Kathlyn Stone is an associate editor with HealthNewsReview.org and manages the news release review project. She tweets as @KatKStone.
Earlier this year we began inviting public relations staff to submit their draft health care news releases to us for critiquing prior to publication. Since then we’ve offered guidance to a small number of academic medical centers, trade groups, PR firms and medical associations who sought out our free assistance.
We’ve provided detailed suggestions to these groups about how to frame the benefits of health care interventions. We’ve suggested ways to introduce costs and potential harms into the discussion. Other questions we’ve helped tackle include: “When will this drug/device/test be available?” “What’s novel about this?” “Are there any financial conflicts of interest readers should know about?”
In short, our pre-publication reviews follow the same 10 criteria we’ve always used to evaluate stories and news releases. The only difference is that we now can offer this feedback before the news release is published, when the potential impact of our constructive guidance is greatest.
We rolled this service out slowly and didn’t make too much noise about it. We wanted to make sure the concept would work before we spread the word too widely. Feedback from our initial customers has been overwhelmingly positive and suggests that we’re ready for more customers. Here are some excerpts from those who’ve asked for our help (some comments censored to avoid identifying remarks):
“Thank you so much for the feedback. It is much appreciated. I’m trying to address most of the suggestions, which I think are very good…Thanks again for the review. This is an extremely helpful process! I am most grateful.”
– Science editor, university public affairs news bureau
“We largely took your input and comments to heart, tweaking the release in several places. The release went off embargo today to substantial media coverage. And while some of the media tended to focus too narrowly or breathlessly…most reporters so far seem to have understood the mix of interesting science findings tempered by lots of caveats. Again, we appreciate the help. On releases like these, which have many stakeholders and lots of potential landmines, more heads are better.”
– Media relations director, academic medical center
“Firstly, I’d really like to thank you for the work you have put into this. It is extremely helpful to get a view from ‘outside the bubble’, there are often things which I miss, or which I hadn’t thought of.”
– Science writer, international medical specialty association
“I appreciate your follow up and recommendations for the release. We’ve reworked the release incorporating a number of your suggestions.”
– Co-founder, health care public relations firm
“Thanks for reviewing our press release. We are making some of the changes you suggested, such as adding cost information and including a comparison to research completed on….We also appreciated your comment about the words [XXXXX] and [XXXXX] in the table. When we looked at it again, we realized it was confusing. While both words were used, they were not referring to the same thing and the study actually did not look at [XXXXXX] … We changed [XXXXX] to make it more clear.”
– Communications director, trade association
Are you ready to tap our expert reviewers and improve your health care messages, too?
Remember, there’s no cost for this service and no obligation to take any of our advice. This is simply an effort to help improve the information that ultimately reaches health care consumers.
Here’s where you can learn more about how the free Pre-Publication Review service works and how you can submit a release for review.