Working With PR Pros
If you’re based at a company or institution with a PR or communications department, be proactive about asking PR staff to promote your media-worthy projects. Many universities produce magazines and reports highlight-ing the work of their faculty, such as Research Horizons from Georgia Tech. That publication is distributed three times a year to 18,000 individuals and organizations, which includes about 2,000 media contacts. Research news is posted on a regular basis.
Lee Siegel – who was a science reporter for 25 years before joining the University of Utah’s public relations office – says the most effective way to gain media attention for a university is by publicizing research done by faculty members. Faculty should contact their campus PR office well before a potentially newsworthy study is published or presented at a meeting. Siegel prefers to receive such studies when they are submitted and no later than when they are accepted. The science media are much less likely to write about research if they receive a news release after the study is published.
Siegel says studies that are newsworthy tend to have rele-vance to readers’ health and other aspects of their lives, and to society and modern problems, or simply inspire laypeople to think, “Gee whiz!” During the past decade, Siegel has written a half-dozen news releases on research by Strayer and Drews on driver dis-traction caused by cell phones. Because the subject is relevant to so many people, no other area of research on campus has gener-ated so much ongoing publicity in recent years, he says. “Researchers must be ready and available for media interviews if a news release is issued on their work,” Siegel notes. “Many re-porters work on tight deadlines. If you are not available when they try to reach you, they may move on to something else.”