Box 9.6

Approaches for sharing information through news media

Press conference/
media briefing

  • Announce a new discovery, publication, or launch of a major new program.

  • Draw attention to an urgent situation.

  • Invite journalists from many different outlets, including community radio, print publications, Internet sites, and television programs.

  • If the press briefing is at your study site, consider including a tour of the facilities after the briefing. Visuals are important, especially for television news media.

  • Identify key spokespersons available for interviews, since many journalists will want to do follow-up interviews. If your site community speaks multiple languages, make sure to include spokespersons fluent in those languages who can speak with local media. Consider including respected community members and other third-party validators.

Press kits

  • Provide short materials and background information for a story. The press release is the main document, which can be supplemented by fact sheets, Q&As, visual aids, reports, and biographies of experts.

  • Prepare press kits for journalists whenever you do a press briefing or invite journalists to attend an event. Keep the information concise and easy to scan. If you are launching a lengthy report, include copies of the executive summary only.

  • When possible, translate key materials (press release, fact sheets) into the local language. This can prevent misinterpretation of scientific terms and sensitive issues.

  • Include contact information for spokespeople in case reporters have follow-up questions.

Telephone calls to reporters or editors

  • Alert reporters to a breaking news story, such as upcoming trial results or other announcements.

  • Follow up on a press release or invitation to an upcoming event.

  • Inform reporters or editors of errors and ask for a correction to be printed.

  • If possible, give reporters adequate notice. For example, do not wait until the day before your study releases results to contact journalists.

  • Do not assume that because you sent a press release the reporter has seen it or has had time to read it.

  • Always leave a telephone number where they can reach you, preferably both an office and a mobile number.

  • Start by asking if they have time to talk. If they are on deadline and busy, ask when you can call back.

  • Be prepared to say everything you need to say very quickly—get right to the point.

Press release/press

  • Provide the key elements—What, Why, When, Where, and How—of a story.

  • Offer reporters a news hook, as well as compelling quotes, statistics, or concepts to help frame the story.

  • Use proactively for announcing new published data, trial results, or a surprising development that affects the field as a whole.

  • Use to support or respond to an
    announcement or situation in the field.

  • Promote transparency of the research, especially when an unexpected change or trial closure takes place.

  • You can distribute press releases many different ways depending on whether and how much media you are seeking. Consider using a wire service if you want to make sure many media outlets see your statement, or opt to post it on your organization’s Web site if you are not actively seeking coverage.

  • A press release should be factual. Never overstate or oversell.

  • Always be sure to proofread your press release for grammatical mistakes or misspelled words.

Opinion pieces/
op-ed columns

  • Express a strong opinion about an issue with local impact. These are typically written and signed by a prominent person or expert or by a group of organizations.

  • News editors are looking for op-ed pieces that say something new or provide a fresh perspective.

Letters to the editor

  • Reinforce the importance of a published story.

  • Present an alternative to the opinion put forward by the person quoted in a story

  • Point out and correct an important mistake.

  • Keep letters short, concise, and fresh. Do not repeat and reinforce negative information.

  • Be professional, especially if you are
    responding to an inaccuracy or inflammatory accusation.

  • When correcting an error, consider whether a telephone call would be more appropriate and effective or if both responses are

Social media

  • Reach out to new influencers and global stakeholders through online media tools and sites, including blogs.

  • Share information, especially on topics where you would like feedback or to engage in an online dialogue.

  • Provide short updates that do not require much detail or explanation.

  • Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, make it easy for readers to share your content with others in their networks. If your stakeholders are online, you may want to be as well.

  • Be aware of the risks involved and be careful to monitor any social media tools you use, as naysayers are just as likely to engage as