Most ASHA members would like to see communication sciences and disorders (CSD) professions featured in the news. Some have taken this desire a step further and have reached out to the media (print or on-air) in their communities to discuss topics they care deeply about.
Others want to do so, but don’t know where to start or what resonates with reporters.
So what are reporters interested in hearing about? “Old school” still works: government statistics on communication disorders, new research findings, an awareness month or week—to name a few examples.
In past columns, I provided advice on how to take these popular national news hooks and adapt them to local communities. But as news is increasingly delivered online—and reporters seek to have their stories shared more broadly in this way—there are also new opportunities outside of the traditional mold, often via a human-interest route.
Here are CSD-related stories creating buzz in today’s media environment:
Viral phenomenon. How something “goes viral” is anybody’s guess. Many online debates garnering the most reaction launched with the most ordinary of origins. File “The Dress” debate of 2015 in that category, which began as a disagreement between mother and daughter over the color of wedding attire.
More recently, and directly relevant to the professions, was The Dress 2.0: “Yanny vs. Laurel,” which originated from an audio clip posted online by a high school student in Georgia. Leader Live provided this roundup of Yanny vs. Laurel media coverage that included the perspectives of CSD experts—with additional stories appearing worldwide well beyond the date of the Leader Live post.
Granted, these are lighthearted stories, but they still provide an opportunity to showcase the expertise of audiologists, speech-language pathologists, academics and researchers on a topic a great number of people discussed and read about.
Common nuisance. Online news sites and social media can breed griping, and that’s often a bad thing. But on occasion, this can be turned into something positive. Case in point: noisy restaurants. While loud noise is a problem across society and in various public settings, restaurants seem especially irritating—given the fact that many people frequent them to talk and connect as much as to eat.
Noisy public settings were the focus of ASHA’s 2017 Better Hearing & Speech Month media push, but The Washington Post op-ed on too-loud restaurants by ASHA Past President Gail Richard really struck a nerve, continuing to generate follow-up media requests to ASHA more than a year later. The publicity on this shared nuisance can may effect some positive societal change when it comes to hearing-loss prevention—and also promote the expertise of audiologists.
Anything celebrity. The Internet didn’t create public interest in celebrities, but it took its appetite to a whole new voracious level. The media covers every aspect of many celebrities’ lives, and every tweet or photo gets shared and analyzed. And occasionally this intersects with CSD topics.
Whether it’s Meghan Markle picking up a hint of a British accent or concern about the speech-language development of a reality star’s child, members can and have provided useful information and expertise that makes a difference—even in “fluffier” pieces or publications.
Anything parenting. Just about everything is up for online (and in-person!) debate when it comes to raising kids. Potty training, sleep training, breastfeeding versus formula … the list goes on. Mainstream news outlets, such as The New York Times, cover the use of sippy cups and the ever-popular food pouches.
Parenting websites and blogs thrive in the current media environment, as parents increasingly go online for advice in meeting day-to-day challenges. Members can often successfully reach out to these websites and blogs, as they often look for credible sources.
Some tips to consider when reaching out to the media:
Capitalize on popular stories: Do you have a perspective to offer on a topic generating media or social media attention? Reporters find sources in various ways. Put yourself on their radar by commenting on a story they post on social media. Send a direct message via their Twitter account (they’re far more likely to read that than an email) offering your expertise or retweet their post with a useful comment. Write and share with them a blog or LinkedIn post, noting your willingness to be interviewed.
Strike the right tone: Even when a topic falls into the “fun” category, like Yanny vs. Laurel, remember to keep your comments professional. Reporters often want to add some expert gravitas to such stories—a role ASHA members can fill while keeping in mind the lighthearted nature. Stay true to your expertise but also remember your audience. For instance, in the New York Times article on food pouches, the members quoted all offer useful advice while remaining realistic to modern parenting trends. A draconian approach—never use food pouches—can alienate the audience. When commenting or participating in a media story, remember these stories might stay online forever. They could come up if a client or employer searches online for your name—even years from now.
Build on media success: If a reporter quotes you, spread the word! Share on your social media accounts, with your employer and ASHA, and consider other ways to further disseminate. Media stories often build on one another. For instance, if you get quoted or write an opinion piece in your local newspaper, the local NPR station or TV station may follow up.
Francine Pierson is an ASHA public relations manager. email@example.com.