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Club melbourne science in public conference media guide 2013

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  • 1. Science in Public Pty Ltd, 82 Hudsons Road (PO Box 2076), Spotswood Vic 3015 Australia www.scienceinpublic.com.au, Follow us @scienceinpublic Club Melbourne Ambassador Program Building a media program into your conference Some of Melbourne’s most successful conferences have made their mark not just on delegates but also on the wider community by actively engaging with the media. The local, national and international media coverage that they’ve generated has also increased the return for Melbourne – reinforcing our reputation as a knowledge city. But a media program will place extra pressures on your committee and delegates. During the 2012 International High Energy Physics Conference the committee and speakers gave more than 130 individual interviews. So should you dive in? What’s involved? Club Melbourne Ambassador Niall Byrne has put together this guide for Ambassadors on why and how to include a media program in your conference. Basic steps to running a conference media program Table of Contents Why have a media program?........................................................................................................................................................... 1 Step 1 – Plan........................................................................................................................................................................................ 2 Step 2 – Story discovery .................................................................................................................................................................. 2 Step 3 – Building the buzz................................................................................................................................................................ 3 Step 4 – Infrastructure...................................................................................................................................................................... 3 Step 5 – Service the demand........................................................................................................................................................... 3 Step 6 – Capture everything ........................................................................................................................................................... 4 More help............................................................................................................................................................................................. 4 Our experience - Case studies....................................................................................................................................................... 4 Why have a media program? Your conference has already consumed a major chunk of your life. Why would you choose complicate things by adding a media program? In our experience, a well-structured media and outreach program can contribute to your conference having a larger and more permanent impact for your community of interest and for your host city. That means you’re reaching a much wider cross-section of your professional group, sharing with them a flavour of the conference. And you’re showcasing the best of your community’s work to a mass audience. If your conference is addressing significant policy issues then a good media and outreach program can even contribute to policy change. However a media program isn’t something that you can just buy in. It’s not like adding a social event. The best media programs grow out of active participation by the conference leadership. And it requires investment. If you’ve already got a strong communication team associated with the conference then they may drive the media program for you. But most stand-alone conferences will need to create a team for the event and budget for that. Several science communication and PR companies offer conference media services. This guide gives a sense of the process we use when planning a conference media program. Bear in mind what a media program won’t achieve. It’s not a marketing program for delegate boosting. That’s a separate activity that your conference organiser will manage. The mass media will usually only be interested in your conference when it’s actually happening.
  • 2. Science in Public Basic steps to running a conference media program page 2 Step 1 – Plan What does the organising committee want to achieve from a media program? Do you want: • news coverage of discoveries or inventions presented at the conference? • discussion of the big issues in your field/profession? • promotion of the characters at the conference – the leaders and others with life stories to share? Be sure it’s compelling, new, unique, or particularly relevant and remember that what excites you may not be of interest to a mass audience – though equally, what you regard as old-hat may be new and exciting to the wider community. For example, one of the biggest stories from the 2011 International Botanical Congress was that botanists were about to step away from requiring the use of Latin to describe new species. This, and a debate about whether South Africa or Australia is the true home of Acacia, helped make the conference accessible. What’s the scale of what you want to achieve? Are you aiming for: • a social media presence only? • a local focus, looking to Melbourne newspapers, TV and radio? • national coverage across the media including special groups such as the nation’s farming media? • the Asia-Pacific region (in which case Radio Australia will be an important ally)? • or are you trying to reach the world’s media? How are you going to pay for it? The very simplest program might involve half a dozen high-impact interviews with one or two selected speakers and no on-site media room. It could cost as little as $3,000 to $7,000. A conference generating 20 or more stories and a hundred or more media reports would need a media room on-site with staff, and a significant story search and preparation phase. Expect to budget from $20,000. A very large international conference may involve rolling briefings, a media centre equipped with TV and radio studio facilities and operating 24 hours a day during the conference. Expect your budget to be well in excess of $100,000. But don’t panic about the money. For small media programs you may be able to access your host organisations’ media teams. For large conferences you will need a dedicated team. You can’t rely on someone to just add it to their existing duties. But media programs are often an attractive extra to certain sponsors such as government agencies who may be keen to see your delegates’ ideas and issues reach a wider audience. Step 2 – Story discovery We follow a very simple process for story discovery that generates a priority list for topics and builds a buzz and expectation amongst the speakers. 1. We ask the members of the key conference committees to identify the strongest stories and speakers. 2. We write to all the speakers and ask them if they want to play. 3. We review the speaker list and abstracts with the help of Professor Google. It takes time but we end up with a nice Venn diagram with our priority stories in the middle. Importantly, it means we don’t waste our time attempting to chase a speaker who has no interest in the press and flies out on the last day, or gives their paper then goes shopping.
