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The public want to know about your research 26.06.15

Last week, I travelled to the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany. This was not just to look at the stars, but to give a talk at the 8th annual workshop on Public Awareness of Research Infrastructures, organised by the European Association of National Research Facilities. Proof was lucky enough to be selected to give a talk in the ‘Communication to Target Groups’ parallel session.

10 principles from Matt

Given that the theme of the conference was public awareness, I thought it would make sense to focus our talk on creating a media relations campaign which targets the general public. In comparison to communicating with specialist or scientific groups, trying to engage with a broad and diverse group like the general public can be challenging.  You can splice them into endless sub-categories including age, geography, culture, employment, education… and the list goes on. Each of these sub-groups has different challenges and priorities, so trying to create a media relations campaign which appeals to everyone is a pretty difficult objective to accomplish.

There is hope for engaging this audience, however, because there are topics that unify them all. They are aware of global issues like food shortage, climate change, pollution, water shortage and extinction. Well, most people are aware anyway. You’d have to be hiding under a rock to not be aware of at least a couple of these problems, and most people want to understand what is being done to solve them.

In the end, reaching out and generating coverage for a broad target group like the general public is about identifying a story that they will want to hear about. So if you can communicate how your scientific research is helping to solve a global issue, you will get their attention.  The key is to show real-world application including how your research impacts people’s everyday lives.

In my talk, I covered 10 principles on how to do this, which can be viewed here. They provided an overview of the challenges of identifying the right stories and the realities of liaising with multiple institutions, scientists and press officers to generate press coverage that matters.

This blog is just a snapshot of the talk, so please do get in touch if you have any questions or comments: