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Writing your own press release

Writing your own press release

Do you have an upcoming publication and would like to extend its reach through a press release? Maybe your university doesn’t have a media office able to help, you are short on time, and/or don’t know where to start. Don’t fret, this week Grace Shephard (Researcher at CEED, University of Oslo) shares some tips for writing your own press release and includes a handy template for download. She also spoke to experts from the EGU and AGU press offices on writing a pitch to the media.

A press release is a really easy way to maximise the reach and impact of your latest paper. However, you might think that press releases are only reserved for papers in “high impact” journals or are written by magical gnomes that live in everyone else’s science garden but your own. But I think every research output deserves to be, and can be, shared in a concise, digestible, and fun way. Plus, without an enthusiastic journal handling editor or university media office on hand, it is often up to you – the author or co-author – to write it. Need a few more reasons? Well, the taxpayer likely pays for some of your funding, and science should be accessible for everyone. You’ve spent a long (*cough* sometimes very long) time and expended a lot of effort preparing and publishing that manuscript so spending a little extra effort with outreach won’t hurt. And even if your paper is behind a paywall this is a great way to share the main results and context in a format that isn’t the scientific abstract.

And finally, your own friends and family are much more likely to click on it than that boring looking DOI hyperlink that may have crawled its way onto your social media page. And who knows, they may actually ask you about your research sometime…

This gnome is too busy working on someone else’s press release. Credit: Craig McLauchlan (Unsplash)

What should a press release include?

You’ve all read press releases or science news write-ups before (examples included at bottom) but here are some tips for writing your own. The template is located just below:

    • Catchy headline – We’re not in the business of click-bait, unless it is nerdy scientific click-bait! Think informative but catchy and concise.
    • Cover image – Possibly more important than the headline. Find a fun photo or schematic image that is enticing. You could adapt one from your paper (but please not that snore-fest of an xy plot – keep that in the paper), or why not check out the EGU Imaggeo photos, or other online photo repositories for inspiration? Remember copyright/attribution.
    • Ingress – Ok, so they’ve clicked on your link and then will next read the first ~3-4 sentences. The ingress should summarize the main finding(s), the journal it was published in, and key author info. You can think of this like a tasty hint for the main body of the press release.
    • Jargon – Keep the tricky lingo on the down-low. Remember, you are writing for a diverse audience and should avoid jargon – or when it is unavoidable, define it! This is relevant for both the ingress and the main text. For tips on avoiding jargon see here. Being able to identify jargon is also applicable when writing those Plain Language Summaries that are increasingly featuring alongside published articles. The EGU Communications Officer Olivia Trani also provides some wise advice “When writing blog posts for the general public, science writer Julie Ann Miller says it best: ‘Don’t underestimate your readers’ intelligence, but don’t overestimate their knowledge of a particular field.’ As you discuss certain regions, processes, ideas, and theories, make sure you clearly show why they are important and what implications are present”.
    • Main text – Keep it short-ish – it is much more likely to be read in its entirety at 3-4 short paragraphs, or somewhere between 500-800 words. Writing in the third person and an active voice is probably the easiest and feels less like one is ‘tooting one’s own horn’. Mention the key results, some background and context, how the results were obtained (e.g. methods – keep it in logical order). Finally, the press release could mention what is novel about this work and maybe even what the study doesn’t address and any avenues for future research. Include subheadings to break it up or frame it around questions. Nanci Bompey, Assistant Director for Public Information at AGU suggests: “For scientific studies, the news should tell the reader what the researchers found – their main discovery or conclusions. Don’t let the study itself be the news; the study’s results are the news.
    • Think “big picture” – Remember to place your results in the broader context – why should the reader care? Hot topics like earthquakes, volcanoes, climate, sea-level, or Mars, may seem to quickly attract the readers so your challenge is to be creative and find nerdy analogies and indirect consequences no matter what your topic!
    • Images and video – Include 2-3 images to explain processes and highlight the results. A video or animation will collect bonus points too (check out this amazing video about the Iceland Hotspot). Include a caption and remember attribution. Another tip is if you’re creating original image content, consider adding a little watermark or signature in the image. Also consider putting yourself in the picture too – readers often relate more if they see the human face(s) behind the research (see also ‘Scientists who Selfie Break Down Stereotypes’).
    • Proof read – Ask a colleague or friend, either within or outside of the geosciences, to proof read.
    • Contact author – Include again the reference and link to the article, and who to contact for more info.
*Download the press release template and check-list here as a PDF *
When should it appear online?
    • As soon as possible – It’s up to you, of course, but ideally as close to the online publication date of the article as possible. You might like to wait until the nice proof versions are online, however, that can take weeks to months and you may run out of steam by then. 
Where to post the press release?
  • University webpage – If you have a media/communications office at your institute or university do get in touch with them to ask about options. Your post will likely appear on a university webpage and they will likely have an account that will re-share the press release on the likes of Phys.org and other news websites.
  • Personal website – In the event that a university-hosted platform doesn’t exist you could upload the release to your own personal page or blog. You’ll probably like to re-post it there anyway.

