By Emily Head
This year’s Press Officer Training Day was a mammoth undertaking with 120 attendees joining us to learn about creating hype-free coverage, working with social influencers, honing the perfect pitch, and more.
We kicked off with a welcome from our Chair, Claire Hastings, before getting into the statistics session where Robert Cuffe, from the BBC, gave the 101 on what those complicated little p values and confidence intervals really mean, and frequent pitfalls. From there, Emily Head, STEMPRA’s events officer and Media Relations Manager at The Lancet, gave her top tips for what to look out for when assessing a stats story – including framing risk carefully, thinking about what the story means to people affected, and explaining the methods and their limitations.
Next up, we split into parallel sessions learning about how to deliver hype-free coverage, and how to bring engineering and tech stories to life. In the engineering and tech session, we learnt that video multimedia is the most engaging way of sharing engineering stories, while understanding your audiences and ensuring responsible communications present some of most crucial challenges and opportunities in tech communication right now.
In the hype-tackling session, a packed panel explained their work to ensure accurate and hype-free media coverage of statins, pregnancy interventions, and drugs for Alzheimer’s disease.
We were then joined by our biggest panel of journalists for any Press Officer Training Day yet! They imparted their top tips for getting their interest and reminding us that they do read all of our emails, but if the top line isn’t right at the top, then forget it! We heard that some have up to 180,000 unread emails, others won’t cover your press release unless you send the paper alongside it, and all of them want access to your academics immediately, not in six hours.
This was followed by a lunch order that was almost sabotaged by a supermarket that shall remain nameless, but thankfully saved by plucky committee members…
Claire Hastings admirably braved the post-lunch slot, battling the lunch lethargy with her superb pitching masterclass. Attendees devised pitches for a new radiotherapy technique and an initiative to create new sign language signs for complex scientific terms. To end the session, a couple of brave souls volunteered to live-pitch to Vic Gill of the BBC in front of all 120 of us.
We ended the day by learning from a forward-thinking panel about how they’re moving beyond traditional press releases, for instance by working with social media influencers or creating novel storytelling ideas. A highlight was hearing from Adam Koszary, who runs social media for the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading, who presented a fascinating – and very funny – case study showing how one “absolute unit” of a viral tweet has allowed him to build a unique voice and amazing engagement for his organisation’s work on social media.
And after a long day of thinking and discussing, we rounded off the day with a trip to the pub!
We’ve received lots of positive feedback, so wanted to thank those who made time to fill in the form. Thank you also to all of our speakers, and everyone who attended – we look forward to seeing you all next year!