Going Live with UofG Research
UofG is a research-intensive university so finding brilliant (and world-changing) research stories to tell on our social media channels isn't difficult. It's more about finding new and engaging ways to bring our research to life and making it accessible to a whole variety of audiences. Despite the multiple frustrations we have with Facebook (**big sigh - don't get me started**), Live does still offer a decent interactive platform for showcasing our academics and discussing their latest cutting-edge research. Even if we don't get as many viewers as we did back in the golden FB halcyon days!
Having now done two in our series of 'Ask the UofG Expert' Facebook Lives (one focusing on Diabetes Type 2 and Obesity and the second discussing new Suicide and Self Harm research) I thought it might be useful to share insights about our objectives and top tips for getting the best results.
1) ACCESSIBLE RESEARCH - We want to make our research accessible to multiple audiences, from academic peers and funding bodies to the general public and prospective students. By streaming live interviews with our academics, with the opportunity to pose real-time questions, we allow our audiences access to latest UofG research.
2) SHOWCASING OUR ACADEMICS: People are at the heart of the UofG strategic vision so showcasing our academics and the incredible work they do is an important part of our strategy.
3) TOPICAL DISCUSSIONS: We want to be at the forefront of topical issues, be involved in important conversations and be thought leaders in the sector. I'll talk about this in more detail in the next section but a main focus for me is around allowing our research to open up a dialogue/discussion and not shying away from subjects, even if they're sensitive like our latest suicide and self-harm study.
4) RESEARCH BEACONS - UofG now has six research beacons/cross-disciplinary areas of excellence so a key objective for future Facebook Lives will be raising the profile of these key areas.
Top tips to consider/ensure success:
- THE INTERVIEWEE / ACADEMIC: Not everyone is comfortable in front of a camera and/or able to distill their research into something that makes sense to everyone. It's also important for them to be able to convey their research in an engaging way and for the audience to connect with them.
- THE INTERVIEWER: This is a very important role as the interviewer essentially holds the whole 'interview' together. This person needs to have a really good knowledge of the research, keep the interview focused and make the interviewee feel at ease. For our first two lives our interviewer was Elizabeth McMeekin who co-manages Communications for the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences. She knows the research in detail managing all the media coverage but doesn't have a medical background so could also ask questions that the general public could relate to as well. Questions coming in are often quite short and it's useful for the interviewer to be able to expand on the answers and ask further questions, the way anyone might do if they were having a one-to-one conversation. And what was also key was making the interviews relaxed and conversational.
- LOCATION: The filming location is very important. It needs to fit with the research topic. For our Diabetes Live - we chose a lab because the research was lab-based and it set the right tone. But for Suicide & Self-Harm research which was non lab based we wanted to find a space that was light and bright because of the subject matter. And it's crucial to also check the wifi capabilities!
- TIME: 30 minutes is generally a good amount of time for a Facebook Live interview unless you get a million questions and it naturally needs to run over.
- TIMING & A GOOD HOOK: To create the greatest impact it's important to try to tie the Live in with something topical. For our suicide and self-harm study - we decided to run our Live on the day the research was being released. We knew Sky News were running an exclusive interview with Professor Rory O'Connor (our lead academic) that morning (and that it would likely be picked up by other media - which it was) and we wanted to ensure we were able to have content on our own channels while it was out there across all the media outlets. Coincidentally Coronation Street were running a big suicide story line the same week so there was greater media and online discussion than usual. We were able to elevate our research, raising the profile of suicide awareness and prevention on the back of this (tying in tweets with relevant hashtags after the episodes had aired).
- PROMOTION: An obvious one but the whole idea is to get as many people as possible to watch your Live so promotion is key. We created reminders on Facebook (in addition to the promotional posts) and cross promoted on Twitter and Instagram with static images, & short video clips with the academic.
- RESOURCE: Facebook Lives are resource intensive - right from the planning to the execution. The whole team involved in the Facebook Live needs to spend time with the academic beforehand to create the promotional materials, discuss their research and establish the topics they're comfortable (and not comfortable) covering in the Live. And on the day, it takes time to set up the camera & technical kit to check audio etc (1-2 people), the interviewer and interviewee need time to get warmed up and ready to go, 1-2 people monitoring the sound and cameras during the Live, 1-2 people monitoring the questions coming in and relaying these (in our case via Facebook messenger) in a logical way to the interviewer (and often to reply to your audience as questions come in) and then ideally additional resource to do extra social media coverage/promotion on Twitter and Instagram.
- BE PREPARED: You never know what the response is going to be so it's a good idea to have some questions prepared in case it takes a little while to get questions in. And with sensitive subjects like the suicide research we also prepared text and a wee video with Rory O'Connor to say if anyone had been affected by issues discussed in the Live, what support was available to help them. We also briefed our crisis support team in case they received more calls than usual and let the Samaritans and Breathing Space know about our activity.
- TECHNICAL: I'm not going to cover too much of the technical (I'll leave that to Dan to cover this in a follow-up blog) but it's important to use the right tech to make the Lives professional looking, have decent audio and good wifi!
- GOALS: like all social media activity - you need to establish your goals. For each of our research Facebook Lives we have different goals. Our Diabetes research goal was around engagement - specifically the number of questions we received and our aim was to have a wide range of questions from a quite technical understanding/medical knowledge of the disease to the more layman - someone who might suffer from type 2 diabetes or have a relative that does. But for our suicide research - bearing in mind the subject - our goal wasn't around engagement, it was more about firstly raising awareness of this important issue and talking about Rory's research at the same time the media were reporting on it.
- JUST TRY: Our ethos is always to try things and if they don't work then we've learnt from it. If things go wrong (for our first Live we went live before we meant to and for our second one we had some issues with the room picking up static and the audio not being as clear at the start as it should have been). It doesn't matter, the whole point is that they're authentic and any glitches mean that we learn from them and can fix the technical issues for our next Live. Ultimately to innovate you have to be bold and give things a go!
You bet! We are in the process of planning our next ones with a whole host of ideas and ways to bring the amazing research at UofG to life - so keep your eyes peeled!