Introduction The aim of the UCL Media Relations Office is to

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Introduction The aim of the UCL Media Relations Office is to Powered By Docstoc

The aim of the UCL Media Relations Office is to achieve the best possible media
profile for UCL across the range of external media. We work to achieve this in close
collaboration with staff at all levels across the university.

This guide is intended to answer some of the most frequent questions posed to us by
the university’s academics and staff, and explain how UCL people can best use the
resource that is the Media Relations Office. Please feel free to enter into direct
communication with us if you require more information, are unclear on any point, or if
you would like to come and visit us and see how we work in practice. We are also
happy to come out and visit any part of UCL and explain in more detail how we work.


1. Basics
1.1    Why does UCL have a Media Relations team?
1.2    When should you contact the Media Relations team?
1.3    How soon should you make contact with the Media Relations team?
1.4    What can you expect from your contact with the Media Relations team?
1.5    What do the Media Relations team do on a typical day?

2. MR and Communications
2.1    How do the Media Relations and Communications teams work together?
2.2    Which team should you contact first?

3. Who will want my story?
3.1   How do you know if your announcement is a story?
3.2   Is it news?
3.3   How does news selection work?
3.4   What are the alternatives to news coverage?

Working with the media
4.1 How will the Media Relations team promote my story?
4.2   To what extent must I make myself available to the media?
4.3   What is UCL Experts and how does it work?
4.4   What if journalists wish to speak to me outside office hours?
4.5   Do you provide media training?
4.6   What if the media contact me with a bad news story?
4.7   What are the guidelines on talking to the media?

And finally…
5.1    What if my question isn’t answered here?
5.2    Whom should I contact in the Media Relations team?
1.1 Why does UCL have a Media Relations team?

UCL has a Media Relations office because the University recognises that a positive
media profile is vital to UCL’s reputation with the wider world and to enabling it to
maintain and enhance its status as one of the world’s leading universities. It also
recognises that this activity is most likely to be successful when co-ordinated by a
team of professionals used to working with the media and with an understanding of
the needs, priorities and ways of working of both UCL and the media.

A positive media profile has a number of potential tangible benefits:

   •   Raising of income, whether for research or other projects
   •   Recruitment of students and academics, both in the UK and internationally
   •   Contribution to the wider world’s understanding of the subjects in which UCL
       experts frequently lead their field
   •   Reinforcing the view of external stakeholders and the wider public that the
       institution is accountable, transparent, and the source of much valuable work
   •   Providing recognition for the work that goes on at UCL, and giving staff,
       students and alumni a warm glow of satisfaction
   •   When negative stories emerge, ensuring these are seen as isolated incidents
       emanating from what is, primarily, a highly-regarded institution.

The Media Relations team can work to enhance the public profile of UCL and its
staff, and use its specialist knowledge to ensure information coming out of UCL is
presented in a way that will maximise its chances of achieving media coverage. For
instance, the overview that the Media Relations team has of activity across the
university enables us to plan ahead, and work strategically to ensure that we present
our stories to the right media at the right time. The team is also dedicated to tracking
down the most newsworthy stories across UCL and ensuring that these receive the
coverage that they deserve.

Case studies of the potential benefits of positive media coverage

Case Study 1


                    In March 2010, UCL Media Relations promoted a story based on
                    a paper in the journal Zootaxa about the discovery of a new
                    species of dinosaur – Linheraptor exquisitus.

                    A relative of the famous Velociraptor, it was discovered in Inner
                    Mongolia by two PhD students, Michael Pittman (UCL Earth
                    Sciences) and Jonah Choiniere from George Washington
                    University (GWU). They found the dinosaur sticking out of a cliff
                    face during a field project in Inner Mongolia, China.
UCL Communications produced a video interview with Michael which was used for
media purposes alongside a widely issued press release. The video, featured on
UCL’s homepage and YouTube channel, has received nearly 5,000 views.

