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How to Survive a Media Blitz: an Academic’s Guide

How to Survive a Media Blitz: an Academic’s Guide
Gather your team. You could try to handle the sudden attention by yourself. But you will be exhausted, irritable, and overwhelmed. And being exhausted, irritable, and overwhelmed is the surest way to end up making a public comment that you regret, whether it’s merely incoherent or reputation-destroying disastrous. So I strongly advise you to ask additional people — administrators, colleagues, even students — to help craft your response.

Don’t forget your classes. In the midst of a media frenzy, it’s easy to forget that you’re also a teacher. But it can be an excellent learning opportunity for both undergraduates and graduate students. They can help you do a little research on the previous work of journalists who are asking for an interview, so you know what to expect. Students can track media coverage for you by setting up Google alerts or running online searches (using the Google News tab and sorting by publication date is especially effective). Invite students to observe your interviews — just warn them that they may be asked to volunteer their reactions to your work.

Organize your toolkit. Use Google Docs, Dropbox, and Skype for communications and outreach. Set up dummy email accounts to handle and integrate these requests.

Shape the coverage. Prepare and present your materials to the media and journalists. Commend critics and opposing points of your work. Practice your main talking points and your answers to frequently asked questions. You want to sound pithy, straightforward, and quotable.

Set some priorities and some limits. You only have so much time in the day. It’s not your job to help the media sensationalize it. You may have to say “no comment” and move on.

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