A MODEL FOR GETTING RESPONSIBLE, INTERNATIONAL COVERAGE OF CONTROVERSIAL SCIENCE
We developed a three-month strategic program to announce a highly controversial piece of research - human embryos created from skin cells.
The goal was to ensure the sort of global media coverage deserved by the researchers, whose paper was published in Nature, while preventing the whole Frankenstein science angle blowing up.
Under embargo we briefed all trusted media in the lead up to the announcement, working with journalists in particular at Associated Press, which we knew would have enormous reach.
Because Australian newspapers are published in hard copy before the rest of the world, it was important to get all the major front pages, with stories that covered the enormity of the research without being hysterical.
We achieved this – front pages in both major dailies in Sydney and Melbourne – with coverage internationally following on from there: ABC and NBC in the US, Washington Post, LA Times, New Scientist, The Financial Times and Guardian in the US, TASS in Russia, El Pais and Le Monde in Europe as well as extensive coverage in Asia and South America.
Key to this measured coverage was the creation of a website of media assets including two animations, hero shots of the researchers, B roll, audio and video grabs of the researchers in English, Spanish and Mandarin, graphics etc. Everything that media would need, and in fact used, so that they didn't need to go "off message", as well as opinion pieces placed in Australia and internationally covering both the scientific and ethical implications of the research.
The availability of media releases in English and Mandarin, as well as audio and video grabs in English, Spanish and Mandarin meant that the scientists were not hounded by media for comment on the day the research was published.
While we continue to get media inquiries - three weeks later - mainly from Spanish media such as CNN Espagnol, none of the coverage has been alarmist or incorrect - an enormous achievement considering the complexity of the science, and the ethical implications.
I received congratulatory emails from both Australia's Chief Scientist and the Director of the National Health & Medical Research Council (equivalent to the NIH) who said "the strategy led to a highly accurate and broad coverage of one of Australia's most important research discoveries. Congratulations."
Together with Monash University's Strategic Marketing and Communications it was a huge team effort, representing an entirely new model of how to manage the broad and responsible coverage of potentially controversial science in the future.
The media assets can be seen on https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1EVn4BSH2Q6C4aaXt-byzQLzvi3uoN3pG?usp=sharing
Media Analytics: https://drive.google.com/file/d/13oIH4QPLFifThadGOWlW6m6lJ7-_Kkt5/view
Monash University Strategic Marketing and Communications, in particular Wendy Smith, Jordan Robson and David Humfrey.