The story attracted worldwide media coverage, with highlights including:

BBC News Online, GMTV (ITV), BBC London Breakfast News, ‘London Today’
(ITV), Nature News, The Mail on Sunday, The Sun, Press Association, Yorkshire
Post, Irish Independent, Xinhua News Service

Michael, UCL Earth Sciences, said: “Finding Linheraptor was an amazing experience
and its important impact on my field is great. However, publicising the find was a fun
ride because it was nice seeing the public show so much interest in work that I love
very much.

“Clare Ryan and her colleagues at the UCL media office did a fantastic job ensuring
that any information on the find was accessible to media teams around the world.
Thanks for bringing Linheraptor to the world stage!”

Case Study 2

Law Code

In January 2010, UCL Media Relations promoted a story about UCL historians who
have discovered part of an ancient Roman law code previously thought to have been
lost forever.

Simon Corcoran and Benet Salway (UCL History) made the breakthrough after
piecing together 17 fragments of previously incomprehensible parchment. The
fragments were being studied at UCL as part of the Arts & Humanities Research
Council-funded ‘Projet Volterra’ – a ten-year study of Roman law in its full social,
legal and political context.

                                    Corcoran and Salway found that the text belonged
                                    to the Codex Gregorianus, or Gregorian Code, a
                                    collection of laws by emperors from Hadrian (AD
                                    117-138) to Diocletian (AD 284-305), which was
                                    published circa AD 300. Little was known about
                                    the codex’s original form and there were, until
                                    now, no known copies in existence.

                                  The story attracted national and international print
and online media coverage, with highlights including:

The Guardian, The Independent, Evening Standard, Hindustan Times, Asian
News international

Case Study 3


In January 2010, UCL Media Relations promoted new research from the UCL
Institute of Ophthalmology that suggested a simple and inexpensive eye test could
aid detection and diagnosis of major neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s at an
earlier stage than is currently possible.

The research, led by Professors Francesca Cordeiro and Stephen Moss and
published in Cell Death & Disease, demonstrated a new technique that enables
retinal, and therefore brain cell death, to be directly measured in real time.

                       It is thought that the method, demonstrated in an animal model,
                       could refine diagnosis of neurodegenerative disorders, help
                       track disease progress and potentially aid the assessment and
                       development of new treatments.

                       This research story attracted wide national and international
                       media coverage, with highlights including:

BBC News Online, New Scientist, The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, Daily
Mirror, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio Five Live, BBC World Service, ITV News, The

1.2 When should you contact the Media Relations team?

There are a number of different circumstances when you should contact Media
Relations. These might include:

    •   You have findings from a research project that could be of interest to the
        media or a paper appearing in one of the scientific journals
    •   You are planning a conference or are making a speech of potential media
    •   You wish to explore the possibility of media training as you may be called
        upon to give interviews
    •   Your department or faculty wishes to mark a key date (a new building, an
        anniversary, a book or report launch, etc)
    •   You wish to explore how your department or institution could raise its media
        profile, with a specific end in sight (attracting students or staff, fundraising,
        raising public awareness of a particular issue)
    •   You are aware of a potentially negative story that may impact upon your
        department or UCL more widely
    •   You simply have general questions about the operation of the Media
        Relations team, or wish for information on any aspect of the functioning of the

If any of these applies, then please let Media Relations know, and we will address
how we can best support the activity in question. Initially we will work with you to
establish your objectives, as this forms an integral part of planning effective media
activity, and will enable us to arrive at an initial assessment of the priority we will give
the project in question. At the same time as contacting Media Relations, you may
wish also to let your Head of Department and/or Departmental Administrator know –
the Media Relations team is in regular contact with Departmental Heads and
Administrators with the aim of achieving better coordination of news announcements.
1.3 How soon should you make contact with Media Relations?

