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Faculty Experts & Media: “What’s In It For Me?”

The volume of major news stories in the past few weeks has been staggering. Headlines in recent days have included landmark Supreme Court decisions, Edward Snowden’s intelligence leaks, political unrest in Egypt, the George Zimmerman trial, new climate change initiatives announced by President Obama, deadly wildfires, a plane crash in San Francisco, and a train accident in Canada, among many others.
Chances are there’s an expert on your campus that has in-depth knowledge of these stories or related issues. But they’re not always eager to talk about it with the media. They’re busy. They’re skeptical of media who they say only scratch the surface of a story and don’t dig deep enough. They see only the risks in talking with a reporter (for example, being misquoted), and none of the benefits.
But when you have the perfect expert on your campus for a breaking news story or a trend that’s being covered, it’s your job to help them understand what positive media coverage can mean for them. With all the responsibilities today’s faculty members face, it’s not always easy to convince people to add another item to their to-do list. That’s why it’s important to use every opportunity you can before a news event happens, so you (and your expert) are ready—and willing—when a story breaks.
As you begin to reach out to faculty whose research is most likely to be pertinent to journalists, start by recognizing their demanding schedules and assure them you’ll make the process as efficient as possible.
Then make it clear what’s in it for them:

  • increased understanding of their scholarship and area of expertise
  • increased audience for their work (students, research, teaching, grants)
  • enhanced national reputation (for them, their department and the college/university)
  • increased awareness of the institution by prospective students interested in their field

Good luck pitching! If you have any success changing minds or attitudes with experts who previously tended to decline media interviews, we’d love to hear your story!