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How to work effectively with broadcasters

Date: 21/09/2018

Hannah Mawdsley on BBC Breakfast

The centenary of the outbreak of the Spanish Flu pandemic provided the perfect opportunity for PhD student Hannah Mawdsley to work with media outlets and present her research directly to many different audiences. Here she outlines her top tips for working effectively with journalists and broadcasters:

Be visible

  1. Make sure you can be found! The media are often time-poor and deadline-focused. There are many ways to be visible to the media.

  2. Twitter is great for historians. Use relevant hashtags to attract relevant followers. See what other historians are doing on there. Once you become more well known, people will tag you in interesting and relevant research, which helps a lot with your own research! Twitter is also good at generating invitations to speak at institutions - through Twitter I’ve been invited to speak at The National Archives and various museums.

  3. Blogs/publishing in online magazines gets your name and specialism out there, and - importantly - Googleable.

  4. Use your networks - the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) are keen to promote your research to a wider audience. Make sure they know who you are and what you’re about. Find out if there are any pitching workshops relevant to your field, and try to present. The AHRC very helpfully invited me to a key one at the Wellcome Trust.

  5. Find new networks. Use other networks that the media use, like womenalsoknowhistory.com or equivalents.

  6. Media appearances will generate more media appearances!

  7. Pitch article ideas - ask your institution press office or the AHRC for help with this. This is particularly relevant if your topic relates to current or future events.

Find your hook

  1. Both the media and museums often link content to anniversaries (known as a 'hook') so it is useful to be aware of any upcoming anniversaries relevant to you and use them to promote your work if necessary.

  2. Don’t neglect the personal narratives - these are also effective hooks. The media like stories of individuals that will resonate with their audiences. Social and cultural histories are particularly suited to this. Make it personal to the public. Ask: why should they care?

The benefits to you

  1. Repeating your subject over and over is great for making sure you know the bones of your topic inside out!

  2. For some projects, like mine, media work is actually relevant to my thesis topic, so it gives access to different viewpoints and even interviewees. It can also be hugely rewarding and formative for your project, and even end up changing or redirecting your research approach.

  3. ‘Impact’! Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships are created projects – your supervisors will have made sure your topic can have significant impact when putting it together. Brainstorm with them. And get involved if you can with their engagement stuff - it all raises your profile.

  4. Don’t be afraid to ask if there is a fee!

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