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Only Connect: Media, social media & beyond


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A presentation combining elements of general lay-language communication, media relations, institutional outreach and social media for academic researchers & clinicians. Originally presented to University of Michigan Dept. of Psychiatry faculty/postdocs May 2017

Published in: Health & Medicine
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Only Connect: Media, social media & beyond

  1. 1. v Only connect: Kara Gavin, M.S. Lead Public Relations Representative, Michigan Medicine Dept. of Communication Policy & Research Media Relations, U-M IHPI News media, social media & beyond for Psychiatry faculty, staff & trainees
  2. 2. v With apologies to E.M. Forster… “Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.” - E.M. Forster, Howard’s End
  3. 3. v Who am I?• Member of Michigan Medicine Dept. of Communication • Trained in biology, science writing & journalism • 20+ years’ experience publicizing research (U-M, BNL) • Find & tell stories • Handle news media inquiries • Push stories out any way I can What do I do?
  4. 4. v Why does U-M have staff like me? • our institution’s work should reach people who care • U-M expertise can have impact • taxpayers & policymakers who fund research need to know what they’re paying for • most Americans need science/medicine translated • it’s easier than ever *and lots of other places too Because…
  5. 5. v Literacy statistics • The average reading level in the U.S. is 8th grade, and 20 percent read at the 5th grade level or below. • 40 percent of senior adults read at or below the 5th grade level. • Among minority groups 50 percent read at or below the 5th grade reading level. The Partnership for Clear Health Communication 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL)
  6. 6. v What do they know? • 71% extremely/very confident: mental illness is a medical condition that affects the brain (21% somewhat confident) • 69% extremely/very confident: genetic code in cells helps determine who we are (22% somewhat confident) • 53% extremely/very confident: childhood vaccines are safe and effective (30% somewhat confident) • 31% extremely/very confident: life evolved through natural selection (24% somewhat confident) Poll published April 2014 by AP; 1,012 adults rated confidence in a scientific concept
  7. 7. v An eager audience National Science Foundation Science and Engineering Indicators 2016
  8. 8. v Science & policymakers • Take aim at ‘wasteful spending’ • Seize on controversies & safety lapses • Staffers may have little scientific background • Policy should be based on evidence
  9. 9. vDon’t take it from me… National Academy of Sciences Committee on Science Literacy and Public Perception of Science Science Literacy: Concepts, Contexts, and Consequences August 2016
  10. 10. v “Science literacy for individuals, communities, and societies emerges at the interface of the knowledge, attitudes, and motivation of laypeople and the communicative efforts and trustworthiness of scientists. The scientific community needs to take at least partial responsibility for creating an environment in which science literacy can thrive. ”
  11. 11. v “We envision a society that is infused by science literacy, not in the sense that every person necessarily knows any specific set of things about biology, chemistry, or physics, but in the sense that there is a shared belief that scientific expertise can be trusted, that scientific misconduct and fraud are rare, and that social organizations can and should be structured to enable science literacy rather than prevent it.”
  12. 12. v Jargon = words not in common vocabulary Words that people in a given field use exclusively, or in a different way from how others use them “Robust” – an adjective for data? Or coffee? “Significant” – passed a statistical threshold? Or another word for important? To reach the public, avoid jargon
  13. 13. v Does it pass the Thanksgiving Table Test?
  14. 14. v General tips Logical organization “You” and other pronouns Active voice Common, everyday words Short sentences, short paragraphs Easy-to-read design features
  15. 15. v Testing readability Use the Flesch-Kincaid readability test in Word. Go into File  Options --> Proofing, and click Show Readability Statistics. Define scientific terms, take them out of the text temporarily, run Spelling check. If you get a score over 8th grade (without jargon words you can’t avoid), revise!
  16. 16. v Take it to the next level! Imagination EmotionsSenses Bring your work ALIVE by engaging the audience’s…
  17. 17. vUse Metaphor & Analogy Metaphor: A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable. Note: A simile is a kind of metaphor! Metaphor: A blanket of snow fell last night. Simile: The snow was like a blanket on the hills.
  18. 18. v Analogy: A comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification. The neurotransmitter molecules fit into their receptors like keys into locks, opening the door for cells to talk to one another. Use Metaphor & Analogy
  19. 19. v How to come up with good ones? Engage your own imagination! • If it’s tiny, what would it look like blown up to human scale? • If it performs an action, how would you describe it using everyday verbs? Do a little free association Find common experiences, objects or phenomena the public will “get”
  20. 20. v In other words… LET IT GO!
  21. 21. v But before you go TOO far… Test-market your analogies & metaphors Try it out on unsuspecting roommates, family members, or teammates Make sure your cultural/experiential references are pretty universal Or explain (get everyone on the same page) Don’t go too far down the rabbit hole Once you’ve set the stage, back away from metaphor, get on with explanation
  22. 22. v Now, try it out! Half Life
  23. 23. v CALL YOUR PR PERSON Kara – All Psychiatry/MBNI – for major research/issue stories Stephanie – Psychiatry/Depression Center members Kat – Prechter Program members
