By Hillarie Turner, VP at Van Eperen and Stacey May, (former) Director of Public Outreach at the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists
Medical and scientific abstracts, soon to be published peer-reviewed journal articles and studies, you name it, we love it all. Let’s set a scenario … you are part of the communications team at an association and your annual meeting is a few months away. Your team has been tasked (or we would say gifted) with reviewing all of the accepted meeting abstracts for potential media interest. For this purpose, let’s assume there are about 2,000 abstracts to review, all of which have met the scientific standards outlined by the screeners. Based on our years of experience we wanted to share our recommendations.
– Be knowledgeable about what is happening in the field. It is critical to understand trends, what is currently getting coverage, and any controversial topics.
– Develop an abstract tracking system for the team, with 2,000 moving parts, this step is an essential one for project management success!
– Divide up abstracts between team members, ideally getting two sets of eyes on each one for multiple perspectives.
– Develop a set of criteria the abstracts need to meet, a rubric of sorts, and keep in mind current climate and policies.
– Each team member should read all and give an initial rating to each abstract.
– Re-read your rated abstracts – include tier 1, 2 and maybes – then add to tracker.
– Have a team meeting to “defend” your selections.
– Conduct initial outreach to researchers via email with list of questions such as:
Can you please briefly describe your project in lay language?
What is the next stage of your research?
Do you anticipate any controversy?
Have you presented this research at another meeting?
Would you be comfortable talking to the media about your work?
– Next step would be to schedule a call with the researchers, we find it imperative to get on the phone and have the researchers discuss their work.
– Get connected with the PIO at the institution, university, etc. to discuss PR strategy, including social media outreach. Make sure to follow key outlets, key opinion leaders on Twitter and Instagram as appropriate.
– Draft the release(s). It is important to be accurate about what stage the research is in and not overclaim/over promise. REMEMBER: Your association’s reputation is at stake! You will also want to obtain release approval from the researchers and PIO.
– Develop a release tracker with embargo time, researcher contact information, including their headshot, which is helpful if you are looking for them on-site at the meeting.
– Refine your media list (don’t forget to include outlets where researchers are from) and check to see who is covering the issue or disease state being featured.
– Issue the release(s) under embargo to targeted media, also use great services such as EurekAlert!
– Share. Share, then Share again! Engage in conversations about the research.
Put together your coverage report and make sure to also share coverage with researchers and PIO.
The research you promote is directly tied to your branding, your visibility, and your ability to position your organization/researchers as key opinion leaders. Having a strong public relations strategy around presented research can help you achieve all of these, meet organizational goals, and deliver on your mission. #WINWIN!