A short clip from – Film about the Creation of Iceland – by Alisha Steinberger and associated with press release for Steinberger et al. (2018; Nat.Geosci).

Maybe you want pitch your press release (or a shorter/alternative version of it) at an even bigger platform – here are some more possibilities.

  • EGU blogs – There are more options here than you can poke a stick at. Along with the other EGU Division Blogs we here on the GD blog welcome content related to your latest paper – just look up an editor’s contact details! You can also approach the EGU Communications and Media team directly:
      • You can send in a pitch for the EGU GeoLog which can include reports from Earth science events, conferences and fieldwork, comments on the latest geoscientific developments and posts on recently published findings in peer-reviewed journals.  For example, I tried my hand at GeoLog with ‘Mapping Ancient Oceans’ and received some really useful feedback from the EGU team!
      • If you are publishing research in one of the EGU journals that you believe to be newsworthy, you can pitch your paper to media@egu.eu . They regularly issue press releases on science published in EGU journals – as EGU’s Media and Communications Manager Bárbara Ferreira notes, “however, that we would prefer to hear about it even before the paper has been accepted: preparing a press release can take some time so it’s useful to know well in advance what papers we should be looking at. Naturally, any press release would be conditional on paper acceptance and would only be published when the final, peer-reviewed paper is published in the journal.”
  • AGU’s Eos Eos is another ‘Earth and Space Science News’ platform to send your pitch for an article.
    Heather Goss, Editor-in-Chief of Eos, suggests that when writing a pitch to the media you “keep your pitch between 200 and 500 words. (You can link to your research, or include more detail at the end of the message.) Begin with a sentence or two that highlights the article’s focus: Do you have an exciting finding? Is it a new method? Did it raise an interesting new question? Explain both the focus and what it is right up front. Then break down your research into 2-3 key points that you want to get across to the journalist. This might be your research method, a challenge that you had to overcome for the result, or it might simply be breaking down your research finding into a few digestible pieces. If there is a fun detail that adds colour, here is the place to add it. Finally, explain in a sentence or two why the publication’s audience should care. It helps the journalist put your work in context, and shows that you understand the outlet you’re pitching to—this is a crucial step if you’re actually writing the piece that would be published, as with Eos.”
  • Other Science news outlets – you could approach freelance journalist, local radio or news station, or those behind the popular sites like ScienceAlert, The Conversation (more in-depth), IFLS, National Geographic, Science Magazine etc. However, they receive a lot of mail and only follow up on selected pitches so just see what happens! 
Some additional tips before we part:
  • You can also use a little glossary or side bar to explain unavoidable technical terms (for example, “subduction” and “plate tectonics”, are terms I find hard to avoid).
  • Writing in English would reach a wide audience but consider including a shorter summary or translation to other languages.
  • Add hyperlinks and references for more info.
  • Include some direct quotes – if you write in third person then it makes it a little less awkward to quote yourself. You could also add a quote from a co-author or someone not-related to the study.
  • Need more inspiration? – head over to your favourite science news website, EGU GeoLog, or check out EGU/AGU’s social media accounts and take a look on how others write-up science news and press releases.

A couple more examples of press releases or similar-style science news articles:

I hope you find some of the tips above of use, and good luck with writing!

 

Thanks very much to Olivia Trani and Bárbara Ferreira (EGU), and Heather Goss and Nanci Bompey (AGU) again for their press release, pitch and outreach tips!

 

 

Happy blog birthday!

Happy blog birthday!

Can you believe it, people? We have been running this blog for 2 years! What a milestone! Time to celebrate and look back at a year of great blogging.

Who are the champions?

We are the champions, my friends!

That’s right! We actually won a prize this year: we won best blog post of 2018 by public vote for a post by one of our editors, Luca Dal Zilio, about a conference he attended in Singapore. So we are now an award-winning blog. Hell yeah!
Technically this post was written during our first blog year, but hey, we only got the prize in January, so I think we’re totally within our rights to mention it now. Since we won by public vote, we would like to thank all of you – our readers – for your support! It really means a lot to us and strengthens the idea that some people actually read this blog!

And talking about our readers…

Who are you?

