Working with a journalist to gain media coverage about your review is a powerful way to share your Cochrane review findings with a much broader audience. This could be an interview for a newspaper, magazine, online, TV, or radio media outlet. Other ways that you can work with a journalist include a press briefing, media roundtable or press conference. The Cochrane KT Department can give guidance and advice for working with journalists in these other ways.
How to work with journalists
A journalist may be in touch with you for several reasons, such as looking for background information or to quote you directly for an interview. If you are contacted by a journalist, you can follow these steps:
It is a good idea to look at the quality and reputation of the media outlet and journalist before deciding how to respond. You will also want to know the intent of the journalist and why they are contacting you so you can prepare. For example, Cochrane reviews can sometimes be used to substantiate a ‘for or against’ argument about the intervention it focuses on. Googling the journalist may help you learn more about their previous work, and potential intent.
If you feel comfortable, you may agree to take part in an interview for a written publication such as a newspaper, magazine or online news source. You would do this face to face, over the telephone or Skype or by email. Radio or TV interviews will be either live or pre-recorded.
Remember you are welcome to ask for more information before replying. Ask the journalist to be specific in what they want to save you from explaining things they are not interested in.
If you are unsure of the journalist’s line of questioning or think they are being critical, you are invited to contact firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for support. It can be useful to use the Cochrane press office to get into the detail of what the journalist actually wants. We can help you do this.
A journalist can contact you from anywhere in the world. If you need translation help, you can try machine translation for an initial assessment, such as Google translate.
- For more information on how to interact with journalists and the media, visit this site
How to prepare for your interview
Top tip: The dissemination checklist can help you think through what information to include in your interview.
Seek support from your organizational press office or the Cochrane press office (email@example.com)
Use the Plain Language Summary from the review and highlight this to the journalist. Do not expect a journalist to read a Cochrane Review in full.
Write some short notes about the review, the evidence it presents, and the topic it covers. Do not just think about what will grab attention. Consider what’s new or different as a result of your review findings, and what the implications are for future practice or policy.
Use language that your audience will understand. For example, if the audience for the media outlet is the general public, stay away from scientific jargon and words that would be difficult to understand if you are not a researcher.
Think about what you’d like the audience of this media outlet to know, feel or do after hearing from you.
If you are taking part in a radio or TV interviews, practice three things you’d like to get across and practice these messages as short sentences (also known as soundbites).
The journalist may try to push you to give a headline that is an exaggeration of what is in the review. Stick to the evidence and don’t overstate. Think about how you will tackle this if it happens. It’s good to have a sentence prepared such as, “What’s more important is what the evidence tells us, which is…”
Only talk about what you know, linked to the review’s evidence – don’t be afraid to say, “I am sorry that is outside my expertise or I can only talk about the evidence.”
- If this is for a written interview, and you don’t know the answer, you can get back to the journalist afterwards.
Top tip: Do not say anything you would not want quoted, in an email or otherwise!
Refer to the Cochrane Spokesperson Policy for guidance on when to speak on behalf of Cochrane and when to identify as one of your other professional affiliations.
- Distinguish between what you are saying as a Cochrane author and what you are saying personally or in another professional capacity.
Sharing your dissemination products after working with journalists
If your contact with the journalists turns into media coverage you are happy with, this is something to share on social media, as well as with your Cochrane Review Group, colleagues, partners and funders. Your Cochrane Review Group may also like to share this, so do let them know.
Top tip: It is unlikely you will ever be 100% happy with a journalist’s interpretation of your review, but it should be factually correct and balanced in what it says.
Think of Cochrane groups or stakeholders who may have an interest in your interview, and send it to them via email. We have a webpage on how to write more effective targeted emails.
You can share your interview on social media. For more information on social media platforms and how to use them effectively, visit this page.
- To share your interview using the Cochrane Central social media accounts, including the Comms Network Digest, contact Muriah Umoquit (firstname.lastname@example.org). Visit this page to learn more about the Cochrane Central communications channels.
Evaluating the effects of working with journalists
You may like to see if this media coverage affects your Altmetric score. You can check this next to your review in the Cochrane Library.
You can also check the impact of your interview by monitoring the news site it was posted on. News outlets may be able to share information such as number of page views for your interview, or viewers, and you might be able to see comments or shares or ways people have interacted with your posted interview.
Examples of working with journalists
- Recent media and interview examples
- Media examples from a Cochrane Review on Nicotine Replacement therapy
- Media examples from a Cochrane Review on nutritional labelling