Prepared for publicity

Prepared for publicity

Prepared for publicity The University of Groningen and publicity The University of Groningen and its staff and students are often in the news. Acade...

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Prepared for publicity

The University of Groningen and publicity The University of Groningen and its staff and students are often in the news. Academic research and everything related to it generates a lot of publicity – academics make discoveries, they publish books and articles, they are awarded PhDs and prizes, and they are asked for their expert opinion. Administrative staff may also seek publicity, be it for their faculty, a sports club or a student society. In addition, there are many newsworthy events such as conferences, lectures and inaugural lectures. This brochure tells you what to do if you are approached by the media, how to approach the media or your target group, and how the University of Groningen press officers can help.

 Prepared for publicity


The importance of publicity There are two ways of coming to the public eye – the media can seek contact, for example to consult a University academic as an expert for a current issue. However, the University can also seek the contact itself. Then the publicity is the result of a conscious action to attract the attention of the press and the general public, for example for research results or for a conference. When attention is paid to your work, it can be interesting, educational and fun. It is also important in a wider sense: › The University of Groningen has many highly talented academics, and this fact is communicated through publicity. This is a very important tool for competing in an international and increasingly competitive academic arena. › Academic repute can further a researcher’s career and attract the attention of new sponsors and employers. › The research school or department as a whole can benefit from publicity. › The public has a right to be informed about the results of academic research in which society invests considerable sums of money. › The university is an open institution that lies at the heart of the community and represents broad social interests. Transparency is an essential part of this role.

The importance of publicity

If the media approaches you

Tips for interviews Good preparation is half the battle, for interviews too. There are considerable differences between newspaper interviews and radio or television interviews. There are a number of points, however, that are always important.

The media may approach you in connection with a press release, an article in a newspaper or journal, or a reference/article on a website. This type of attention is not unexpected and is usually very welcome. However, publicity can also be completely unexpected. An academic, for example, can suddenly be approached by journalists because he or she is an expert in a field that is in the news, or a researcher may suddenly find him or herself in the spotlight after having been awarded a prize. Who is the spokesperson?

Journalists want to get their information preferably by phone. If you are phoned, you should first consider whether you are the right person to answer his or her questions. If not, say so and suggest alternatives. If you do want to say something about the matter, you can either do so immediately or make an appointment for a later call. That has the advantage of giving you time to prepare.

Matters concerning specific policies of the university or a faculty, unit, department, etc., require special atten-

Preparation › Ask in what framework the interview is taking place. Are several people being interviewed? What is your role? › Ask what the journalist wants to know from you and think of some probable questions. Assess whether there are any sensitive sides to the issue and be prepared for them. › Think out what the public may be interested in and what you definitely want to discuss. Make a note of this for yourself and keep a list of keywords to hand. › Outline your ‘message’ for yourself in simple terms (for example the results of your research). › Don’t plan the appointment too rigidly so that an extension is possible. › Make sure you will not be disturbed by colleagues or telephone calls during the interview. › Check whether a photographer or cameraman will be present, so that you can be prepared.

tion when it comes to communication. It is not always clear who has the authority to speak on the university’s behalf, and this can have negative consequences. Make sure you know who the spokesperson is for your department, especially with regard to important and

Care › Remember that there is an area of tension between the academic nuance and the media’s need to focus on ‘exciting’ news. Only make statements that you can substantiate. › Remember that anything you say may be published, even if you say it before or after the actual interview. › Before the interview, think about what to say and what not to say. › Try to limit yourself to the news you want to communicate, and make sure your ‘case’ receives sufficient attention. › Don’t feel obliged to fill in any pauses in the interview. Some journalists deliberately ‘pause’ to try to get you to talk. Don’t be tempted to say something just for the sake of it.

sensitive issues. All university-wide issues will be dealt with by the spokesperson for the Board of the University. 

If the media approaches you

If the media approaches you


Clarity › Adapt your language to your audience. › Avoid jargon and use colloquial speech as much as possible. › Show that you are enthusiastic and committed. If you give a dry presentation of the facts, you run the risk that only some of your information will be used. › Give examples and comparisons. They make the subject matter easier to remember, particularly if it is abstract or technical. › Give the journalist relevant background information, if that is useful for the article. › Are there suitable photos/illustrations? Editorial boards are often short of pictorial material. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words. Agreements › You can ask to see the article in advance to check it for accuracy. N.B. Few journalists will want to agree to such a request and they don’t have to grant it. › Only give a ‘scoop’ if it is in your own interests. › Inform the journalist if there is an information embargo. › Remember to ask for a complimentary copy if you would like one.

You can also approach the media yourself, with the aim of attracting the attention of the ‘wider’ public. There are various channels open to you. Media attention Communicating with the public through the media has many advantages: it is inexpensive, quick and easy. However, the media cannot be controlled and success is not guaranteed. The most important thing is to offer your news in an attractive way (interesting and comprehensible) and to be able to talk about it enthusiastically. How to deal with ‘bad’ news Situations may arise where publicity would not be welcome because the news is negative or could be misinterpreted.

Specifically for radio and TV An interview for the radio or television is always a snapshot. You usually only have one chance, and often not much time either. You should therefore make sure that all other conditions are optimal. › In a studio, the presence of microphones (and/or cameras) can increase the tension. If possible, give the interview in an environment and at a time when you feel comfortable, for example at home or in your office. › Ask in advance whether it will be broadcast live. › You can ask in advance what the first question will be, if this will help you to feel more confident. › Try to prevent intrusive background noises during the recording. › If the interview is being filmed, try to maintain eye contact with the interviewer so that the conversation will appear more natural to the audience. › During your presentation, remember that the camera will register your every move.

If you are looking for publicity

Nevertheless, it is

You should always inform people, such as your colleagues and your superior, when you plan to contact the media. Perhaps it’s a good idea also to inform your faculty press officers and the Communication Office. If you cannot be contacted, the media will often contact them.

How to contact the media Here are some of the ways that you can bring your news to the attention of journalists.

usually better to be the one to break bad news rather than waiting for journalists to get wind of it. You can then control when and how the information is made public, and your openness is also appreci-

Press release Information for the media about a single topic. Press releases are always sent via the University of Groningen Communication Office. They are also posted on the University website; there are links to them on the homepage. The Communication Office edits or writes press releases and selects them on the basis of newsworthiness. A press release may take some time so always contact the Communication Office in good time.

ated. The alternative is to lose control with the information being published incorrectly or in a biased way, with all the attendant consequences. If you are in doubt, consult the University press

Newsletter Weekly digital newsletter for the media from the Communication Office, about various newsworthy topics (research results, major grants, appointments, events). It is mailed to about 500 media addresses. The content of the newsletter is also on the University website. Reporting topics: at least three weeks in advance for the agenda and a week in advance for other news, to the Communication Office.


If the media approaches you

If you are looking for publicity

Other information channels

Opinion In the ‘Opinion’ section of the University homepage and in the Newsletter, an expert University researcher discusses a current social topic. Suggestions/contributions should be sent to the Communication Office.

Universiteitskrant: the University newspaper The University newspaper (UK) is distributed to 26,000 students and 5,500 members of staff. The UK has an independent board of editors which you are welcome to alert to interesting news items. The UK also has special pages and sections for which the board of editors bears no responsibility. You can provide information for them yourself:

Weekly media meeting A meeting with Groningen journalists is held early every Tuesday afternoon, after the Board of the University meeting. Various items are disclosed to the press during these meetings. Suggestions should be sent to the Communication Office by the Friday before at the latest.

› RUG-mededelingen (RUG announcements): messages and announcements for students and staff. Submit via the UK website, › RUG agenda (RUG events diary): weekly overview of all university events that are open to the public. Items can be submitted to the Communication Office. › Extra: biweekly section in the UK, with information for students and staff. Editorial control is in the hands of the Communication Office.

Press conference In exceptional cases only. Please consult the press officers. University of Groningen website In special cases (for example if time is of the essence), a message can be posted on the homepage without it being a press release. Please contact the Communication Office. The faculty websites also provide ample space for news and announcements. Please contact your faculty webmaster. Scoops

Nestor, the electronic learning environment You can post various announcements on Nestor, the electronic learning environment. Please contact the faculty Nestor coordinator.

An ‘exclusive’ or ‘scoop’ gives a journalist or medium the right to be the first to publish your news. You may not

Alumni magazine ‘Broerstraat 5’ The magazine ‘Broerstraat 5’ appears four times a year and is sent to all alumni (ex-students and PhD graduates) and other University relations. The magazine has a circulation of 65,000. Do you have a tip? Contact the editors at

want to grant a scoop if your item is highly newsworthy, as other media often lose interest once the news has been published elsewhere. If your news is ‘less major’

TV programme ‘Adams Appel’ ‘Adams Appel’ is a programme made by the University about science and scientists. It is broadcast every week by TV Noord and TV Drenthe and can be found on the University website ( or Adams Appel chooses a theme each week that is explained from the perspectives of several disciplines. Suggestions? Please contact the Communication Office.

than that, however, it may be useful to alert a local journalist. If the item is successful, the national media might even pick it up. 

If you are looking for publicity

If you are looking for publicity

Kennisdebat Kennisdebat (‘Knowledge Debate’) is a University of Groningen website where academics can go for background information and opinions about current affairs files. See

E-mail In exceptional cases you can send students and/or staff (all or a selection) an e-mail. Please consult the administrators of the network to which your target group is connected. Before you can send an email to all students and/or staff, you must have permission from the Department of Legal Affairs (ABJZ).

Outline A newsletter about innovation and valorization at the University of Groningen. Every quarter, this is sent to contacts in prominent positions in business, politics, government and the university world.

Other university and faculty media There are all kinds of faculty and personnel papers, websites, newsletters and other media at both faculty and departmental level. Please contact the faculty press officers for more information.

Studium Generale Groningen Studium Generale organizes lectures, symposia, discussion meetings, films, etc. If you have an interesting story about academic research, or if you are organizing a lecture or a conference and need assistance or advice, contact Studium Generale,

Communicating directly with the public There are many direct ways (i.e. not via the media) to publicize conferences, exhibitions, etc.

Notice boards You can arrange for posters announcing activities to be distributed to 150 notice boards throughout the University. Please hand them in to the Communication Office folded to A4 size. Embargo Sometimes information is provided under embargo. This means that the press is re-

Communications plan A brief communication plan can be very useful if you want to communicate directly with the public. The plan should answer the following questions: What does the public need to know? What are the target groups? Which communication channels are needed to get the message across? What is the timeframe? What are the rules about using the University house style when creating printed material and/ or a website? Which other parties do I rely on and how much time do they need (for example printers)?

quested not to publish the news before a certain time. This usually happens in the case of a special event that may be ruined if the information leaks out

Means of communication There are many ways of reaching the general public. In addition to websites, e-mail and printed matter (such as posters, flyers, handouts, folders, brochures or advertisements in print media) you might also consider using Nestor, the electronic learning environment, or even traditional notice boards or banners.

beforehand, for example a prize-giving or a decoration ceremony. Only in these special cases will an embargo be respected. Please contact the Communication Office for advice. 10 If you are looking for publicity

If you are looking for publicity


Mediation and support The press officers of the Communication Office can advise you on how to approach the media. They can also draw interesting University-related developments and people to the attention of journalists and producers, or bring them into contact with experts. The Communication Office has a database of addresses of newspapers, websites, journals, broadcasting companies and freelance journalists and can reach them at short notice. Procedure What should you do if you want to make use of the services of the Communication Office press officers?

With organized events, like a conference, please inform the press officers at least three weeks in advance. With unforeseen events (receiving a decoration, for example), please inform the press officers as quickly as possible. Academic events such as PhD ceremonies and inaugural lectures are arranged a long time in advance and the press officers will contact you. 2. Press release A press release is always sent by the Communication Office. The text can be created in two ways: › You write a draft press release yourself. Make sure that your text answers the six essential news questions (who, what, where, when, why and how). Don’t forget to mention any funding sources. The Communication Office press officers will edit the information. They will decide whether to include the information in the newsletter or whether to issue it as a separate press release. › A Communication Office press officer or freelancer will write the press release using the information you provide. The final text is sent back to you for approval.

1. Get in touch You expect or want publicity because something special is about to happen or because you are organizing an event. Contact the Communication Office to discuss how and when the news should be made public.

3. Wait and see Will you be swamped by telephone calls or completely ignored? If you really get a lot of publicity depends not only on the newsworthiness and the presentation, but also on the ‘competition’ from other news. This makes it difficult to predict the response to a press release. Make sure that you (or someone else who knows what’s what, for example with an event) are contactable by the media on the day that the press release is issued.

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Mediation and support


Information and addresses Media training Would you like to know more about dealing with the press and publicity? The Communication Office press officers can advise you about things like customized media training. Keep informed Are you interested in news by and about the University of Groningen? Register for a free subscription to › University press releases and newsletter › RSS feeds Contact Communication Office tel. (050) 363 54 45 fax (050) 363 63 00 [email protected] P.O. Box 72, 9700 AB Groningen, the Netherlands Oude Boteringestraat 44, Groningen This brochure is also available on Telephone numbers of faculty Communication contact persons UMCG Arts Philosophy Theology and Religious Studies Behavioural and Social Sciences Mathematics and Natural Sciences Spatial Sciences Law Economics and Business

(050) 361 22 00 (050) 363 59 09 (050) 363 79 60 (050) 363 55 97 (050) 363 64 19 (050) 363 83 04 (050) 363 88 91 (050) 363 79 38 (050) 363 37 88

Colophon Communication Office University of Groningen February 2010 Design In Ontwerp, Assen Print Zalsman, Groningen Photos Elmer Spaargaren

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