Contrary to popular belief, there are actually people who read this blog! Although I don’t have any data to back this up, I think most of our readers are actually scientists from the geodynamics, tectonics and structural geology, and seismology divisions of EGU. So much for trying to do outreach. If I’m wrong, please let me know!
I do have some data on how many people visit our blog. On average, we have 37 unique visitors per day (and that’s quite something if you remember that we only post on Wednesdays and now Fridays). Our 100 most viewed pages (and this includes the homepage, author profiles, tags, etc. as well as individual posts) each have seen 150 unique visitors on average with some posts having over 2000 unique visitors in the past year! These popular posts are usually commissioned and promoted on social media by our editor Grace Shephard. Little gems of blog posts with many views from her hand include The Rainbow Colour Map (repeatedly) considered harmful, Thirteen planets and counting, and How good were the old forecasts of sea level rise?

We have a global readership! Most of our readers are accessing the website from the US, the United Kingdom, Germany, China, and Spain. Interesting list of countries, right? Apart from that, we also have some geodynamicists in Turkmenistan, Rwanda, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Mozambique. Or maybe that is just a result of geodynamicists being on holiday in exotic places who are dying to read geodynamics news to distract themselves from their amazing holiday destination. Who knows?

Who are we?

We have a lovely blog team and it’s quite a big team as well! Currently, there are 7 regular editors, one mysterious, anonymous editor under the name of ‘The Sassy Scientist’ and one Editor-in-Chief (yours truly). Who would’ve ever thought there would be 9 people in the blog team? Last year, we were 5, so we have grown a lot. If you have already forgotten who we are, you can check out our recent introduction post.

But, these 9 amazing editors don’t have the time (or the expertise) to write all these blog posts themselves. Therefore, we heavily rely on the most amazing guest authors. During the past year, we had 20 guest authors who contributed one or more posts. So here is a big shout out to all the guest authors of the past year:

• Manar Alsaif
• Marie Bocher
• Daniel Bowden
• Kiran Chotalia
• Robert Citron
• Lorenzo Colli
• João Duarte
• Rene Gassmöller
• Lars Gebraad
• Antoniette Greta Grima
• Charitra Jain
• Kirster Karlsen
• Maria Koroni
• Laurent Montesi
• Andrea Piccolo
• Adina Pusok
• Nico Schliffke
• Paul Tackley
• Katy Willis
• Jonny Wu

Thank you so much. We couldn’t do it without you!

Behind the scenes

During our first 1.5 years of blogging we had a system in place where we had regular types of posts, such as Geodynamics 101, Remarkable Regions, Peculiar Planets, and Wit & Wisdom posts. Additional content that did not fit in any of these categories, would go into our News & Views or Conferences. This meant that all the editors were encouraged to find posts that fitted into a certain topic and then we hoped for the best. In practice, most of the responsibility lay with yours truly: the Editor-in-Chief. I was in charge of keeping an eye on the schedule and asking the editors to contribute. In the end, I wrote and commissioned most of the posts myself.

That was clearly unsustainable.

Whenever I had a lapse of vigilance, holes were more likely to appear in the schedule, because no one else in the blog team felt responsible for posting (and rightfully so). This lead to the infamous gaps in content around February (which seems to be a recurring yearly theme).

Again: clearly unsustainable.

So. This year, I got inspired at the EGU Blog Editor meeting a few days before the General Assembly and I thought of a complete new blog strategy during EGU. I know: I spent my time at EGU wisely…

We recruited a bunch of new editors and we have now successfully implemented a new schedule: all 7 regular editors are responsible for a blog post for 1 week in a 7 week cycle. They can commission blog posts, write them, give their slot to another editor who might have more blog posts lined up, or whatever they want to do, but they are – in the end – responsible for uploading a blog post on Wednesday. I still keep an eye on the schedule and fill gaps where necessary, but at least now I have someone to address whenever there seems to be an empty slot. We also added some extra repercussions to increase the responsibility of our regular editors: if they fail to upload a Wednesday blog post on time in their scheduled weeks twice within one year, they will automatically stop being editors. Of course, we want to keep everyone in the team, so everyone is encouraged to help each other out, if a gap in the schedule threatens to appear.
The Sassy Scientist is responsible for weekly Friday Q&As, which is a lot of work actually: 52 blog posts in a year is a lot. So for these posts, we are working with a backlog of at least 5 blog posts at all times to ensure that our Sassy Scientist can sometimes take a holiday. Currently, I am editing all the Sassy Scientist blog posts, but I’m hoping they can fly solo soon! One of the most difficult things is getting questions for the Sassy Scientist to answer. So far most of the questions have been asked by editors, although some wished to remain anonymous, so their names were changed. Therefore, we ask everyone to just e-mail the Sassy Scientist a question, leave a comment to one of the blog posts or on social media. You will remain anonymous, if you so desire, and we will make sure that your question gets answered soon (i.e., we will adapt the schedule accordingly).
The new system works well so far. Let’s see if we can keep it up!