If you have a piece of news or an event in mind that you think may have media
potential, please contact us as soon as possible. It is almost impossible to contact
the Media Relations team too early. For instance, if you have a paper appearing in
Nature, it is worth letting us know as soon as the paper is accepted. Nature
themselves will notify us a week before publication, but by then it can, in some
circumstances, be too late to promote the paper effectively. For instance, the
appropriate Media Relations manager may be on leave, or the author may not have
thought to leave space in the diary ahead of publication for interviews to take place.

It could be that your story is strong enough to be pitched to TV documentary makers.
This is normally an extremely lengthy process, as ideas need to be pitched to film-
makers, who in turn then need to be commissioned, before the film itself is made.

In conclusion, the sooner we are aware of a story or event of potential media interest,
we can begin to plan an appropriate handling strategy and ensure the story gets the
treatment it deserves.

1.4       What can you expect from your contact with the Media Relations team?

The UCL Media Relations Office is a resource available to the entire UCL
community. So if you are within UCL and contact us, you can expect a timely
response to your query or request for assistance. At the same time, to function
effectively, and given the sheer number of departments, institutions and individual
academics who are entitled to request our services, the Media Relations team has to
prioritise to function successfully. Thus all requests for support will be judged
according to two basic criteria:

      •   The potential for media interest in the project/story
      •   The extent to which working on the project in question will benefit UCL’s
          overall strategic objectives, as set out by the Provost and Senior
          Management Team.

The first criterion is generally established by the team in dialogue with the academic
or department who have brought us the story – this area is dealt with in greater detail
in Section 3, Who will want my story?

The second criterion – strategic relevance – is arrived at through appropriate
consultation with the university’s leadership, notably the Provost and his Senior
Management Team, as well as the university’s Corporate Communications Office,
which has taken the lead on developing the corporate communications strategy that
has been endorsed by UCL Council.

A number of key documents will shape and direct our Media Relations strategy:

      •   The Provost’s White Paper, setting out a ten-year strategy for UCL
      •   The corporate communications strategy that has been developed by UCL’s
          Corporate Communications and has been endorsed by UCL Council
      •   UCL’s Corporate Plan 2006 – 2012
If in any doubt, we would always encourage you to contact the Media Relations team
as early as possible with anything that you feel may attract media attention. After
assessing your story we will provide you with our view of the strength of the story,
how much time we will give it and how we will work with you to promote it.

1.5       What do the Media Relations team do on a typical day?

A typical day for a member of the Media Relations team will probably include:

      •   Monitoring coverage of UCL across the media, and looking through the media
          to keep abreast of all issues of potential relevance to UCL (HE reports,
          Universities UK communications, government announcements etc)
      •   Drafting a press notice to highlight the work of a UCL academic
      •   Responding to journalists asking to be put in touch with a UCL expert for a
          particular programme or article
      •   Attending meetings with UCL academics, Heads of Departments or Deans to
          advise on media activity
      •   Accompanying a camera crew coming in to interview someone at UCL
      •   Liaising with colleagues in the Communications Office to share information on
          future stories.

Media relations and Communications

2.1       How do Media Relations and Communications work together?

The Media Relations and Communications teams are two constituent parts of
corporate relations, based within the Development & Corporate Communications
Office, and between them are responsible for maintaining and raising UCL’s public

The Media Relations team is concerned purely with obtaining the best possible
coverage for UCL in the external media. Our primary role is providing the interface
between the university and news media, offering good stories that support UCL’s
strategic objectives to the appropriate publication, programme or website.

The Communications team is primarily engaged in writing news for UCL News,
which is filtered through to numerous websites across UCL. They also produce
audiovisual material to support UCL’s corporate communications themes, available
on UCL’s audio and video page, UCL’s channel on YouTube, and UCL on iTunes U.
The team produces printed publications including the UCL Annual Review, About
UCL and the alumni magazine UCL People. They can also advise staff and
departments on effective printed and electronic communications materials.

Activities of the Communications team are aimed at a range of internal and external
audiences. Similarly to the Media Relations team, this team assesses story
suggestions according to agreed institutional priorities and target audiences. Both
teams regularly share the suggestions they have received, and discuss the best way
forward on a case-by-case basis.

