Editor’s note: As I video-blogged last week, our post on why scientists should blog got bounced around the web a good bit and resulted in a number of generous mentions on other blogs (check the trackbacks to view). Among these mentions was Andrew Careaga’s Higher Ed Marketing blog, a wonderful resource on all matters related to marketing and public relations in higher education. After a brief exchange via Twitter, Andrew graciously agreed to provide a post for Science of Blogging on how researchers can work with the public relations or media department at their host institution to get their research across to a wider audience. As the first official guest contributor on Science of Blogging, here’s Andrew.

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Peter’s excellent case study on why scientists should blog led me to share my perspective on this subject. As a public relations/communications professional working in higher education, I think it’s fantastic that Peter shares his ideas by blogging. I wish more researchers would follow his lead. Frankly, it would make the media relations aspects of my job easier and probably more enjoyable.

The way I see it, researchers who blog about their work provide a public service. They’re sharing their knowledge with a broader audience than the readership of scientific or academic journals. (A very good Tufts University feature about academics who blog illustrates the value from their perspective.) And by responding to blog comments and exchanging ideas with other bloggers (as I’m doing here), researchers are able to interact with people beyond their disciplines.

Ideally, the media relations folks on college campuses are valuable partners for scholar-bloggers who want to get their research ideas out to the public. PR folks should not serve as personal publicists for certain faculty members – although most of us in the PR field know of a few professors who would love it if that were the case. Rather, we are partners in disseminating scholarship. We can do so not only by publicizing faculty research, but also by talking about the researchers’ own public-service blogging, and by pointing journalists and others to the researchers’ own blogging efforts.

So, how can researchers work with media relations staff? Here are a few suggestions.

Let us know you’re out there. We know you’re busy with research, teaching and other scholarly pursuits to think much about media relations. We’re busy, too. We don’t always have the time to search out every research project under way on our campuses. So don’t be bashful about contacting us if you are working on a project that you think might be of news value. Usually, if we find out about a research project and think it might have news value, we’ll contact the researcher. But we don’t always know where to look, and we too are pressed for time. A brief email about your project to your media relations office may open up new opportunities.

Pitch us your (timely) ideas. We want to know about your research. Sometimes, however, we don’t find out about your latest research until it’s no longer timely. News is news when it’s new. So if you know that a research paper has been accepted for publication, please let your media relations department know in advance. Once the research has been published, media interest wanes. That’s just the nature of the beast.

Understand our role – and the news media’s needs. A media relations office serves as a go-between for journalists and the institution – its faculty, staff and administration. As such, media relations people must understand and advocate for the interests of news outlets. What journalists find interesting and what university faculty or administrators think is important don’t always coincide. Understand that if a media relations staffer doesn’t act on your pitch, it may be because in that staffer’s judgment, there’s no story there. A good media relations person will explain that to you. But if your pitch to media relations goes unanswered, don’t be afraid to follow up and ask why.

If you blog, let us know. Media relations staffers often act like journalists, always sniffing around for a story idea. If you have a blog, let us know so we can take a peek. It may be that some of your posts contain newsworthy ideas that could be explored.

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Andrew Careaga is director of communications at Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri. He also is the author of the blog Higher Ed Marketing.