Scientists, Reporters & PIOs: What Do You Think About Online Press Materials?
In late February of 2014, I’ll be moderating a conversation about online press materials – the stuff that public information officers (PIOs) make available to reporters online. What do reporters want or need in an online press package? What do PIOs think reporters want or need? And what do scientists make of all this?
The conversation about online press materials will be part of ScienceOnline Together, being held on the NC State University campus (where I work) in Raleigh. I’ll be there to moderate the conversation, but I will not be there to lead the conversation. My job is to get other people to talk about this, to keep the conversation moving, and to make sure no one hogs the mic. That’s it.
To that end, I am soliciting input from you. Yes, you. The person reading this right now. I want to know what you think. What questions or insights do you have? I want you to be part of the conversation, regardless of whether you’ll be there in person or not. And we can start that conversation right now. The hashtag for this session is #scioPress, and we can start using it today.
But if you want to make comments that are more than 140 characters long (and I hope you do), please put them in the comments here.
To get the ball rolling, I’m going to post in something written by Lauren Rugani. Rugani is a media relations officer at the National Academy of Sciences and previously worked in communications offices at CERN and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. She was also instrumental in proposing this ScienceOnline session about press materials.
Maybe her thoughts will jump-start some ideas of your own. If so, please share your ideas.
Here’s what Rugani had to say -----
Despite conversations in recent years on whether or not the press release is dead and how to improve press releases, the standard press release model remains stubbornly in place. This session could explore possibilities beyond the press release that would still give institutions the publicity they want, journalists the compelling and original stories they look for, and scientists the peace of mind that their work is being represented accurately.
I really, truly hope that this session attracts people from all three areas, not just the PIOs! Here are some questions for everyone to consider and weigh in on:
How can writers find stories from institutions without a press release?
What other kinds of materials do journalists want, that PIOs or scientists can produce given realistic resources and constraints?
Example: Data visualization. The National Academy of Sciences produced this interactive chart to accompany a report on U.S. health rankings compared with other industrialized nations, but a few minutes playing with data could lead reporters to other interesting angles or entirely new stories.
Should PIOs produce other “original” or “packaged” material? If so, what’s left for the journalist to do? Or should PIOs provide ideas and leave journalists to come up with their own stories? How can they do that? Which do journalists prefer?
Should scientists be required to produce ancillary material as part of submissions to or publications in peer-reviewed journals?
Example: The New Journal of Physics accepts video abstracts for their papers, which are free to watch, include transcripts, and give journalists insight into scientists’ personalities, topics
of study, and possible story angles.
Should scientists forgo public relations completely?
A recent CJR article proposed that eLife paper authors could refrain from involving PR departments and instead work with journal staff to produce “digests,” or brief descriptions of the work that would be included as part of the technical paper and held to the same scientific standards.