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As meeting abstracts are reviewed and sessions are formed, technical program committee members should make note of those that may be of interest to the media and the general public. Topics don’t have to directly impact people’s lives, but must be of interest to the general public. They should also contain new information and thus be “newsworthy” in the minds of local media.
Topics that have received recent coverage in the geographical area where the meeting is being held are good candidates (e.g., groundwater contamination issues, coastal geoscience), as is new information on local geologic hazards (e.g., earthquakes, flooding). But do not limit yourself to those categories only. Make note of anything that may be of interest to the public or that may have public policy implications at the local level or higher. Make certain you are confident in the quality of the science in those papers selected.
Have the technical program chair contact Christa Stratton approximately 3 months before the meeting, when abstracts have been reviewed and the technical program is largely fixed. Christa also reads the abstracts, so she and the technical program chair can discuss the possibilities for media coverage and determine an appropriate level of media relations effort.
The level of media relations effort made will vary according to the contents of the technical program and the city in which the meeting is held. A good return for the effort is most likely when a program contains numerous papers of potential interest to the general public, and when the meeting is held in an area where local media are interested in and accustomed to covering science. Results are also enhanced when the public relations office of the host institution works with Christa and issues a press release on the meeting.
The level of effort made may range from a press release with a high-level summary of meeting highlights and local committee member given as a contact person to a lengthy and detailed media advisory with Christa coming onsite. As a general rule, there is no need for a dedicated newsroom facility at the meeting.
Because media coverage gained at Section meetings benefits GSA as a whole, expenses are covered by Communications and Marketing at headquarters.
After the meeting, Christa will give a summary of coverage received to the Section Secretary at the next Section Summit held at GSA Headquarters.