Guideline to Working with the Media

The Communications Office tells the stories of the Addis Ababa University. It is our job to inform the public about the University, its people, and programs in a way that showcases the characteristics that make AAU a great place to study, live, and work.

These stories often introduce the University to new audiences or build positive recognition of the institution. In turn, we assist other parts of the AAU community with their mission, whether it’s student or faculty recruitment, fundraising, or enhancing name recognition for alumni looking for jobs or pursuing advanced degrees.

The AAU Guide to Working with the Media is intended to introduce AAU’s faculty and staff to the ways in which the Communications Office promotes the Addis Ababa University in the media. This guide also highlights how we can work together to enhance positive media attention for the University.

Reporting AAU News

Communications Office shares news items with the media in a variety of ways. The following is a list of those ways and guidelines for submitting information to us for a news story. In all cases, the method of news sharing will be at the discretion of the news staff and determined on a case-by-case basis in order to maximize publicity for an announcement or event.

  1. News releases: News releases are reserved for newsworthy items about the University. Because media outlets generally publish event information only in calendar form, we are reducing the number of event news releases that are issued. When possible, please submit information for a news release three weeks in advance (or as early as possible) and include a photo, when appropriate.
  2. Calendars: Communications Office will produce several calendars of public events that are targeted to specific news organizations such as a calendar of cultural events, a calendar of authors who are speaking at the University, and a calendar of professional and business events. Each calendar is compiled in advance of the beginning of two semesters and is updated and re-issued to the media as new events are finalized. All public events should be submitted at least a month in advance for inclusion in a calendar and in the online University Public Events Calendar.
  3. Media pitches: Sometimes, the Communications Office staff will choose to “pitch” a story to one or more reporters rather than issue a news release. Usually, this one-on-one contact allows us to “sell” the idea to the reporter and provide immediate feedback should the reporter have any questions. Please let us know about the following items, which often result in media pitches:
    •  A human interest story that showcases a student’s, faculty member’s, or staff member’s unique talents or situation
    •  Research studies and results
    • New scholarly publications, whether in a journal or book (Note: While we don’t market publications to increase sales, we do market your expertise in this area, which indirectly markets a book for sale.)
    • The evolution of higher education, whether it is in student life, the campus experience, new teaching methods, or something else
    • General trends in higher education, either regionally or nationally

Expert tips: When a current event coincides with a faculty member’s area of expertise, we will suggest that person as an expert to the media. If there is breaking news within your area of expertise and you are available for comment, please contact the Communication Office immediately so that we can put you in touch with the correct members of the media.

Press conferences: From time to time, news at the University warrants a press conference or press availability. This method of communication is reserved for major announcements or when a nationally known speaker is lecturing at the University.

Please remember that we can not promise media coverage. The publication or airing of a story depends on a variety of factors, including the number of staff available at a media organization to work on a story, space in a publication or air time, the emergence of breaking news, or a similar story that has been reported recently.

How do I know if my story idea is newsworthy?

Please contact a member of the Communication Office staff with any story ideas you have, and together we will determine if it is newsworthy. Even if the item is not deemed newsworthy by external media, we may include it on the web site or within internal communications.

Generally, journalists rely on the factors below to determine whether a story idea is newsworthy:

Conflict/Controversy – Are there opposing viewpoints?
Human Interest – Does the story share something about the human experience? Does it add put a human face on a concept, idea, or current event?
Impact – How does the story affect readers/listeners/viewers?
Prominence – Does the story include a well-known person, organization, or place?
Proximity – Is the story local? Can their readers/listeners/viewers relate to it?
Timeliness – Is the story relevant today?
Unusual – Does the story relay an out-of-the-ordinary experience? Is this the first, last, biggest?

Talking To the Media

During a Media Crisis or Other Institutional Issue:

As a general rule, employees are welcome to talk to a member of the media about a topic within their area of expertise. However, when faculty and staff members are asked to comment on an institutional question or an issue that relates to the entire institution, the reporter should be referred to the Communications Office. The Communications staff, in cooperation with the Director  of  the   External Relations, Partnership and Communications, will determine the appropriate spokesperson on behalf of the University. The staff will refer the reporter to the appropriate source for comment.

About Your Area of Expertise:

When a member of the news media contacts a faculty or staff member to comment on a topic within the employee’s area of expertise (e.g., a faculty member’s academic research or area of academic specialization), the employee may answer questions immediately, if so desired. However, if the faculty or staff member prefers to give some thought to the questions before answering, or if she/he has questions about the interview and how to respond, Communications Office recommends the employee take the reporter’s telephone number and return the call as soon as possible. Faculty or staff faced with this situation may then contact a Communication staff member who will be glad to share information about the reporter, the angle the story is likely to take, other stories the reporter may be researching or writing at the time, and any other background information that may be helpful in advance of the interview.

While it is optional for a faculty or staff member to contact the Communications Office prior to talking with a reporter about the employee’s area of expertise, it is very important that Communications Office be notified immediately after the employee has spoken with a reporter. The office monitors and tracks the progress of all AAU-related stories in order to help reporters find sources and gather facts and images, when appropriate. Knowing to whom a reporter has talked will assist in the tracking process. In addition, an archive of print and broadcast news stories about the Addis Ababa University is maintained by the Communications Office, and these stories are emailed to members of the University Board and other important groups.