The worlds of science and medicine seem to experience daily research breakthroughs, which can impact the way we work and live. And it’s usually up to public relations professionals to shed light on these advances – to humanize and simplify complex research for the general public and pitch the story to writers.
Effectively communicating news and trends in the science and medical space can be challenging, however, for PR professionals who may not have taken a biology or chemistry class since high school. Here at the Bradford Group, I work with several technical clients whose companies have developed and are continuing to develop products that will positively impact the way people work and live. No matter how complex the topic, I have found that effective communication boils down to great storytelling. What is the story behind the research? Who is impacted by this new process? How will daily life be affected by this new technique or test?
Here are five tips for drilling down to the story behind even the most complex science and tech clients.
1. Humanize the science.
Behind every petri dish is a person. Even the most complex scientific breakthrough can be humanized. Before writing your pitch, ask yourself how the particular research impacts everyday life. What will this research mean in five years? Ten years? How does it stand out from prior research in the field? Who are the scientists behind the research, and why are they passionate about their work? What inspired them to pursue their careers? What do they like to do when they aren’t in the lab or entrenched in data? Scientists are people with an insatiable curiosity about the way things work, or in some cases, don’t work. Their scientific discoveries may be highly technical, but people are what drive the formulas, theories and data.
2. Keep it simple.
Explaining a highly technical research process in fine detail may make your client’s scientific heart sing, but reporters, especially general consumer media, want the high-level details. Think about the 60-second elevator pitch you would give someone on a particularly technical topic. Use the basic reporting 5 Ws and one H (Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?) to develop your story outline.
3. Know the players.
The worlds of science and medical writing are fairly compact circles. Familiarize yourself with the members of the media and industry trades who cover your client’s niche. Science and medical writers tend to stay in the same field for years, honing their skills as writers, and they often have advanced degrees in science or other technical subjects. They may also tend to write for the same core group of publications. Research the publications they write for and get to know the media influencers in that space.
4. Do your research.
You don’t need a degree in biochemistry to effectively pitch a science or medical client, but you do need to conduct research and have a base level of understanding of the topic in order to professionally articulate over the phone and via email with reporters. Familiarize yourself with the conferences your client attends and the keynote speeches and programs at those industry events. Read related published research papers. Get to know their areas of expertise as best you can.
5. Explain why it matters.
Many consumer publications cover medical news from the patient perspective. They don’t necessarily want the nitty-gritty details of the research but, for example, how the research impacts patients diagnosed with a disease. Does the research provide a faster or more confident diagnosis? Will it help patients’ quality of life? What makes this particular research stand out? What’s the news value?
As science and technology advances, the human element will continue to be the story that begs to be told. PR professionals can help get that story in front of the people it impacts most.