Media Training at ASA

San-DiegoThe Acoustical Society of America (ASA), part of the American Institute of Physics (AIP), held its 178th meeting at the Hotel del Coronado last week. In addition to meeting old friends, networking and presenting their research, a number of participants met for an evening media training session on December 2. The workshop sought to teach acoustic scientists best practices when pitching their work and interacting with the media.

SANDSWA was asked to help out and board members Tiffany Fox and Josh Baxt joined the meeting to present. Ramin Skibba helped organize some of the ideas but was unable to attend because his kids needed him, and he’s a really good dad.

For those unfamiliar with the ASA, these are the scientists who helped give us noise-cancelling headphones – we cannot praise them enough. Various researchers at the workshop study using AI to transcribe an ancient and complex form of Indian music into writing; understanding how bats and dolphins echolocate in large groups; finding better ways to insulate apartments from noise and much more.

Josh discussed different ways scientists could enhance their media relationships. He encouraged the group to proactively reach out to journalists covering their discipline via email, Twitter or other means. He stressed that media relationships should be ongoing, rather than one-off encounters to discuss a specific paper. He also encouraged attendees to partner closely with their communications teams.

Tiffany dove into jargon and metaphors, using the book A Bee in a Cathedral as a background text. She began by noting that we should “Never underestimate people’s intelligence, but always underestimate their vocabulary.”

She then detailed how scientists can use plain language and metaphors to explain complex concepts.

Reps from the AIP communications team also weighed in, discussing the best ways to approach interviews, the difference between useful and overly complex graphics and video, how to handle media requests and pitching their research.

After the presentations, the workshop divided into small groups. Each table had a communications rep and the scientists were asked to pitch their work. They had one minute to speak (a long elevator ride, for sure) and afterwards were given feedback.

The workshop is part of a broader effort by ASA to encourage their scientists to better engage with the media. In the larger context, 2020 will be the International Year of Sound, and ASA wants its members to step up and contribute to the discussion.

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