2.2       Whom should you contact first?
If you have a story idea, or wish to discuss enhancing the profile of your department,
it is probably worth contacting both Communications and Media Relations in the first
instance, and we will then informally discuss your requirements before formulating
our response.

You can contact us jointly, and submit your story idea, by sending details to, preferably using the ‘Submit Your Story’ form which can be
found at

You can find contact details for the Media Relations team at the end of this document
or at, including the faculties covered by each
press officer, so you can find the press officer dedicated to your area.

Contact details for the Communications team can be found at

The two teams are in regular contact with a view to agreeing communications
priorities jointly, exchanging story suggestions, and ensuring that these receive the
best possible profile. The teams also meet formally on a weekly basis. As a general
rule it is worthwhile contacting both teams if you have an event you wish to promote
or a story to offer, although in practice these will in any case find their way from one
team to the other given the close nature of our working relations.

3 Who will want my story?

3.1    How do you know if you have a good story?

Using external media to reach an audience is potentially a very profitable exercise.
But it is important to remember that the media are not in existence for the purpose of
conveying the information that you need to impart. Their primary and abiding purpose
is to inform and entertain their desired viewers and/or readers with information that
they believe their audience will find interesting. If promotion of an organisation occurs
as a by-product, that is ok, but it is not their job to provide corporate information.

This reality is one of the most frequently misunderstood aspects of the work of Media
Relations. To be successful in our mission of promoting UCL, we need to take an
outsider’s view of every project or story being proposed. It is ultimately bad for our
credibility if we are continuously offering journalists stories that will not meet their
own criteria of informing and entertaining their readers or viewers.

In working with you to arrive at an assessment of your proposal, we will naturally
explore alternatives if it does not have the right profile for the external media. It could
be that it is something of specific interest to the UCL community, in which case we
would put you in touch with our colleagues in Communications. It could be, if you are
seeking to reach an extremely narrow segment of the population, that a direct mailing
could be the solution. We will seek to provide appropriate advice for every situation.

3.2    Is it news?

Naturally enough, many of the proposals that come to Media Relations are presented
to us with a view to publication in the national newspapers or broadcast media,
arguably the most competitive arena in which to place stories. You will get a pretty
good idea of the viability of your proposal for this media by asking the following
questions about it, or exploring these with Media Relations at the outset:
      •   Is it about something that has yet to happen? – Newspapers generally cover
          stories either on the day they happen, or the following day. They are unlikely
          to cover anything older as a news story. This is where an early approach to
          the Media Relations office can make the difference
      •   Is this ‘new’ information, i.e. not already in the public domain? (This will
          usually mean that the information is new)
      •   Is this something that would interest your neighbour or relative? – How would
          you explain the story to someone who probably does not have specialist
          knowledge of the subject? (a variation of this is whether you could explain the
          story in the time that you are in an elevator with someone). If you can do this
          relatively easily the chances are that the media too will consider it a ‘good’
          story with news potential. If not, it may require a different approach to achieve
      •   Is your story related to the existing news agenda, and could it potentially
          piggyback on that?

3.3       How does news selection work?

By and large, news either tends to be bad, focusing on controversy, or offering
information that organisations would often prefer was not in the media at all. The
most prominent stories in a randomly selected recent copy of The Independent are: a
parliamentary report stating that the Allies’ programme to rebuild Afghanistan is in
crisis, a sex scandal implicating UN staff in the Congo, continuing bad news for
President Bush in Iraq, the report on the failure of the Beagle 2 mission to Mars and
a punch-up involving ASLEF union leaders at a barbecue.

As Nigel Hawkes, Ex-Health Editor of The Times, has said: “Stories about things
going well are seldom stories. The opposite of a bad press is not a good press – it’s
no press at all.”

