Offer of help to improve PR news releases about health care/research

Gary Schwitzer is publisher of HealthNewsReview.org.  He Tweets as @garyschwitzer and/or with our project handle, @HealthNewsRevu.

This week we begin a slow roll-out of a new offer of help to those who write PR news releases about health care or biomedical research.

We have already written to hundreds of PR professionals whose health care news releases have been systematically reviewed by HealthNewsReview.org over the past two years.

Our published reviews of releases have become very popular. The feedback we’ve received from PR and public information professionals has been overwhelmingly positive. But journalists and readers from the general public have also been enthusiastic about this two-year-old feature.  Our reviews have always been intended to be constructive criticism – to help these professionals communicate with their various audiences with accurate, balanced and complete information.

But this new service is an unprecedented step to take our offer of assistance to a new level.

Starting this week we offer to review health care news releases that discuss claims about interventions in advance of publication. PR professionals are invited to send us a draft of their planned news release and we will assign it to three reviewers from our pool of about 50 expert reviewers – just as we would do if we were reviewing a news release after it had been published. We’ll send back their comments to the person who submitted it as soon as possible.

Pilot project – please be patient with us

Please note:

  • We are introducing this free service on a pilot basis, with a slow roll-out as we judge what the demand will be and what our capacity is to meet it. It is possible that, if the demand exceeds our capacity in the near-term, we would need to turn down some requests. But we would do so promptly, to avoid any unrealistic expectation. And if the demand is greater than anticipated, we will try to ramp up to meet it as soon as possible. We are a non-profit, university-based project, fully dependent on grants and philanthropic support, so we ask for patience from all parties.
  • Our projected turnaround time for acceptance of a submitted draft release, gathering comments from reviewers and responding to you is 3 days. Our reviewers are part-time and many have busy schedules. We would make it a priority to return comments as soon as possible.
  • Any draft news release submitted must include a claim about efficacy or safety in an intervention (treatment, test, product, procedure, behavioral modification, etc.). Those are the topics for which our review criteria are intended, and for which our reviewers have been trained to apply our systematic criteria.
  • If we help someone with a release, we will not publish a review of that release or discuss the release on our blog.
  • Those who submit a draft release would not be under any obligation to follow our advice or to implement any suggested changes.

If you are interested in trying this new service or have further questions, you can send us a note at feedback@healthnewsreview.org.

I’ll also be discussing this project when I speak at the Association of American Medical Colleges meeting in Puerto Rico on March 30 (see 10:15 a.m. session, “Getting It Right and Avoiding Hype in Communicating About Research”). I welcome the opportunity to meet with academic medical institution PR and PIO people at that event.

Some day we would also like to extend a similar offer to journalists who are working on their news stories.  We’ve been asked repeatedly by journalists to offer that kind of help in the past.  We have limited staff so we’ll take this one step at a time.

REPORT CARD

This chart is our report card on 2,330 news stories reviewed after nearly 11 years and on 330 PR news releases reviewed after just two years.

Details on each criterion and how they are applied appear on our website.

Note that two criteria are different for news stories than for news releases.

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Comments (1)

We Welcome Comments. But please note: We will delete comments left by anyone who doesn’t leave an actual first and last name and an actual email address.

We will delete comments that include personal attacks, unfounded allegations, unverified facts, product pitches, or profanity. We will also end any thread of repetitive comments. Comments should primarily discuss the quality (or lack thereof) in journalism or other media messages about health and medicine. This is not intended to be a forum for definitive discussions about medicine or science. Nor is it a forum to share your personal story about a disease or treatment -- your comment must relate to media messages about health care. If your comment doesn't adhere to these policies, we won't post it. Questions? Please see more on our comments policy.

Pat Bowne

March 8, 2017 at 3:02 pm

I was surprised that your table didn’t have a row telling what percentage of the articles made it clear that they were about mice!
Keep up the good work.