  • 3. Science in Public Basic steps to running a conference media program page 3 Step 3 – Building the buzz For larger conferences, you’ll want to start briefing relevant journalists up to three months in advance. That gives media with a long lead time, such as magazines, the chance to plan their coverage and could lead to the ABC committing to a live radio broadcast from your event. If some of your sessions are publicly accessible, there may be an opportunity to broadcast of all or part of a session in the ABC’s Big Ideas programs on TV and radio. Bear in mind the compromises implicit in organising a session to suit broadcast media. If Q and A buy into your event, they’re going to run the session their way. For the 2003 International Genetics Congress and the 2010 UN Advancing Global Health conference the conference director met with dozens of journalists around the country as part of building up the buzz and encouraging their engagement with the conference stories. You’ll also want to engage with partner organisations, encouraging them to issue their own releases and leverage the event. During the event, social media plays an important role in broadening the conversation beyond the delegates at your conference. Step 4 – Infrastructure Depending on the scale of your conference you’ll need: • a suitable media work room – near the high traffic spaces at the conference, visible to delegates, and equipped with landlines, reliable broadband, mobile phone access and other basic services; • quiet spaces for interviews. For the largest conferences you may even create sound booths or studios • media briefing rooms – for the UN Advancing Global Health conference we used two rooms running in parallel; • skilled staff, volunteers and one or two members of the organising committee with authority to approve media releases and act as spokespeople for the conference. A small conference may have one staff member and a couple of volunteers. The 2003 Genetics Congress had seven media staff and twenty volunteers; and • a small team dedicated to social media. We’re writing a specification sheet for media events at the Melbourne Convention Centre which is available on request. The ‘official press room’ at the conference is not, in our experience, a suitable space. It’s too far from the action. You’ll issue stories through your organisation’s usual channels, which may include services such as: • AAP Medianet • Eurekalert • ResearchSEA • Direct email • Twitter • Pitching directly to journalists Larger conferences may also have a daily heads-up for journalists. Consider also doing this online. Step 5 – Service the demand It’s critical that you rapidly service the demand. There’s no point in investing in a media program and then missing out on interviews because no-one was available at 6.30 am for Red Symons, ABC AM or the BBC. The media team will need access to all speaker details – email, mobiles, travel dates and hotel bookings – so they can find the talent.
  • 4. Science in Public Basic steps to running a conference media program page 4 Bring your delegates along by sharing stories on boards in the foyer, on social media, and on the screens just before sessions start. Step 6 – Capture everything You don’t want to just run a successful media program; you want to be seen to have run a successful media program by sharing the results with delegates. We recommend: • tracking all media and social media stories; • retweeting links to major stories; • sharing the results with delegates via a noticeboard full of media clips in the foyer or exhibition space; • summarising the media coverage in the closing session; • thanking delegates who go beyond the call of duty in meeting the needs of the media; and • sharing the results post-event with your committee, stakeholders and sponsors. More help Turn to the professionals for help. Your organisation’s media officer can be a great resource. They can help you prepare, tell you about the journalists, write press releases and proactively get your message out. You can also call on communication companies like Science in Public, who specialise in talking about science to the public, the media and government. Our experience - Case studies Evolution – the Festival In February 2009 we worked on an international evolution conference in Melbourne marking the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. It opened the day after Black Saturday and we immediately scaled back the media program. Nonetheless, we had been creating awareness beforehand and the conference generated over 69 media mentions. Nearly 5,000 people attended a series of public lectures and events. The preparatory work led to wide feature coverage including more than four hours of national/major metro radio interviews and six feature stories in national or major metro newspapers. Highlights included: • interviews with Chris Darwin by Triple J, ABC Canberra, ABC Melbourne, The Age, the SMH, SYN youth radio and others; • interviews with Michael Ruse by Classic FM, Fran Kelly, ABC International TV, ABC Melbourne, ABC Book Report, ABC RN Philosophers’ Zone, the SMH and others; • interviews with Steve Jones by ABC Sydney, RN Life Matters, Fran Kelly, Science Show, the SMH and others; • features in The Age on Darwin and religion, and the evolution dinner; two features in the SMH on aspects of the Darwin anniversary; two features in the Australian on Darwin and evolution; • a substantial article in the Financial Review on evolutionary psychology, consumerism and the global financial crisis; • a one hour special edition of All in the Mind and the Philosopher’s Zone (ABC Radio National) http://www.abc.net.au/rn/allinthemind/stories/2009/2489012.htm • three full-page curriculum-based stories in the Herald-Sun’s Learn supplement.
