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Choosing a Study that Won’t Flatline with National Medical and Health Reporters: 5 Determinants of a Media-worthy Research

Reuters covers a study on coffee’s health benefits, Good Morning America features a new study on chronic fatigue, HealthDay jumps on new research about smart phone addiction. With every health impact study that gets the national spotlight, there are thousands more that don’t live much longer than the poster presentation. What are the common denominators of the studies that get the attention of health and medical reporters? That’s an important question for medical association communicators who need to make the call on which studies to promote from their organization’s journal or medical meeting.

To answer that question, here are five determinants of “media-healthy” research to help navigate which studies you choose to promote:

Note: At least two of the five items listed should be met in the study research.

• Large Audience Impact
Is there a large and diverse patient population that will be impacted by the study? Consider whether the study addresses issues that affect many, such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes, breast cancer, heart disease or even chronic fatigue.

In the Good Morning America segment, chronic fatigue affects more than 836,000 Americans and has no known cure or cause, making this study attractive for a mainstream broadcast network to share with their large audience.

• Everyday Behaviors
Is the research lifestyle-related or does it have a social impact? A few hot topics that often get covered are studies involving obesity, food and beverage consumption, exercise, sleep or geographic location.

The study covered by Reuters addresses health benefits and risks associated with drinking three- to-four cups of coffee a day. Not only does this study impact everyday behaviors, it reaches a large audience of individuals who, let’s face it like so many of us, need coffee to start their day, making it a must-cover.

• Credible Researchers
Are high-profile physicians or a well-regarded institution or industry organization involved in the study? Whether research was conducted by a well-known physician, presented at a leading medical meeting or published in a reputable journal, these factors add credibility media know they can trust.

A recent Reuters article showcased a report in the Journal of the American Heart Association on positive cholesterol impacts of eating almonds with chocolate for overweight or obese individuals. This study is a great example of how a well-known industry organization and journal, combined with everyday behaviors impacting an obese population, can secure news interest.

• Long-Term Implications
Are there FDA or practice implications? Not all newsworthy research is about the direct impact to the consumer. Oftentimes, major news can be focused on procedural aspects, such as FDA approval or how research impacts medical professionals and practices.

The Associated Press reported on FDA approval of a diabetes drug that helps with weight loss. The combination of FDA approval coupled with the topic of diabetes, led to expanded media coverage from national media and major daily newspapers nationwide, including ABC News, the Chicago Tribune, and FOX Business.

• New Technology
Does the research use a novel device or impact consumer technology? Studies covering smartphones, apps, tablets and emerging technology are of great interest to consumers and media.

The HealthDay study analyzed smartphones and the connection between addiction and teenagers. While smartphones are not a new technology, they are an ever-evolving technology impacting our daily lives. This study not only caught the attention of HealthDay, but was picked up by other national, trade and local news, including CNN, CBS News, ABC News and Psychology Today.

Keep these indicators in mind as you are building your communications strategy to promote studies published in your organization’s journal or research being presented at your scientific sessions. Have more questions? We can help.