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    Nature Education said:

    You’ve laid out here the steps that everyone in that loop should follow to ensure that communication to and from all parties stays accurate. It’s a good set of guidelines. Someone should do a session on this somewhere. 😉

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    Matt Shipman said:

    Glad to hear they’ll be tackling this at Scio London and the UK Conference of Science Journalists. I think discussion of these issues in multiple forums (social media, conferences, etc.) is essential. If we focus on the steps we can take to improve science communication, rather than kvetching about who is at fault for science communication failures, we will be moving in the right direction.

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    Patric Lane said:

    Excellent points, Matt.

    The only thing I disagree with is regarding when researchers should contact their institution’s PIO to let them know about forthcoming papers etc. Rather than a week or two in advance, I encourage people to let us know a month or two in advance, for two main reasons:

    (1) PIOs often wear many hats, have multiple duties and get LOTS of requests to help publicize studies, so a week or two’s notice may not be enough. I know some journal’s have quite fast submission-to-publication turnaround times these days, but give a PIO a heads-up as early as possible: ideally, a month or two out.

    (2) Providing as much lead time as possible allows PIOs and researchers to put their heads together to brainstorm the best ways to publicize the research: e.g., cat-herding awesome visuals for a video or slideshow … exploring creative multimedia story telling possibilities … thinking about potential wider issues and/or news “pegs” that we can leverage off to help explain the context of the research.

    Bottom line, tho, you’ve laid out excellent “best-practice” principles. Regards, Patric

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    Matt Shipman said:

    Patric — I agree completely. That’s why I say “at least” one or two weeks notice. The more lead time a PIO has, the more options he or she has in terms of how to promote the work. Also — worth noting — it gives the PIO more time to work on the release with the researcher(s) to ensure it is both accurate and couched in terms that non-experts can understand.

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    Dennis Meredith said:

    Hi, Matt,
    Excellent post! I, too, was shocked to hear at SciOnline 2012 that some PIOs do not check their releases with sources. That’s a sure way to run your institution’s credibility with media, as well as the public.

    Also, you might be interested in my guide, “Working with Public Information Officers,” which is online at .


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    Adrian J. Ebsary said:

    I agree with your proposal, Matt. Do you think the future will see a team of specialized PIOs working to maximize the social media amplification of any kind of content that comes out of the University? Is there still a place for ‘media relations,’ or would you say there is too much overlap with PIO work?

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    Matt Shipman said:

    Hey Adrian,
    I think we will see social media expertise become increasingly important for PIOs, and that many P.R. shops (for universities and otherwise) will have in-house social media “experts” on staff to handle the various platforms and outreach campaigns. That said, I think there is definitely still a place for media relations — we may simply have to redefine the media they are working with. Social media can help you reach a broad audience. But if you want to reach a specific audience, such as a university’s regional community, it’s still hard to beat a local news broadcast — to say nothing of the footprint you get from national media coverage. I don’t think we’re at a point where we can afford to drop any of our media outreach efforts — mainstream or otherwise.

    That said, “PIO” and “media relations” are synonymous at NC State (where I work). I think that’s a good thing. It makes coordination easier when everyone is familiar with the strengths and limitations of various outlets — and the effort needed to take advantage of those outlets.

    Does that make sense?

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    Ashley Berthelot said:

    Matt, thank you for outlining these best practices. I am amazed that there are PIOS out there who don’t allow faculty to verify the science in their stories. This is definitely a conversation that needs to be had throughout the PIO community. I really appreciate you taking the time to share these details.

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