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Karen AddisKaren Addis is vice president, U.S. Health Sciences Practice at Environics Communications in Washington, D.C.

 
Pharmaceutical science is a hot and thriving industry. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts above average job growth in the field. It represents the wave of the future. But as pharmaceutical scientists, you already know that.

What it means to the rest of society is that they will be interested in hearing about the exciting advances that are taking place in the industry. That, in turn, means there will be continued interest by the media to cover pharmaceutical science. And that’s good news.

However, with the continued downsizing in newsrooms across the country, reporters are increasingly stretched thin. The number of seasoned journalists with in-depth knowledge of any industry are becoming fewer. That’s the bad news.

Those deep cuts in the newsroom have resulted in an increasing number of younger reporters with less experience and knowledge about an industry, which can translate into more inaccuracies in news stories. And that’s the ugly.

But it is reality.

So is pharmaceutical science—considered a technical subject by many—a lost cause when it comes to how it is covered by the media? Not at all! In fact, it represents a tremendous opportunity.

There are still many excellent reporters who cover the industry, via the traditional means as well as through social media. They understand the complexities of the industry and—while you might not always agree with them—aspire to write fair and balanced news stories.

But for those reporters who are “green,” it’s an opportunity to take some time to educate them.

Here are six tips to work more effectively with the media and help to ensure pharmaceutical science is covered fairly and accurately.

  1. Respect reporters’ deadlines. Daily newspapers and broadcast media work on tight deadlines; trade reporters often have more time to work on stories. Find out when a reporter’s deadline is and then get back to them.
  2. Serve as a resource. If you can’t meet a reporter’s deadline, refer them to someone else. Also, point them to other industry experts or organizations for additional information.
  3. Translate your science into plain English. Take the time to break down the complexities of your subject. Imagine you are explaining your work to a room of 7th graders. Explain how your work matters.
  4. Serve as a fact-checker. Offer to review a reporter’s final story, but only to check facts and correct inaccuracies, not to change your quote because you didn’t like what you said. Not all reporters will take you up on your offer, but at least you’ve made the offer.
  5. Get to know reporters. Go for coffee if they are in town and when you are at a conference. Or, call or email them occasionally to find out what they are working on and if you can be of assistance.
  6. Work with the AAPS media team. They know the media and can help guide you through an interview or provide background information on a media outlet or reporter. Give them a call—they are there to help AAPS members with media inquiries!

Doing your part to help ensure the pharmaceutical science is covered fairly and accurately by the media serves not only the industry but also the greater good. And, after all, isn’t that what attracted many pharmaceutical scientists to the profession in the first place?