Box 9.21

When key spokespeople become statesmen for the field

By Pam Norick, Chief of External Relations, International Partnership for Microbicides, Silver Spring, MD

IPM is fortunate to have a Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Zeda Rosenberg, who is one of the recognized spokespersons for the microbicide field. Zeda is often asked to speak or comment on the latest developments in microbicides and HIV prevention research.

Zeda is successful because she is open-minded and recognizes the value of effective communications; yet she is disciplined about sticking to the data she knows to be true. She is supportive of research conducted across the HIV prevention community, and she is careful to comment only on science relevant to microbicide research and development. The HIV prevention community is small, and Zeda’s first rule is to do no harm and be respectful.

We on the IPM team support Zeda’s role as spokesperson by providing her with two essential tools: data and contextual background. Each time Zeda is asked to speak, we prepare talking points, messages, and background materials on the specific topic as well as the publication or venue. We ensure that she has the information she needs to tell the right story in the right way to the right audience. Along the way, we take time to translate the science for general audiences. Translating science for the public represents a cornerstone toward fostering public support.

Entering an interview with facts and clarity not only makes journalists’ lives easier, it makes our spokespeople more relatable, quotable, and popular among all of IPM’s audiences.