News selection is always to some extent a subjective business, and even a good
story that is well-presented will not guarantee print or broadcast space. This
especially applies when a major news story breaks – if it is big enough, editors will
drop other items to make the necessary space.

Having said that, if your story is picked up by the independent media, the very fact
that is has passed the hurdles of news value and the scepticism of journalists and
editors will only enhance its credibility with the target audience. If your story is on
BBC TV or in The Times, it’s probably because first, it deserves to be, and second, it
has been presented to these media in such a way that they recognise it is

What are the alternatives to news coverage?

The sheer diversity and specialisation of media today, allied to the difficulty of
guaranteeing coverage in the mainstream news media, means that the Media
Relations team will also work with you to consider other opportunities to achieve
coverage for a story.

Newspapers are increasingly laden with specialist sections and supplements, while
there are increasing numbers of niche television channels, and it may well be that
your story idea or your work would be more appropriately pitched here. Specialist
sections in subjects such as health, transport, education abound, and as these are
aimed at an audience with a greater depth of interest in that subject, it could be that
your story will gain a better hearing for those sections. The story will still need to
enthuse the journalist or editor, who will assess it using similar criteria to those set
out for news, but there won’t be quite the same time sensitivity, and you are less
likely to be definitively bounced if the story isn’t perceived purely as news.

Specialist media
There are plenty of opportunities beyond the national media that we would explore
for stories that may not be appropriate to the nationals. These include:

      •   Trade publications
      •   Specialist journals
      •   Regional/local media
      •   Online media
      •   Special interest programmes (science, health, etc).

Many of these may not have the reach of national newspapers and TV news, but, as
specialists, the audiences they attract may be far more useful to you than the broader
sweep offered by the nationals.

The Media Relations team will explore these possibilities with you when you bring a
story to our attention. In addition to knowledge gained through experience, we have
access to software packages that enable us to compile up-to-date distribution lists of
correspondents, publications, websites and specialist programmes according to their
areas of interest.

4 Working with the media

4.1       How will the Media Relations team promote my story?

There are many different ways of approaching the media to get a story out there.
Following your initial contact with us, we will work up a strategy that is appropriate to
your particular story.

One standard method is a press release, worked on jointly by the academic involved
and the Media Relations team, and then distributed to appropriate media. This is a
frequent accompaniment to a paper being published in a journal. Some journals
promote their papers in the media, others provide a more limited service and others
don’t do it at all, so the Media Relations team is available to provide the necessary
level of support.

A press release is by no means always the best way of promoting a story. Many
journalists prefer an exclusive, and, in the right publication, such an exclusive may
later be picked up by others. On occasion we may advise a briefing for a number of
journalists, or a one-on-one contact with a chosen journalist on a targeted
publication. We will think over the options and propose various ideas as part of our
service to you.

4.2       To what extent must I make myself available to the media?
Quite simply, the more accessible you are to the media, the more likely it is that you
will receive coverage. If a journalist cannot make contact with you easily to discuss
your work, they will soon go elsewhere for another story. Generally, if you are not
available to take media calls and requests for interviews at the time of release, it is
unlikely that we will be able to help you achieve maximum exposure for your story.

For instance, if we are working to gain coverage for a paper at a conference, it will
help the coverage if you remain easily contactable to pick up on interest. If you are
abroad for the week leading up to publication with your mobile switched off, you won’t
get the coverage that you might expect if you are readily accessible and flexible. If
you are unable to be around at the time of publication, with advance preparation we
can work around this, for instance by offering interviews well ahead to trusted
journalists who won’t break the embargo. (This is another reason why early
communication with the Media Relations team is important.)

4.3    What is Find an Expert and how does it work?

A great way of increasing your and your Department’s visibility across the media is to
be included on the UCL Find an Expert system which allows journalists to search
online for appropriate academics from UCL. This resource is used by media to locate
experts on any given issue that they are covering. If you wish to be included in the
database, please go to the website to fill out your profile or contact us for more

4.4    What if journalists wish to speak to me outside office hours?

The same principle set out in Section 4.2 applies in the same way to calls outside
normal office hours. Academics – and universities – with a reputation for returning
calls and being accessible will receive more coverage than those who do not.