  24. 24. v What do we do? • Connect with faculty about upcoming publications, grants, major events, etc. • Plan the best communication course • Write & get feedback on what we write • Commission or create visuals & videos • Disseminate content via all appropriate channels -- including reporters & social media • Act as intake for media requests • Coach faculty on media interactions • Approach reporters with ideas or experts • Handle “hot button” issues
  25. 25. v Connect via the media • Press release/blog post on your team’s research or other work • Expert opinion on a topic in your specialty • Commenting on research by others or on a societal/policy issue • In-depth stories on a weighty topic • Crisis/problem situations
  26. 26. v Talking to reporters • Prepare with PR person • three key points • Use layperson’s terms • avoid jargon • speak colloquially • If there’s a press release, use it • Respect deadlines • Understand the news outlet • Respect their independence
  27. 27. v Use the time AHEAD of publication The “Scout’s honor” embargo system for research news • Institution/journal reaches out to reporters a few days ahead • Reporter agrees not to publish or broadcast results until a set date/time
  28. 28. vThe embargo system •Increases the newsworthiness of research news •Gives institution time to prepare text, graphics, video •Gives reporters time to prepare stories on complex issues, and increases accuracy/balance
  29. 29. v A new era of communication • Traditional news media’s gatekeeper role is eroding • Big institutions = trustworthy news sources • Everyone’s a publisher
  30. 30. v Who needs reporters anyway? • Social media & search • Institutions & individuals create & share directly • Visuals are vital • Fast response to controversy
  31. 31. v News Media • Immediate coverage • Later coverage • Later expert source requests PR services • Eurekalert • Newswise • PR Newswire • Futurity • News aggregators U-M outlets • Record / Headlines • Magazines • Websites & blogs • Newsletters • Email: donors, alumni, others Social media • U-M/UMHS fans • Shares of our stories • Shares of news coverage • Reddit, etc. Publish U-M content in a way that anyone can freely use (as long as they mention us as the source) Our Answer:
  32. 32. v Reseach & education stories Facebook - Twitter - Email Sister site for health/patient stories:
  33. 33. v • 1-2 stories a day • Aimed at sophisticated general audience • Easily shareable • Custom graphics • Paid social media promotion • Open copyright
  34. 34. v Our challenge: How to walk the tightrope (and still get people to pay attention)
  35. 35. vWalk that tightrope! • If it’s in animals, cells or computer models, say so & and list next steps • If it used data from populations or past patients (not actual testing) say so • If it tested a drug, device or intervention in people, include: – how many – what phase of testing it’s in – where it stands in the FDA process – what it costs or if insurance covers – what else is available & how well it works – the size of the effect it had & any problems If there’s IRB-approved language, use it or link to it!
  36. 36. vPrepare messages so that you don’t… • Leave uncertainty in the mind of a general reporter • Raise hopes of patients & their families about potential new options • Create false expectations about the path from lab to clinical use • Open floodgates of inappropriate calls/emails • Open us to criticism by watchdogs & regulatory entities
  37. 37. v Engage directly: Social media • Connect with others in your field & beyond • Share new findings, publications, news items, observations, opinions, timely links • Retain professional tone while engaging • Get the most out of conferences & events
  38. 38. v Your essentials • A robust, updated professional web profile • Know your PR person & when you should contact us • Basic LinkedIn profile • Google yourself/set up alert
  39. 39. v Choose your level: Laying low • Start by “lurking” – follow individuals, institutions, organizations, and news media • Monitor Twitter traffic at conferences via hashtags (& use them!) • Subscribe to lists of Twitter users compiled by others in your field • Join LinkedIn groups for professional societies
  40. 40. vTake it to the next level • Claim Twitter handle, add bio & link • Share links & posts on LinkedIn • Claim your Doximity ID and flesh out your profile (physicians only) • Write a “plain English” web blurb on your research focus • Post/tweet about each paper you publish/talk you give
  41. 41. vEngaging more fully • Share links to your own work & work of others • Post slide sets on your site or SlideShare • Take part in tweet chats, Reddit AMAs, online campaigns, virtual journal clubs, etc. • On your personal social media, educate friends by sharing news/observations
  42. 42. v Join • Platform to reach the public on timely topics • Articles created by academics, shaped by professional editors, published under open copyright • Routinely re-published by major media outlets, from Time and Washington Post to IFL Science • Easily shared via social media and the web • Authors can see data on views, republishing
  43. 43. v Idea Pitch Refine Green Light Write Edit Publish Share You & colleagues You You & section editor Section editor You & colleagues You, colleagues, & section editor via cloud The Conversation staff Everyone! The Conversation process
  44. 44. v What could happen? • Connect with others • Spread knowledge • Amplify your impact • Keep up with new ideas & opportunities • Lend your voice • Get more from your work
  45. 45. v Be careful of… • Connecting with patients on social platforms • Being too political/personal – but DO cite published research • Engaging in debates or advocacy without knowing the mechanics of the platform you’re on
  46. 46. v I challenge you… • Speak their language. • Don’t just hope someone else will do it! • See it as part of your career. • Only connect.
  47. 47. v Resources NIH Checklist for Communicating Science & Health to the Public: AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science: National Patient Safety Foundation: Health Literacy Health News Review: Communicating about health research: My Slideshares & Handouts on news media, social media, etc. Joyce Lee, M.D.’s Slideshares on social media: