Pitching Your Project or Center

Evaluating Opportunities

Take stock of your communications environment and create a list of short-term and long-term media leads. Short-term leads don't require a lot of time to publish. For example:

  • Submit an article or profile to your institution's newsletter.
  • Post news updates on Facebook, Twitter, and/or your website.
  • Update content of blogs, webinars, podcasts, etc.

Long-term leads take a while to cultivate and range from national media programs such as CNN or the New York Times Magazine to publications on the NSF site to local news stories and editorial pieces.

There are also outreach paths within ATE that can help you spread news. (See: Potential Outreach Paths.) Be sure to take advantage of your project or center's connections and let them help you.

Working with Media

Before you craft a press release or assemble a media kit, consider who you're directing it to: not just the audience for a publication, but also the specific editor, reporter, communications assistant, etc. that you're contacting. Here are some recommendations for putting your best foot forward:

Develop Media Contacts: Working with the media is about building relationships. Media professionals are usually not experts at subjects they cover; they depend on the people they interview and the research they do to provide them with the information they need. If you can establish yourself as an expert in your field and provide reliable information, they'll often return to you for additional news stories or solicit your comments on related news events. If they run a story that you submitted or quote you accurately and positively, be sure to send a thank you note.

Know Your Audience: Who is the audience of the publication you are hoping to publish through? Students, women, Latinos, faculty, industry, the general public? Avoid using complicated vocabulary; an 8th grade reading level is appropriate for most audiences.

Localize Your Story: Relate the story to your community or the audience you are trying to reach. If you have created a press release, try to include quotes from local industry or community leaders. Definitely include any available statistics that make your project or center's work relevant to a broad audience.

Tie Into Current Events: Stay aware of events the media covers both locally and nationally. If media outlets everywhere are closely covering stories about an issue related to your mission or programs, it's a perfect time to send a press release about your project or center and how what you do is relevant. You can also call local media or your campus communications department and offer to serve as a local resource or expert on the issue.

Avoid Jargon and Acronyms: Government institutions are notorious for using too much jargon and too many acronyms. Keep your message accessible by avoiding terms and acronyms that are not general knowledge. Don't take for granted that others will know what you mean. If there is no other term to use then be sure to briefly define its meaning.

Use Good Judgment: Don't inundate your media contacts with story ideas, research findings, or press releases. Generating regular media coverage for your project or center is great; flooding your media contacts with information is not helpful for those relationships.

You've developed a mission statement, key messages, and identified newsworthy stories and news outlets. Now it is time to create a Media Kit so you'll have an information packet ready to go for anyone who wants more information about your organization.