Advance Preparation — Notifying the Media

The first notice to the news media of a meeting — giving its location, dates, and purposes — should go out several months in advance. Enclose a self-addressed postcard to allow media to indicate whether they plan to attend and whether they wish the subsequent media packet.

Meeting notices should also be posted on such research news web sites as EurekAlert! and Newswise, as well as appropriate Internet news groups

Once the program is established, the media chairperson and staff should select those papers to be presented that appear to be most newsworthy. Science writers from local media should be glad to help.

The media chairperson should then contact authors of promising papers, tell them of the media interest, and ask for advance texts or abstracts. This is most important. To do his or her job well, the journalist needs these materials in advance. They help guide the journalist to the most interesting and significant papers, and they increase the likelihood that reporting will be accurate. Sending a copy of the request to the PIO of the scientist's institution will usually expedite this process. The media chairperson can also ask the PIO to prepare news releases, but be certain your release times and rules for release are firmly established and conveyed to both the scientist and the PIO.

When a media chairperson can't get a text in advance, he or she should try to get it when the meeting begins, as a file copy for reference in the newsroom. The more newsworthy texts available, the better the newsroom operation will be.

Although meeting planners should normally establish a conference web site anyway, make sure the web site contains information needed by the media, including a full schedule, highlighted newsworthy papers, and background information. But as said earlier, no embargoed news releases or other material should be posted on the Internet, unless it is on a password-protected web site such as EurekAlert! and Newswise.

The media chairperson should notify science writers, newspaper and magazine managing editors and television and radio news directors, both locally and nationally. Include news services and trade publications in the appropriate science, technology, or medical field.

This first communication can be done by letter, telephone, fax machine, e-mail or personal visits, as appropriate. Be sure to include local bureaus of wire and news services and local correspondents of out-of-town newspapers and news magazines.

If the media chairperson is without professional public information help, some of these local journalists and editors may be willing to advise on publicity matters. They can also recommend professionals to write news releases or manage the newsroom.

Some PIOs make up media packets, which are mailed to writers in advance of the meeting. If this is done, all materials should be marked with appropriate release times.

The media packets, usually mailed out a few weeks before the meeting and posted on EurekAlert! and Newswise could include a tip sheet of story ideas, embargoed news releases, and the names of principal speakers, subjects, and major events of interest to media. Also include meeting times, exhibit hours, newsroom location, housing arrangements for out-of-town media, and telephone numbers and names of the public information staff. Be sure to include the media chairperson's name, address, and telephone number on all advance notices of releases.

Shortly before the meeting, make sure that the so-called "daybooks" at wire services in major markets have received the information on the meeting and press conferences. These daily listings of major events are heavily used by media in making decisions on what to cover.


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