Day in the life of the press office

Bex Walton and Lisa Boucher have worked in what is now the Springer Nature Journals and Editorial External Communications team since 2011 and 2010, respectively. Our team now includes 11 people, who promote content across all the Springer Nature journals. We both have a focus on Nature, however, with Bex working on front-half (magazine) content and Lisa covering back-half (research). In the press office, no two days are ever the same, but here’s a flavour of what we do and what we love about the job.

Bex Walton, head of communications, and Lisa Boucher, press manager

What’s a typical day like for you at Nature?

Each week, we send a press release to journalists, highlighting the latest research and front-half content from Nature. So, in a typical day, we could be working with the editors to select potentially newsworthy articles, then writing or editing simple summaries of the findings. In addition, we reach out to the authors and their institutional press officers to keep them updated about their articles, and to coordinate publicity efforts. We produce weekly reports summarizing media coverage of papers we’ve published.

We also organize telephone press briefings for papers that are likely to receive exceptionally high levels of media interest — or papers that could be controversial. This involves two or three authors briefly summarizing their findings and then responding to questions from journalists on the line. We regularly get journalists from a wide range of different publications and geographical locations dialling in to these events, and authors and journalists often say how useful they find them.

We often have to juggle tasks and reprioritize because we also handle many reactive enquiries from journalists, authors and other researchers, and institutional press officers. For example, we help to arrange interviews with editors, and work with other colleagues to respond to enquiries about content published in our journals.

What do you enjoy most about your day?

LB: Reading exciting new research that we’re publishing, and seeing nice coverage come in. I also enjoy trying to get the occasional pun into our press releases.

BW: Like Lisa, I still get excited reading the list of newly accepted Nature papers each week and finding out about fascinating upcoming front-half content. Being involved in the promotion of such fantastic content every single week will never lose its appeal. It’s also great working with so many talented, hard-working and passionate people — both colleagues and authors.

What has been your most memorable experience working at Nature?

LB: A 2017 paper reported a hidden internal structure in Khufu’s Pyramid at Giza, Egypt. I worked closely with the authors, editors and production team to make sure the paper was published at a time that suited the authors. We organized a press briefing to allow them to describe their fascinating findings to a wide audience, resulting in widespread coverage. They were incredibly positive and collaborative throughout the process, and even invited me to their publication party in France (unfortunately, I couldn’t make it as I was nine months’ pregnant!).

BW: When Google Doodle decided to highlight a seven-planet extrasolar system described in one of our papers, that was quite special. Working on the communication of a 2015 paper that presented possible evidence for the human transmission of Alzheimer’s pathology was also very rewarding. With fantastic support from the editors, we also worked closely with the numerous external stakeholders to try to ensure that the reporting was balanced.

One of my favourite front-half articles that I worked on was Mario Livio’s Comment piece in which he argued that a newly discovered essay by Winston Churchill suggests that the politician reasoned like a scientist about the likelihood of life on other planets. We worked closely with the editors on the press release, which prompted more than 1,000 news stories. Twenty-nine of the 50 key global media outlets we track covered the story — including The Guardian, which featured it on its front page.

How many others work on Nature in your team?

Lisa is the main press contact for all back-half content, while Bex manages the promotion of front-half content. Our press office assistant Isobel Lisowski helps out by keeping external press offices updated about the status of their authors’ papers, answering questions from authors and journalists, and adding content to the press site to ensure journalists have access to all materials associated with our papers; she also helps to collect coverage of our press-released papers. Others in the team, including Michael Stacey, Sarah Hausman and Sarah McClenaghan, write press releases about Nature papers and sometimes help to organize press briefings. Xi Chen, based in Shanghai, promotes our journals and our content in China, and Alice Henchley, who heads the Springer Nature Journals and Editorial Communications team, also provides support and guidance to us all.

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

LB: Receiving thanks from the authors when they have received some great-quality news coverage.

BW: Me too! A very nice comment we received recently was: “The coverage and reach of my paper has been beyond my wildest dreams!”

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d42859-019-00113-0

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