On October 20th 2022 I attended an all-day media communications workshop arranged by UBEL.  The workshop was led by award-winning journalist and broadcaster Rachel Shabi, and the purpose of the day was to develop our skills in communicating research to non-academic audiences through broadcast media.

The day was split into a morning and afternoon session, with the outline spanning four main topic areas: understanding the audience, deciding what to say about your research, developing how to say it, and how to deal with nerves.  The day then culminated in a series of mock interviews, in which we all had the chance to try our hand at being interviewed about our research by Rachel.

The training was delivered to a small group, which allowed for plenty of in-depth discussion and idea exchange.  Rachel expertly guided us to develop the nuance required to communicate briefly and with clarity whilst employing strategic communication skills to navigate interviews.  She also gave us very helpful advice on how to use statistics in ways that would minimise the chance of distortion or misunderstanding.

The atmosphere Rachel maintained was one of positivity and encouragement, which gave us all the reassurance and courage needed to work on our speaking skills and participate in the mock interviews.  The practical tools that she provided were useful, but she was also willing and able to go outside of the predefined content to address our questions and concerns about working with the media and help us all get the most out of the day.  The use of videos throughout the day provided real-world broadcast interview examples which we could use to identify positives and negatives in technique – what to do, and what to try to avoid.

Some of the key points which I will personally take forward from the day include thinking carefully what aspects of my research I want to emphasise and framing my research in a narrative to make it accessible.  Overall, the day was one of the most useful and enjoyable training events I have attended, and I would highly recommend it to any researcher who expects to interact with the media.

Astrid Bowen

2nd year PhD student co-funded through UBEL DTP by the ESRC and Evolve, a social impact company

Birkbeck, University of London