Our work involves:
- communicating research and key institutional stories to the wider world via the media
- helping journalists find the right UCL expert for their story
- supporting staff to pursue successful media engagement through services such as media training, advice with media strategies and handling
- ensuring issues of potential media interest are handled professionally and with due regard for organisational reputation.
We manage the following channels and resources:
- UCL News: online repository of UCL press releases, analysis and profile pieces and news articles
- UCL in the media: online archive of top-tier media coverage profiling UCL staff and students
- UCL Experts: database of UCL academics happy to be contacted by media
- UCL Research and News feeds on the main UCL homepage
- @uclnews on Twitter: tweeting news highlights and media coverage
Browse our FAQs below for details on how we can support you.
Sharing your story
UCL Media Relations is a team of experienced former journalists and communications experts who are dedicated to supporting UCL researchers and staff with promoting your work in the media. If you have a story you think will be of media interest, please contact the relevant member of our team.
- What makes a good story?
- A substantial, new research finding that has clear, real world impact or solves a problem
- A time ‘hook’ – of the moment, timely, new and something people are talking about
- A strong visual element
- Human interest – how does it affect and impact people in their everyday lives
- Things that are surprising, quirky or controversial
Please note that:
- Importance of research does not always translate into media interest – which is driven by what audiences want. The more points it covers above, the greater the likelihood of it being reported by mainstream media.
- Old news, grants, project launches, awards, appointments, events, conferences or visits are less likely to be placed in the media but are important for a UCL audience and can be promoted through UCL’s own communications channels. Click here to submit your story for internal and social media promotion.
- For highly newsworthy events or high-profile speakers, we can potentially approach selected media to let them know. For this, we need good notice and a very clear idea of what the key speaker is going to say and their availability to speak to media.
- If we are given enough notice, we can potentially attract the public to attend your event (e.g. an exhibition or lecture) by approaching listings media.
If you are not sure, please contact the relevant person in the Media Relations team. We can assess the story and give an honest view about how best to promote it to the media and across UCL channels.
- What shall I do if I have a good story?
If you think you have a good story, please get in touch directly. We ask for:
- An indication of when your news will become public or be ready to promote: We ask for much notice as possible (ideally at least two weeks) so we can include the news in our media planning, devise a successful media strategy and handle logistics with collaborators, funders and publishers.
- A lay summary paragraph describing the news and giving a sense of the audience you are trying to reach. Please tell us about the public impact of your work.
- A copy of the research paper or information you would like promoting.
- Contact details and your availability for checking text to promote your news and media interviews.
If your story is likely to attract media attention:
- Please notify us as soon as the paper is accepted by a journal as we ideally work to a deadline of when it first appears online, issuing the story to media under an embargo ahead of print.
- We issue press releases under embargo 2-3 days before online publication to give reporters time to draft their articles ahead of the news breaking.
- Forward us any correspondence from third parties who approach you about press releases, particularly if any deadlines are fast approaching.
- If the research is a collaboration, we generally work to coordinate a joint release that can be adapted for each partner’s own channels to avoid sending multiple releases on the same news to journalists. Any additional releases should be clearly adding value (e.g. highlighting the UK author).
- Authors need to be available for interviews if there is interest in the story and we can offer advice for anyone who needs it ahead of interviews.
- How does my faculty communication manager work with media?
Most UCL faculties and departments have a communications contact who can help promote stories on any channels they manage e.g. departmental enewsletters, Twitter and website news pages.
When you think you have big news coming up, as an academic or comms professional, please contact us in Media Relations, as well as your faculty communications manager, as we have specific expertise in promoting UCL’s research and stories to media.
If a press release, or an exclusive pitch, is the best option, we can take advantage of our extensive up-to-date media database and monitoring services.
Please note a press release is not always the most effective way to reach a target audience so we may recommend pitching the story as an exclusive or using other UCL communications channels such as:
- Social media including Twitter and Facebook pages
- Flickr galleries
- Feature pieces
- Thought leadership or opinion editorials
- Podcasts or videos
- Will you send out a press release I, or someone in my area, has written?
We do not send out a press release that we have not been involved in writing. Releases distributed centrally need to conform to a certain style so we really need to be involved from the outset. The key people involved, such as study authors, are integral to the drafting process and have full copy approval.
We risk our reputation if we send out poor quality or unclear releases, or overuse valuable media contacts. Good notice is also vital because as far as possible we try to plan for news that is coming up in the weeks and months ahead, including an ongoing planned schedule of press releases. Planning well also lessens the risks of UCL stories clashing or competing with others on the day.
- Can I write and distribute press releases directly myself?
There is no central policy to prevent this, and in an organisation as large and complex as UCL we appreciate there are some occasions where this might be appropriate. However, we would advise considering this carefully.
Distributing material that is rushed, not well targeted/timely or going to out-of-date contacts risks reflecting badly on your department and UCL as a whole. If you or predecessors in your role have done this, it’s worth looking back to check if it resulted in coverage. If there was little or no pickup, question the approach. If you are sending out a release, please make it clear that it’s from your area rather than central UCL and do not brand/title it in a way that implies it is.
