UCT leads in media race

29 July 2002
THE AMOUNT of media coverage that UCT's research receives is almost double of that of other universities.

This was revealed in a comparative analysis of the media coverage generated by UCT and the universities of Pretoria, Stellenbosch, Witwatersrand and Natal. Newsclip, South Africa's top media monitoring agency, did the analysis.

UCT's Department of Communication and Marketing has been instrumental in generating R4.6-m worth of print media coverage in only three months. Its closest competitor in this regard, Stellenbosch, received almost R1.9-m less than UCT.

UCT's coverage included 662 articles, an equivalent of 197 pages totalling 28 296 column centimetres. Most of the news was reported in the daily newspapers across the country. The University received coverage in 240 different printed media, including Business Day, The Natal Witness, Engineering News, The Sowetan, Sunday Tribune, Veld and Flora, the Urban Green File, Vukani, the Namibian Economist, Leadership, the SA Medical Journal, SA Mining, the SA Journal of Natural Medicine, Pretoria News, the Medical Chronicle, Mail & Guardian, Elle, Insig, the Journal of Convergence, Computing SA and the Analytical Reporter, among others.

The top UCT representatives in the media for the period of analysis were the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, Professor Tony Fairall of the Department of Astronomy, staff of the Division of Exercise Sports Medicine at the Sports Science Institute for their involvement in Mark Shuttleworth's space flight, as well as staff from the Health Sciences Faculty for research into AIDS vaccines and a new innoculation for TB.

According to the Executive Director of the Department, Gerda Kruger, this success belongs not only to the Department but to all academics and researchers who spend time talking to the media. "These figures help to indicate that UCT researchers are a preferred source of specialist comment on a wide-range of topics. The coverage also helps to shape public perception of UCT, attract funding and world-class scholars and students."

The results were an indication of a deliberate, carefully planned media campaign, she said. "Due to a very restricted advertising budget, we decided to consolidate UCT's institutional marketing campaign by means of a very focused media campaign. In line with the four main guides agreed by the University Strategy Committee (research-led, global, selectively comprehensive and medium-sized) our media plan has concentrated on pro-actively securing media coverage around specific themes or topics that support these guides."

Kruger said that the Department had placed a specific focus on getting UCT's research published in the media, and the analysis showed "very significant" results in this regard. For the three-month period of the analysis, 212 articles focusing on research at UCT were published in the printed media. For the same period, Natal secured 45, Stellenbosch secured 106, Wits secured 103 and Pretoria had 79 research-focused articles in the printed media.

"These figures indicate that UCT researchers are a preferred source of specialist comment for journalists on a wide range of general and trade newspapers and magazines." According to Skye Grove, Operations Manager of the Department, credit can be placed firmly at the door of the Media Services team in the Department.

"A significant number of stories published in the media are drawn from Monday Paper. We have a carefully planned engine room in the Department for writing and distributing news to the media.

"Monday Paper is at the centre of this engine room, creating and compiling 17 stories a week.

"This team's efforts are complemented by staffers such as Media Liaison Manager Shireen Sedres, Nicole Chidrawi in the Media Relations Office, and Mary Hilton, Faculty Liaison Manager, all of whom are instrumental in preparing and scouting information that UCT can 'sell' to the media."

A copy of the comprehensive analysis report is available from Skye Grove, email: sgrove@bremner.uct.ac.za

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