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Expand the reach of your outreach activities

by Jennifer Maclachlan, Chair, ACS Committee on Public Relations & Communications
March 6, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 10

Photo of a man and woman at an audio recording table.
Credit: Courtesy of Jennifer Macalachlan
Maclachlan (right) and her father publicize their local section’s outreach activities on a radio program.

Some people might look at networking with a skeptical eye and wonder, “What’s in it for me?” I can tell you that having an extensive network has made the work that I do easier and more enjoyable, whether it’s as a sales and marketing professional serving the chemistry enterprise or as a leader in an ACS division or local section. In fact, people who know me know my zest for networking both within and outside the American Chemical Society.

How has networking helped my work? In 2011, when I first started organizing the Cape Cod Science Café for my local section, the ACS Northeastern Local Section (NESACS), I relied heavily on my community connections to identify science communications topics of local interest, identify free venues, and generate an audience. I also reached out to my local civic association, town officials, parent/teacher associations, Girl Scouts, and other community groups for help. With continued funding from my local section public relations committee, ACS divisions, local industry, as well as in-kind donations from community partners, the Cape Cod Science Café has blossomed into a sustainable entity.

As I begin my second year as chair of the ACS Committee on Public Relations & Communications, I want to focus the committee’s goals on public relations efforts for effective science communication, for both ACS divisions and local sections.

Developing relationships with the local media, including newspapers, radio stations, and community television, is at the top of my public relations checklist for ACS events. Although it continues to be challenging to get newspaper coverage, I take advantage of the event submission forms that the larger papers offer. I have found that paying for an enhanced listing in my local paper is often worth the money because the editor is more likely to include the event in the newspaper’s “Things To Do This Week” section. It may be worthwhile to check whether your local newspaper will waive the advertising fee if you’re a nonprofit organization.

Community television is another avenue in which to publicize your local section events. For the past few years, NESACS has worked with the Cape Cod Community Media Center to promote our local section science communications activities. More recently, we have connected with Sandwich Community Television, which created a promotional video for our NESACS STEM Journey IV: Mission to Mars event and arranged for us to record a public service announcement.

Also, familiarize yourself with the local radio station programs and their requirements for public service announcements. Our local radio station has a weekly program called Sunday Journal, and our local section has been a guest on that program numerous times to discuss and promote our outreach activities. I can spend months sharing an event with my friends on Facebook, but they might be more compelled to attend if they hear about it on the radio.

The Committee on Public Relations & Communications is partnering with the ACS External Affairs & Communications unit of the Office of the Secretary & General Counsel to produce a series of videos to highlight resources that the committee offers to help ACS members improve their public relations and science communications efforts.

The videos also showcase the Chemistry Ambassador program, the committee’s annual awards, and tips for local sections and divisions on how to use social media most effectively for communicating science.

If you have specific questions about how to maximize your ACS local section or division’s public relations efforts, or if you would like to have a member of our committee work with you to develop a public relations program for your local section or division, please contact me at

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.


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