There I was sitting in a room, with the event I helped plan about to kick off. The chairs were all set up as requested, drinks and snacks had been put out, the audiovisual equipment was tested and ready to go, and the keynote speaker had just arrived. This event was going to be perfect.
As I looked around the room, however, I realized something was missing: the audience. Only a handful of people were filing into the perfectly set room. How embarrassing; we had put together this amazing event but neglected to focus enough attention on getting an audience.
This nightmare scenario has likely happened to many of us, but it is avoidable. Effective publicity in today’s world means going beyond hanging an event flyer on the board in a lobby. It means using multiple channels to meet people where they are to increase awareness and visibility of events, making it more likely an audience will show up. But what makes publicity effective, and how do you navigate through the myriad channels to get to the audience you desire? If only there were an American Chemical Society committee that could help.
Fortunately, there is: the Committee on Public Relations and Communications (CPRC). This group provides resources and assessments for ACS members and member groups that can help your event gain visibility and be a success, thus escaping the no-audience nightmare.
One resource the committee is working to provide is a communication tool kit. This kit is really a collection of best practices, communication tips, and communication plans that can help your local section, division, or committee in its promotion of events. These tools can also be used to promote the local section, division, or committee itself. Some of the materials are already available at www.acs.org/communicate. Additionally, you can contact me if you have a specific resource need, and we can discuss how the committee may be able to help.
The committee does programing at ACS national meetings as well to provide support to members in a face-to-face setting. Here, the committee aims to help members in areas such as their social media presence and science communication skills. For example, recent sessions have looked at how to effectively use various platforms and apps on social media to increase visibility and establish an effective presence. Future sessions are being developed to look at how to effectively use graphics and visualizations in communications.
If your local section, division, or committee is interested in increasing its visibility, CPRC offers what we call Public Relations (PR) Makeovers. This initiative involves having a team of CPRC PR and communications aficionados assess the local section’s, division’s, or committee’s annual reports, websites, newsletters, email blasts, social media, and other modes of communication with ACS members. The CPRC team also gathers information about specific goals of the group being assessed. From there, the team crafts a turnkey, customized PR plan designed to enhance your group’s image and its connection with your members. If you are interested in PR Makeovers, contact us at CPRCMakeovers@gmail.com.
CPRC also works to recognize individuals and groups that are successfully communicating and increasing the visibility of chemistry through various awards. Highlighting the effective work of our fellow communicators provides examples of successes that we can learn from and gives those recognized a larger stage within ACS to increase their visibility, which is priceless. For example, I am sure you probably know a chemist who is outstanding in the area of public outreach; why not nominate that person for the Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach? This award, sponsored by CPRC, recognizes an ACS member who is improving public recognition and appreciation for chemistry. The nomination deadline is Feb. 6 each year. Finally, consider nominating a colleague or another person (not necessarily an ACS member) for the ACS national award that recognizes the communication of science to the public, called the James T. Grady–James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public. The nomination deadline is Nov. 1 each year.
No one would disagree that an effective PR and communications strategy will increase your visibility, whether personally or as a group. And while there are plenty of tools, programs, and platforms that can be employed to accomplish this, don’t be overwhelmed. CPRC is ready and willing to work with you on the small details or on an overall approach to create a cohesive and organized communications plan. We look forward to working with you to help make your next event standing room only!
Finally, in the spirit of fostering two-way communication, are there other things that CPRC could do to help you or your group increase your visibility? Do you have passion around this subject and want to join the committee? I invite you to share any ideas, thoughts, or suggestions with me in person or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.