The UCL Media Relations Office runs an out-of-hours service for media, who will on
occasion come to us in evenings and at weekends looking for an appropriate expert.
(Journalists may also contact us seeking to contact a specific individual whom they
have earmarked through the Find an Expert system.) We hold a list of out of hours
contact numbers for key UCL spokespeople, and are constantly adding names and
areas of specialities to this list. If you would like to be added to this, please contact us
with your details or fill out your profile via our web pages. Journalists calling out of
hours are often struggling to find an appropriate expert, so this can be a good
opportunity to get into the media if you are interested in doing this.

The UCL Media Relations team never gives home or mobile numbers to journalists
without specific authorisation from that person.

If you are approached directly by the media and require support or advice, the Media
Relations team can be contacted out of hours – to obtain the relevant number either
check on the media pages on the website, or call the daytime number, from where
you will be directed to the out-of-hours number.

4.5    Do you provide media training?

Giving an interview or speaking at a press briefing can be daunting, and the Media
Relations team is able to provide support to help address this.
For instance, we are happy to provide basic training for a member of UCL staff who
would find an informal, targeted session on one particular area to be useful. For
instance, if you have agreed to be interviewed by a journalist, we are able to talk
through the issues that might arise, and if considered useful, stage a mock interview.
This is tailored according to whether the interview is for TV, radio or print media, as
these are all very different in make-up and requirement.

For more in-depth training, we can also recommend a range of courses tailored to
different aspects of working with media. Please ask us for our information pack.

4.6    What if the media contact me asking about a negative story?

The principle that the Media Relations team should be contacted as soon as possible
applies just as much to potential bad news stories. Ideally, we should be informed
before the story hits the media, to give us time to formulate any necessary response.
So as soon as you feel that there is a story that may hit the media with a potentially
negative impact for UCL, you need to involve the Media Relations team at the
earliest possible opportunity. The team is experienced in crisis management, and will
be able to advise on how best any given situation should be handled.

4.7    What are the guidelines on talking to the media?

Statements and comments to the media about the university’s policies or position on
any issue should only be made through the Provost or his appointed spokesperson.
Anybody approached for a comment on UCL’s position on any such issue should
refer the caller to the Media Relations team.

The Media Relations team has no desire or remit to restrict the regular daily
exchange between UCL academics and the media. UCL experts are in regular
demand, and the university’s visibility in the media through its experts is a valuable
addition to its prestige. We would welcome any informal discussion with media
friendly experts ahead of any activity, as it would help us identify good spokespeople
for future opportunities which we can then route in the right direction, as well as
identify journalists along with their areas of expertise.

5.1    What if my question isn’t answered here?

This is only intended as a basic guide to how the media works, and we will add
information in an ongoing basis, including in response to any needs drawn to our
attention by people within UCL. Please feel free to contact one of the UCL Media
Relations team on the details set out below if you need more information or advice.

5.2    Who do I contact?

The Media Relations team each have responsibility for specific subject areas and
parts of UCL, so please contact the right one for you in the first instance:

Dominique Fourniol
Head of Media Relations
Office: +44 (0) 20 3108 3843
Mob: +44 (0) 7881 833 274
Higher Education Issues, Laws

Ruth Howells
Media Relations Manager
Office: +44 (0) 20 3108 3845
Mob: +44 (0) 7990 675 947

Biomedical Sciences, including Postgraduate Institutes

Clare Ryan
Media Relations Manager
Office: +44 (0) 20 3108 3846
Mob: +44 (0) 7747 565 056

Life Sciences, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Built Environment

Dave Weston
Media Relations Manager
Office: +44 (0) 20 3108 3844
Mob: +44 (0) 7733 307 596

Engineering Sciences, Social and Historical Sciences, Arts and Humanities

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