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Expert Spotlight: Academic Rock Star’s Tips On Getting Media Coverage

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Even though reaching out to the media can be a vital part of establishing yourself as a leader in your field, with long work hours that include researching and teaching it’s difficult to get media coverage. Here are tips from a professor who has used media to propel his career.

Sylvain Charlebois is what journalists call a ‘rock star’, which has made him a go to expert for both English and French language media. Hehas appeared in major media including The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s and Radio-Canada. Professor Charlebois is one part of Expertise Finder (see his profile) and a professor at the Food Institute at the University of Guelph.

Professor Charlebois says that an important way to make yourself known to the media is to put yourself out there. He is using his 1,468 Twitter followers as part of this strategy.

“The most effective method is to write opeds on a regular basis, and share them with different outlets. I maintain a database of contacts and create categories (French, English, print, TV, radio),” Charlebois says. “My goal is to publish in National newspapers, but I find local papers to be as effective. With written words, you control your message, and media will use it. I’ve always been comfortable with this approach.”

Here are some of Charlebois’ top tips on dealing with the media:

    • Do your homework. “You just need to know what you are doing, and do your homework. You need to engage with the community to appreciate what they care about. I sit on boards and get involved with the community”
    • Know the audience. “I also tried to understand my audience at all times. For example, when you are interviewed by the CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation], the approach is very different than with Global, CTV or TV Ontario.”
    • Make connections with reporters. “I’ve been doing this for more than 15 years now, so many reporters are now friends, and they rely on me to provide them with content at times. The relationship I have with media is very cordial.”

Though many people have anxieties about dealing with the media – such as being misquoted – Charlebois says that it’s important that you keep in mind that reporters are trying to do their job with limited time, and to frame your responses to them knowing that. “I honestly have never been misquoted,” Charlebois says. “When dealing with media, part of it is about education. Most don’t know the subject matter so you support them in their quest to get the story right, and on time. If you can’t accept that, you may not want to deal with media at all.”