  • 5. Science in Public Basic steps to running a conference media program page 5 63rd UN DPI NGO conference – Advance Global Health The 63rd UN Department of Public Information (DPI) NGO conference brought 2,000 people representing 350 non-governmental organisations to Australia to discuss global health and the Millennium Goals. Science in Public delivered a media program in collaboration with the UN DPI media officer. The media results included: • interactions with 150 accredited journalists • daily coverage on national television and radio via the ABC, SBS and Channel Ten • daily coverage on ABC’s international television and radio networks in the Asia Pacific, including more than 30 interviews with conference delegates and three hours of live outside broadcast from the conference. • a dozen stories by Australia’s national news agency, AAP • three pages of feature coverage in The Age • wide print, radio and online coverage with nearly 300 stories monitored; and • a media website with 60 media releases including 40 from NGOs and extensive media resources including webcasts and 1,000 photos. • The social networking results included: • a conference and public program website with integrated Twitter, Facebook and Flickr feeds that attracted about 1,000 unique visitors; • a Twitter and Facebook campaign that made over a million impressions reaching nearly 100,000 people with tweets from hundreds of people; and • immediate interaction with conference delegates tweeting out of the conference during sessions. Key components of the media program A media strategy was developed by Science in Public working with the UN DPI and the Australian United National Information Centre (UNIC). The plan established streams or channels of activity each with clear approval processes for UN releases, conference releases and NGO releases. This gave the local organisers the freedom to create a local media team and a website that complemented the UN DPI’s website. Australian journalists were encouraged to report the conference by a pre-conference outreach program that involved the conference team meeting with key media organisations in Sydney and Melbourne. The media facilities included space for 100 journalists and two briefing rooms – one for conference media conferences, the other available for booking by NGOs – as well as reliable wired and wireless access. The media team included: • For the UN - Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Information Officer, NGO relations assisted by the Australian UNIC. • For the local conference organisers: o traditional media – six staff and 15 volunteers – led by Niall Byrne, and supported by a number of NGOs; o social networking – four staff and seven volunteers – led by Wayn Wong and Patrick Ip; and o a student journalism program. The program included regular media briefings on the conference, interspersed with NGO media briefings. The media web pages are at http://makinghealthglobal.com.au/media
  • 6. Science in Public Basic steps to running a conference media program page 6 Some other conferences 19th International Congress of Genetics – 3,500 delegates, 6 Nobel Laureates, 120 accredited media, 2 hours of national television, 15 hours of radio features and talk, at least 10 pages in the Age and thousands of radio, print and online stories. World Conference of Science Journalists – 620 delegates including 300+ working journalists from 50 countries – Science in Public led the bidding team and the conference team. Delegates included the editors in chief of Nature and Scientific American and the science editors of the Economist, BBC TV News, Asahi Shimbun, the Financial Times, the Toronto Star and over 100 journalists from developing countries. 2012 Australian Institute of Physics biennial congress – small media program with a small presence onsite. We provided some pre-publicity and produced daily alerts which you can read online: • Goodbye twinkle, hello stars: http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/media-releases/lasersintospace • Seeing stealth bombers and freeing mobile networks: http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/aip/bombersalgaephysics • Accurate time with light and designing the NBN: http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/media- releases/timeplasmaandnbn ICONN 2010 – international nanotechnology conference held in Sydney. We ran the media room and facilitated three public events in association with the conference: • a public forum held by the National Enabling Technology team from Innovation; • a lunch at Macquarie Bank for media and business leaders; and • talks to dozens of NSW schools via the NSW schools virtual classroom facility. You can read the media alerts and stories at www.scienceinpublic.com/blog/category/iconn World Congress of Science and Factual Producers – over 600 science and factual television commissioners, producers and broadcasters, brought to Melbourne as the result of a campaign driven by Science in Public. Niall Byrne, niall@scienceinpublic.com.au, www.scienceinpublic.com.au