My most recent opinion article on the potential for human burials to save threatened species has received more media coverage than I am used to*. In this post I will talk about what I did to get the word out and how it differed from what I did in the past.
- I contacted my university’s communication & marketing department when the paper made it to the minor revision stage. I included a short 3 paragraph story about the article. They did a wonderful job modifying it into a press release and even included a video interview of me talking about the paper in a local cemetery. They uploaded the press release in a closed database prior to publication. Basically, journalists agree not to publish their stories before the paper actually comes out in exchange to see press releases ahead of time. For previous papers, I contacted the communications team well after the paper made it online. They sometimes turned it into a press release, but by then the article looked old. In addition, the marketing department had a lot of time to work with, which enabled them to shoot the creative cemetery video.
- I cold-emailed science journalists individually before the paper came out. This led to a piece in the Pacific Standard. While not all journalists responded positively, even the ones who declined often provided me with more direct contact information, so I could reach them more quickly in the future. Some of the journalists wished that they received my email earlier, citing that 36 hours prior to the paper’s release was more last minute than they usually like (especially given USA/Australia time-zone issues).
- I baked a cake that depicts the paper topic (from a box mix). This reached a whole different audience, even making it onto the baking section of Reddit. Several news stories included the cake in their pieces. My article got published the same day as our department morning tea, so I thought this might be a fun way to introduce the paper to my colleagues. I had no idea that this would add to the media coverage.
The big moral of the story is to contact people well in advance of the article being published. There are many science stories competing for attention. See Meghan Duffy’s post on pitching a science opinion piece to different audiences, and the ensuing comments. While journalists want good stories, you need to make it easy for them, otherwise they will simply choose to write about something else. If the story seems old that is an added barrier. All of this publicity-chasing took a lot of work, but in the end I think it was worth it. I have received so many emails from everyday people thanking me for writing about the topic,. I am very happy I got the word out about Conservation Burials. It is a topic very dear to my heart.
*Coverage included: New Scientist, IFLscience, Australian Newspapers, radio, and podcasts