For the Community

As a research university, we are engaged in creating, disseminating, and applying knowledge. You do the creating and applying; the Office of News and Editorial Services is here to help with the disseminating.

But we can’t tell your story if we don’t know your story, so please keep us in the loop. Here is a brief guide to working with our office and the external news media.

Where does News and Editorial Services find its stories?

We comb through scholarly journals, maintain contacts at funding agencies and professional societies, and roam the halls aimlessly hoping to come across something interesting. But you are our best source of information. Let us know when you are doing something that might be of interest to the news media.

We always welcome your input, but please understand that we must reserve the right to say no (politely, of course). Some stories just are not a good fit for our purposes, but they might work well for one of the many other publications and communication venues across campus. We will gladly put you in touch with the right people to get your message out.

What types of news stories are you looking for?

The key word here is “news.” The vast majority of things happening on this campus could be considered noteworthy, but fewer things are truly newsworthy. There are many different outlets to highlight the former, but our focus is on the latter: stories that the external news media might be interested in. Again, we would be glad to point you in the right direction if your item is not a good fit for us.

We are primarily interested in something new — the first time it has been done, the only thing of its kind, a true breakthrough in any field. Reporters are generally looking for superlatives: the biggest, smallest, fastest, slowest, shortest, tallest, youngest, oldest (you get the idea).

If it isn’t news, then it should be a compelling story, perhaps with a strong human element or an unusual, quirky angle. And it helps if the story has a “hook” — a connection to another item in the news or something of interest to people in a particular place or situation.

When it comes to research findings, we mainly focus on reporting news about major grants, presentations at high-profile conferences, and publications in peer-reviewed journals.

We also are looking for images and multimedia (video, audio, animations) that we can post to our Web site and distribute to media outlets on a stand-alone basis.

How does the process work?

For items that are likely to be of interest to a broad range of media outlets, we will generally issue a news release. As a first step, we may ask for background information and set up an interview with the primary source (or sources) of the story. We will then put together a first draft and work closely with you to edit the piece until everyone involved is happy with the final product.

You always will have a chance to see the final draft before it is released, but our office needs to maintain a degree of editorial control to assure the story fits our style — without too much technical language or gratuitous detail. Remember, a news story is very different from a scholarly publication or other types of communication that you may be accustomed to preparing.

Often a traditional news release is not the appropriate vehicle to meet your publicity goals. If you have a particular media outlet in mind, we can try to set up an interview with a suitable editor or reporter. And we can also help you develop a list of outlets to meet your target audience. If you are developing a communications plan for an announcement, a new program, or just to improve your general operations, we can help you think about integrating a media strategy to bolster your efforts.

We also receive many requests from reporters around the world looking for sources to comment on specific topics. We maintain a database of campus experts who are willing to speak with reporters about issues in the news related to their field of expertise. Please contact us if you would like to be included.

Our office also oversees the media component of major campus events, and on rare occasions we will organize a press conference to make a big announcement. But we know that groups across campus host conferences, lectures, and other interesting events almost every day. While we can’t dedicate our full resources to every one, we would be happy to speak with you about how you can promote your own event to the media. Please just touch base with us before reaching out to reporters so we can avoid any potential scheduling conflicts.

What should I do if a reporter calls?

If a reporter calls you directly, feel free to call him or her back if you feel comfortable. But please do it in a timely manner; reporters often work on very tight deadlines. And remember that you can always ask the reporter to supply a list of questions to give you time to think about your answers. If you want to discuss the process before returning a call or answering an e-mail, contact us and we will be more than happy to help.

We hope you will keep us in the loop whenever you are dealing with the media, but please don’t feel that you are required to do so. One exception applies: our office should always be involved during emergencies and other issues that require an official position statement from the Institute. In such situations, please contact us immediately and we will designate a spokesperson to speak on behalf of Rensselaer.

Who should I contact about my story?

See our staff list for details about who to contact for specific topics or questions.