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Media Relations Guidelines & Best Practices

Drexel University Communications (UComm) is available to assist the news media in producing stories about the College of Medicine’s research, clinical care, academic news and events. We have many faculty members who can offer expertise and insight on a variety of medical and scientific topics.

Members of the media must contact our designated news officer in order to properly facilitate any interviews or productions that may take place on campus (or satellite offices) or feature an employee, student or patient. All HIPAA regulations must be followed.

The following guidelines are intended to streamline communications between faculty, students, staff and UComm so that the university can disseminate information about Drexel quickly and effectively to external audiences. Notifications for all news items should be sent to Lauren Ingeno, the designated news officer for the College of Medicine.

Reporting the News

The method of news sharing will be at the discretion of the news officer and determined on a case-by-case basis in order to maximize publicity for an announcement or event. Drexel’s media relations team uses a number of tactics to publicize news. These include news releases, media pitches, blog posts and feature stories.

Publicizing Research Findings

Why should faculty members consider publicizing their research?

News stories about Drexel research are read by legislators, citizens, donors and potential funding agencies. Research results can help inform decisions on important public issues. Many grant applications require public outreach and education, and there certainly is a need to improve public appreciation of science and how research benefits society. Popular media coverage makes it more likely research will be seen and cited by other scientists. Finally, popular media coverage of research often results in valuable contacts with potential collaborators.

Much of Drexel’s national and international publicity comes from coverage of research findings published in peer-reviewed journals or presented at major academic conferences. Announcements about grants, appointments and awards rarely get more coverage other than brief mentions in local or hometown newspapers. UComm focuses on research findings rather than general announcements to maximize the likelihood of receiving the broadest spectrum of publicity. General announcements may be better suited for the Med Monitor or Pulse.

Which studies are newsworthy?

In general, studies that are newsworthy tend to have some relevance to readers, their health and their lives; to society and modern problems; or simply are findings that inspire the common person. However, even some relatively esoteric research has successfully received coverage in trade publications.

When and how should faculty submit a study to the Office of University Communications?

To ensure complete consideration for peer-reviewed research, please alert your college’s designated news officer within 48 hours of learning that a paper has been accepted.

The news officer needs time to read your study, interview you about it, draft a news release, have you review it for accuracy, and then issue it to the media to coincide with publication or with an “embargo,” if there is one.

When notifying University Communications about an upcoming publication, it is helpful to include the following:

  • A manuscript of the accepted paper and the title of the journal
  • Identification of the corresponding author
  • A short summary of the research findings written in lay-person language
  • What is novel or publicity-worthy about this research?
  • How does this research change what is known about this area of research?
  • What is the potential public health relevance of this research?

Keep in mind: UComm does not write news releases on every research project conducted by faculty. To maximize your chances of having a news release written, you must be able and available to explain it in terms understandable and interesting to the news media and the general public.

What is an embargo and why is it important?

Major journals like Science, Nature and the Journal of the American Medical Association impose embargoes on papers they are about to publish. An embargo is a specific time and date before which a study may not be publicized. But journals with embargoes allow research institutions to send embargoed news releases to trusted reporters a few days to a week or more prior to the embargo expiring so that reporters have time to prepare stories. This means UComm must know about a study at least two weeks prior to publication in order to have a news release ready on time.

Embargoes also are important because they provide a timely news “hook” to news stories on studies so the stories can say the study “was published today in the journal X.” Most major media will not publish stories on studies after the online publication dates of those studies, which is why it is crucial to have news releases ready to issue at the time specified by the journal in question.

Many journals do not have formal embargoes. In those cases, it is best to issue news releases a week to a few days prior to a study’s online publication date so it is seen as new and timely by the media.

What happens after a news release is issued?

On the day a news release is issued, and perhaps for a few days afterward – depending on the level of media interest – you must be available to answer media phone calls and emails as quickly as possible. That means in minutes to tens of minutes. The media work under very short deadlines, so a reporter may drop your story and move to something else if they cannot reach you immediately or hear back from you within minutes to an hour at most.

What about photographs?

Photos and other illustrations must have resolution adequate for newspaper and magazine publication: at least 300 dpi at a size that might be used in print, at least 4 inches by 6 inches or larger. Photos in jpeg format are preferred.

Serving as a Subject-Matter Expert

When a member of the news media contacts a faculty/staff member to comment on a topic within his or her area of expertise, the faculty/staff member may answer questions immediately. However, if the faculty/staff member prefers to give some thought to the questions before answering, or if she/he has questions about the interview and how to respond, UComm recommends the faculty/staff member take the reporter’s telephone number and return the call as soon as possible.

Writing Op-Eds/Letters to the Editor

Op-eds are opinion essays written by experts that provide an opportunity for faculty to use their expertise on topics in the news, to clarify or correct what has been reported in the press, to provide a new perspective on the issue or to call for further action.

Publication of op-eds written by faculty can call attention to the quality of Drexel’s faculty and indirectly highlight the quality of the university’s academic programs. UComm’s media relations team provides assistance in placing op-ed articles in local and national newspapers.

Op-eds usually have an 800-word limit. UComm can assist faculty by providing editing advice and information about journalistic style.

Media Training

Media training is offered by UComm a few times per year. The session is typically three hours long, in which the instructor will go over tips for communicating your research and area of expertise to both print and broadcast reporters. Part of the training will entail an on-camera interview that the instructor will review with you. The goal of the training is to familiarize faculty with the kinds of questions reporters may ask and to prepare faculty to get their key messages across during interviews. If you are interested in the next media training session, please contact UComm.

Media on Premises

The safety and privacy of all of our patients, students and employees is of utmost concern to us. For this reason, express permission and an escort from Drexel University Communications is required for all photo, film or video productions on the Drexel University College of Medicine campus. This includes all academic and clinical offices located on the campus or any of its satellite offices.

Consent

The College of Medicine complies with all applicable federal and state laws regarding the retention and release of personal and/or education records of all current patients, students and employees.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations protect the privacy of medical information. A signed consent form must be secured before any release of protected information is given. HIPAA consents for media purposes are managed by UComm.

 
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