Karen Bidewell brings science to the non-scientists on behalf of Newcastle university’s medical faculty. As the current press officer with a wealth of journalism experience, Karen’s introduction to press release writing was a great way to start the Science Communication course. The proactive nature of a press release is akin to an official statement made by an MP, an editoral or a celebrity’s autobiography. It’s a chance to get across your side of the story before it is told for you. Many scientists have been tarred by the controversy brush (such as Andrew Wakefield), and a press release of your work can be a shield against unjust criticism (although it has long been clear that the criticism of Wakefield’s MMR work was NOT unjust). Press releases are often made live the same day as new research is published. In addition to intriguing its audience with ‘research published today’, publishing on the same day allows organisations to give official statements on the news as soon as possible. One GMC press release constructively handles another controversial topic – patient confidentiality. In a time of scandals surrounding stolen, missing and sold patient notes, proactive announcement to the public instead of a reactive response to a journalist gives the GMC control over how they appear regarding this issue. So the ‘get there first’ ethos of a press release seems the best way to handle being the bearer of controversial news.
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