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Public relations makeover: Rebranding for the digital age

by Jennifer L. Maclachlan, chair ACS Committee on Public Relations & Communications
January 15, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 3

Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN
Jennifer Maclachlan.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN

Is your New Year’s resolution to be more active on social media—professionally, personally, or both? Perhaps you’d like to learn more about the various social and digital media tools that are available for communicating the activities of your American Chemical Society local section or division.

In this day and age, it’s increasingly important to use effective digital tools to connect with existing audiences and reach new ones. As I enter my third and final term as chair of the ACS Committee on Public Relations & Communications (CPRC), I want to focus my efforts on the committee’s Public Relations (PR) Makeover initiative, led by CPRC’s Local Sections & Divisions Public Relations Subcommittee. This pilot program was announced at the ACS Council meeting in August 2017, and local sections and divisions have already signed on to participate in PR training.

What is a PR Makeover? It’s an opportunity to have a team of ACS CPRC PR and communications aficionados craft a turnkey PR plan for your local section or division. We begin with a comprehensive analysis of your annual report, website, newsletter, email blasts, social media, and additional forms of communication with ACS members. We then discuss what specific goals you are trying to achieve, such as increasing attendance at events, meetings, and symposia; engaging more volunteers; and overcoming geographical challenges for members.

The rationale for calling it a makeover rather than a boot camp is, of course, marketing at its finest: A boot camp is arduous work, but a makeover sounds glamorous and much more achievable.

Next, our team makes recommendations for how to craft a PR infrastructure that incorporates social and digital media to publicize meetings, events, and activities organized and sponsored by the ACS local section or division. We also emphasize planning for what happens after the event or activity, such as taking photos for posting to social media, posting event write-ups, and thinking about future promotions of similar events. Each of these case studies will be written up and presented as a tool kit on the CPRC website so that ACS members and groups can access these PR Makeover how-tos using real examples from similar-sized local sections and divisions.

Additionally, we expect to include a variety of digital media in this PR Makeover tool kit, such as short videos on various social media like the one CPRC released about the benefits of using Slack. We will also include collaborative PR webinars for local sections and divisions focusing on internal branding and outreach to members, external branding and marketing communications to the greater ACS membership and local communities, and branding via social media on a global scale.

I first pitched the idea for the PR Makeover during our spring 2017 CPRC meeting as a personalized PR boot camp, and the Local Sections & Divisions Public Relations Subcommittee transformed it into a PR Makeover initiative. The rationale for calling it a makeover rather than a boot camp is, of course, marketing at its finest: A boot camp is arduous work, but a makeover sounds glamorous and much more achievable. If you are interested in a PR Makeover, please contact me at

For more training on PR strategy, consider attending the CPRC Social Media 101 workshop at the spring 2018 ACS national meeting in New Orleans. This workshop will be led by chemistry professionals with extensive experience using platforms such as Facebook, Linked­In, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, Pinterest, YouTube, Slack, and Basecamp. They will assist attendees in creating personal brands, developing social strategies, communicating their science, and leading projects and personnel across established and new forms of media. ACS local sections, divisions, and committees should consider sending a representative from their PR or long-range planning committee to this informative and interactive PR and social media communications session. Watch for the invitation to this session that will be emailed to ACS chairs so that they may reserve a spot for their representative to attend. This session will be open to all registrants of the national meeting, and the RSVP link will appear on the national meeting app under “Workshops.”

Social media has the power to broadcast information rapidly to a large audience, but it requires time and consistency to build a following, just like it takes time to craft valuable and reliable content. As our current leaders prepare their annual reports and our new leaders in ACS governance attend the Leadership Institute in Dallas on Jan. 19–21, I urge them to focus on the strengths of their ACS entities and reflect on how the implementation of a revamped PR and communications strategy can help them meet their goals and fulfill the mission of ACS.

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



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