where you will be directed to the out-of-hours number.

4.5 Do you provide media training?

Giving an interview or speaking at a press briefing can be daunting, and the Media Relations team is able to provide support to help address this.

For instance, we are happy to provide basic training for a member of UCL staff who would find an informal, targeted session on one particular area to be useful. For instance, if you have agreed to be interviewed by a journalist, we are able to talk through the issues that might arise, and if considered useful, stage a mock interview. This is tailored according to whether the interview is for TV, radio or print media, as these are all very different in make-up and requirement.

For more in-depth training, we can also recommend a range of courses tailored to different aspects of working with media. Please ask us for our information pack.

4.6 What if the media contact me asking about a negative story?

The principle that the Media Relations team should be contacted as soon as possible applies just as much to potential bad news stories. Ideally, we should be informed before the story hits the media, to give us time to formulate any necessary response. So as soon as you feel that there is a story that may hit the media with a potentially negative impact for UCL, you need to involve the Media Relations team at the earliest possible opportunity. The team is experienced in crisis management, and will be able to advise on how best any given situation should be handled.

4.7 What are the guidelines on talking to the media?
Statements and comments to the media about the university’s policies or position on any issue should only be made through the Provost or his appointed spokesperson. Anybody approached for a comment on UCL’s position on any such issue should refer the caller to the Media Relations team.
The Media Relations team has no desire or remit to restrict the regular daily exchange between UCL academics and the media. UCL experts are in regular demand, and the university’s visibility in the media through its experts is a valuable addition to its prestige. We would welcome any informal discussion with media friendly experts ahead of any activity, as it would help us identify good spokespeople for future opportunities which we can then route in the right direction, as well as identify journalists along with their areas of expertise.

5.1 What if my question isn’t answered here?

This is only intended as a basic guide to how the media works, and we will add information in an ongoing basis, including in response to any needs drawn to our attention by people within UCL. Please feel free to contact one of the UCL Media Relations team on the details set out below if you need more information or advice.


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