In the second episode of season 11’s The Big Bang Theory, Leonard Hofstader was invited to an NPR radio show to speak on Caltech’s physics department’s new findings. Unbeknownst to him, he was completely oblivious to what he was actually doing not only to himself but on behalf of the university.
Now let’s take a step back and analyze what was wrong even before Leonard arrived to the radio station. Any guesses? There was no clear indication of these two instances:
- Leonard didn’t check with the university’s policies on external communication and public relations
- Caltech didn’t provide proper media training for all of their research scientists before they agree to these interviews on behalf of the university
Poor Leonard. He stuck with his integrity and told the truth about what was going on at the university or much rather, what wasn’t going on. There was no great scientific find in quite a while and Leonard made it clear on public radio. He even exaggerated about how much money those scientists were spending but had not found anything. As you can imagine you would expect the reactions from his friends while the interview was proceeding, was also felt and probably shared with others which is why he got called into Dean Davis’ office….cue the wonderful Regina King!
The university had donors calling asking why were they contributing millions of dollars to the university with seeing no possible good outlook to the field of physics. Dean Davis informed Leonard he had to write a retraction statement however the bigger issue was still at hand:
There was no internal communication sent to the other scientist addressing future guest appearances on behalf of the university.
It’s the university’s responsibility to ensure they’re still the finest school in the nation for physics, biology, arts….whatever! Ensuring proper external communications will secure the university more donations from their esteemed alumni and maybe other investors who want to be a part of history. In order to do this, you must get your house in order. Caltech needs to set up a media training session for conducting in-person, written and telephone interviews. Leonard Hofstader was an introverted scientist who did not understand the consequences of his actions until it was spelled out to him via the dean’s uncomfortable conversation and via the death glares from his co-workers.
Media training could have prevented this crisis by teaching Leonard how to show the light at the end of the tunnel, even when it seems you will never reach the end or in Leonard’s case: discovering something revolutionary. When you’re working for a company, the last thing you want to do is speak negatively (or not so positively) about them in public.