Annual Meeting Reports

Embracing the Constant Change in Media Relations

The media landscape looks much different today than it did 20 years ago, presenting journals with both opportunities and challenges when communicating their scientific findings to a broad audience. This session touched on several different aspects of communicating research, including internal messaging, engaging journalists, and working with authors.

Tom Champoux began with a discussion of the recent efforts of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) to communicate to its members, the press, and the public at large. The AMS is a large society with both academic and practicing members, and Champoux discovered that only a small percentage of its members were accessing journal content. Champoux and the AMS saw an opportunity to reach a wider audience through their practicing meteorologist members who deliver the weather news every day. To achieve this, they began an internal process of teaching staff that the science they publish is important and relevant to the whole organization. Many members had no idea that their journal content was being cited in the media. To address this lack of awareness, the staff redesigned their website to highlight science stories in the news in addition to their journal content. Champoux stressed that it is important to frame information in a way that makes it accessible to the general public and to provide key takeaways—what you want people to know and what you want them to do with that information.

Preeti Malani, associate editor and media relations director for JAMA, spoke about how to engage journalists. Journalists are busy and savvy, and the easier you can make things for them, the more likely they will be to cover your journal content. JAMA works hard to provide information to journalists, and although they have many resources to work with, the lessons Malani provided are useful to journals of any size. One strategy to reach journalists is to make content available to them pre-embargo, including PDFs, press releases, links, videos of author interviews, images, and scripted news stories. It is important to clearly spell out the embargo policy and make it easy to find. JAMA does this through a media portal on their website that authorized journalists are able to access and with email alerts about new content. Other strategies include interacting with journalists on Twitter— tweeting links to news coverage and retweeting journalists’ tweets—and through the Association of Health Care Journalists, which has an annual conference as well as engaged local chapters. Altmetric is a useful indicator of early media pickup. Many bloggers have large, targeted followings, and Altmetrics is a good tool for finding those bloggers so that you can engage them.

Daisy Barton, media relations manager for The Lancet, explained that authors are under increasing pressure to promote their work as demonstrated by the Research Excellence Framework, the system for assessing the quality of research in the United Kingdom that requires researchers to demonstrate “impact.” The inclusion of impact has made authors think about public engagement from the early stages of their research. Publishers should be working with authors to take advantage of media opportunities, including engaging with traditional journalists as well as using social media platforms to reach wider and more connected groups. Barton also suggested taking advantage of publishing technology to aid your outreach efforts. Elsevier, for example, has created an online platform for their research community called Elsevier Connect, where they publish engaging stories about Elsevier articles, as well as provide information for researchers on how to do outreach. It is important to consider any potential risks in promoting research, especially for controversial subjects. Outreach is almost always a good idea as it is a way to control the message, but it is also important to work with authors so they are prepared for tough questions as well as conflict-ofinterest requests.

The difficulty faced by smaller journals with fewer resources was brought up during the discussion, and the panelists suggested reaching out to authors’ institutions and funders as a solution. Staff at those institutions will often write press releases and may have author interviews. The tips and success stories provided by the speakers prove that there has never been a better time to share research with the public.