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Get to Know Your PIO

Researchers almost never take the initiative to get to know PIOs, even though they can be valuable partners in disseminating their research. As Duke communications director David Jarmul says,

I frankly find it both disappointing and even a little shocking that I don't get more calls or emails from researchers saying, "Hey, would you like to just come by sometime and have a cup of coffee, and I can show you what we are doing?" Even if nothing is breaking, I just like to know what researchers are up to.

Getting to know your PIO enables you to understand the strengths and limitations of the people and office that help link you to the public and to fellow scientists through professional media. So, perhaps invite your PIO for a laboratory tour and/or chat over lunch.

Such interaction, says Catherine Foster, former media relations director at Argonne National Laboratory, will "put a face on the research, help us understand why the work is important, and that way we can be better advocates with reporters and members of the public for what you are doing."

Your initial contacts represent only the first step in a long-term partnership between PIO and researcher, emphasizes Ohio State PIO Earle Holland:

I don't just care about the first story; I care about the twenty stories I am going to do during my career on that work. Once we establish that there is some substantive work there, then we can talk about possibilities, depending on what type of research it is, whether the science is good and interesting. Does it have that gee whiz effect? Is it about something like volcanoes or puppies that are 'magic' stories? Or, if it is something abstract or abstruse, I don't want to give false expectations.

Questions to Ask a PIO

In getting to know your PIO, here are some useful questions you can ask:

Questions Not to Ask a PIO

There are also questions you should not ask your PIO, unless you enjoy aggravating people. Some examples:

(Next: How to Help Your PIO)
© 2010 by Dennis Meredith
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