So now what?

Well, onwards and upwards, don’t you think? We will try to keep providing you with geodynamics news on Wednesdays and Sassy Scientist Q&As on Fridays for another year. That’s twice as much content as in our first year! Theoretically. We have lots of great posts lined up as well as some very impressive, new guest authors who are dying to pen down their thoughts. If you would like to contribute to the blog, don’t hesitate to contact us by sending us an e-mail. Until then: enjoy the read!

Happy blog birthday!

Happy blog birthday!

If the title and image didn’t tip you off: the EGU Geodynamics blog is celebrating its first anniversary! Almost exactly 1 year ago (okay, so it’s one year and one day, because I wanted to stick to the Wednesday upload schedule), the EGU GD blog was launched! Yay! Applause! Good thing we’re not insanely vain about or proud of this and going to milk this event with a blog post. Oh wait…
Prepare for a lovely blog post where we will be celebrating ourselves (mainly), our guest authors (we’d be lost without them), and our faithful readers (you! unless it’s your first time here… in which case: welcome!).

Since the start of our blog, we have been trying to provide you with a weekly dosis of geodynamics or general-academic-life posts every Wednesday. This didn’t always go according to plan, as we had a few hiccups – most notably in February 2018, when we had an all time low of zero posts. Oops. I will use the fact that I was organising and attending a conference as an excuse. Other – less serious – hiccups occurred at other times when we very sneakily uploaded on a Thursday or a Friday instead of the promised Wednesday. Notwithstanding these hiccups, we still managed to write 58 (!!, excluding this one) posts! That’s even more than one post a week on average!
*pats herself and her team on the back*

What did we write about?

Most of our blog posts were part of our regular features, such as our popular Geodynamics 101 series, which has since been adapted into a successful EGU short course in collaboration with the EGU ECS Geodynamics team. We have also discussed several Remarkable Regions and Peculiar Planets. Several new, exciting papers have been discussed in our News & Views posts and we have reported about several Conferences, such as Nethermod and the EGU GA. Other travel adventures – often with a more geological focus – have been described in our Travel Log. To make you laugh; discuss about the current academic environment; and give you tips on how to make posters, figures, and presentations, we have the popular Wit & Wisdom posts. So, just to summarise: there is a blog post for everyone.

Who (and how many) are you (= our readers)?

We have quite a large amount of readers (hoorah! it would be very sad if no one read these posts. Which might ironically end up to be the case for this post…), with on average a minimum of 100 unique visitors per blog post, but recently nearing 200 or more unique views per blog post (and that is not counting the people that just stay on the homepage of our blog and don’t actually click on the post). Our most popular blog posts include The Rainbow Colour Map (repeatedly) considered harmful with almost 2000(!) unique views, How good were the old forecasts of sea level rise? with more than 500 unique views, and Going with the toroidal mantle flow with almost 400 unique views. Our unique readers come from all corners of the world (see figure below).

Amount of users of our EGU GD blog website per country for the last year

Who are we?

We have a very enthusiastic blog team that has been working round the clock the past year to provide you with all this content! If you still don’t know who we are by now, you can check out our introduction post here. We also recently had a new addition to the blog team, who has already written his first blog post. Together, the five of us hope to keep this blog running for at least another year! However, we wouldn’t be able to provide so many regular geodynamics posts if it weren’t for the outstanding contributions by our many guest authors. They have really proved to be the backbone of this blog, so they deserve a proper shout out! While hunting for all the names of our guest authors in our blog record, I found the following 27 wonderful people who contributed one or more blog posts (because yes, these amazing guest authors sometimes came back for more and insisted on writing multiple posts!):

• Alice Adenis
• Manar Alsaif
• Suzanne Atkins
• Marie Bocher
• Clint Conrad
• Fabio Crameri
• Juliane Dannberg
• Maximilian Döhmann
• Richard Ghail
• Saskia Goes
• Kirstie Haynie
• Matthew Herman
• Charitra Jain
• Agí Királi
• Kristina Kislyakova
• Maurits Metman
• Luke Mondy
• Elvira Mulyukova
• Jessica Munch
• Lena Noack
• Vojtech Patočka
• Jyotirmoy Paul
• Adina Pusok
• Cedric Thieulot
• Anthony Osei Tutu
• Sabin Zahirovic
• Yue Zhao

And now what?

Speaking for the entire blog team, we have had a blast this year and we are very much looking forward to continue with this blog and to bridge outreach, geodynamics, and general academic life. We hope that we can more firmly establish ourselves in the geodynamics community in the coming year and hopefully we will meet and collaborate with many more (recurring) guest authors to continue making this blog a success. Thanks to everyone who has been involved in the blog in any way by either writing or reading it. Cheers to another successful year!