The term ‘press release’ can be used quite broadly, and you might be asked to produce one by people without a sound understanding of what is involved (e.g that it will be sent to major global news outlets and be a strong enough story that there’s a good chance of them covering it). If you need support in explaining why it might not be a good idea, or to recommend another approach, we are happy to help.
- Can you provide me with a list of key media/journalists in my area?
We have extensive media lists covering major subject areas, and we ensure these are kept up to date and tailored for promoting your stories to the media. We do not share lists or contact details of journalists without prior approval from those individuals to comply with GDPR.
- As an academic, how can I provide comments on relevant issues to journalists?
A very effective means for you to raise your profile and that of your work in the media can be by providing expert comment. Our team receive calls from national and international media on a daily basis seeking academics to comment on a wide range of issues.
We have a central database of UCL experts we use when we get calls for comment, and journalists can search the database directly, so please do sign up. Register here as an expert if you haven't already done so.
- Is media training available at UCL?
Yes – a short course is available through HR. Run by UCL’s own team of experienced communications experts and former journalists, this short course provides useful information and tips on how to best promote your work and expertise in the media. Register here.
The Media Relations team also offers tailored training for faculties and departments depending on specific training needs.
- A journalist has contacted me/an academic in my area - what should I do?
If it centres around your research and you feel comfortable responding, please do and ensure that your UCL affiliation is included so we can capture your coverage for ‘UCL in the media’ pages and promote it across UCL channels.
If you have any concerns, it is potentially controversial, or you are unclear about anything, we’re happy to advise. In cases where it is a negative story, we can work with you and relevant colleagues in your area to draft a statement and handle any media interest.
- How can we highlight some great coverage we have had, to people around UCL, and to a wider audience?
All UCL coverage in top-tier mainstream media is featured in our 'UCL in the media section' on our UCL news website.
In addition, there are a number of ways we can promote your media coverage across UCL’s central channels e.g. social media, enewsletters and websites. Click here to submit your story for internal and social media promotion.
- What is the process regarding filming/journalists visiting my department?
Please let Media Relations know if you are being filmed by media so they can see what additional support is needed, and monitor for coverage to promote across UCL channels.
If it is taking place in a lab or teaching area, there may be considerations (such as if students are happy to be filmed) that might benefit from closer supervision and you will need permissions from the facilities manager. It is good practice to let security know for information when a crew are going to be on campus and where, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and this is essential for filming in shared spaces such as the quad and Wilkins building.
Parking can sometimes be arranged via the central service desk (email@example.com or 020 7679 0000) depending on where filming is taking place. Do also let your contact in the Media Relations team know, so we can look out for coverage and promote this.
- What about audio and video materials recorded from home?
With the rise of homeworking during the Covid-19 crisis, we've developed a short and practical guide with top tips for recording videos and online interviews from home (PDF - please request access).
Issue / reputation management
UCL Media Relations coordinates UCL’s communication response to issues and reputation management. Communications is vital in ensuring UCL’s continued operational effectiveness in advance, during and after an incident or issue; for providing guidance and reassurance to those affected and safeguarding UCL’s reputation.
CAM leads the communications strategy, advice and operations with all key audiences including: media, general public, staff, students, alumni and stakeholders such as local residents, funders, partners, central and local government.
If you think there might be a serious incident or issue that we need to be aware of, please contact us as soon as possible. If in doubt escalate.
- What issues does this include?
People: an accident, security or health incident that might affect a member of UCL’s community.
Environment: an issue which might affect a part of UCL’s estate such as flooding or a gas/chemical leak.
Assets: an issue which might affect crucial assess such as cyber attack or damage to property or systems that affect the smooth running of the university
Reputation: Issues such as controversial events, misconduct, fraud or political/external issues
- Who shall I contact in the case of an emergency?
For urgent security assistance: Security control (24/7): 020 769 2222 (ext. 222)
For all media enquiries: Media relations in-hours: 0207 679 9041 (ext: 09041) | Out of hours: 07917 271 364
Security: 0207 679 2108 (ext: 32108)
ISD: 0207 679 5000 (ext: 25000)
Safety: 020 3108 7246 (ext: 57246)
- What is my responsibility with regards to dealing with issues?
Every individual has a responsibility to be prepared and to understand what their role and responsibilities are if issues arise, so please check your local incident response plan and escalate any issues as soon as possible to your faculty or divisional response leaders, CAM and a member of UCL’s senior management team.
Timing and accuracy are crucial. With facts often changing quickly and difficult to establish, UCL’s reputation will depend on how quickly you can share correct information.
- What is UCL's response to deaths and disasters? Is guidance available?
UCL is increasingly called upon to respond officially to global incidents and attacks, as well as personal tragedies when students or staff have died during their studies or employment with us.
A guidelines document is available to staff to clarify UCL’s response to global atrocities, large-scale accidents, natural disasters, and deaths of staff and students. These guidelines outline the criteria UCL will use to determine which incidents we will observe and why, and which channels we will use.
The document is available on CAM Plus Sharepoint, click here to require access to UCL’s response to deaths and disasters.