PIO 101

Are you new in your role as a Public Information Officer (PIO) {YES!} Congratulations! You are in a unique position to educate and inform the American public about important research developments and medical innovations! Anticipating that you might have questions, and to help you perform at an optimal level in this exciting role, your fellow PIOs at grantee institutions and here at NIH, collated the following resources for you.

How RePORT can aid you as a PIO

How to know when research is ripe for a press release

Institutions have different criteria and reasons for producing news releases. Some produce news releases to announce publication of research results in peer-reviewed journals. Others announce findings presented at scholarly conferences. The real challenge is determining which research projects are suitable subjects for releases. It can be helpful for PIOs to look for peer-reviewed research that represents a major advance, is of broad public interest, and presents novel findings that can be explained clearly in non-technical language. We recommend working with your corresponding communications office for firm guidance as to how your institution handles news releases.

How to acknowledge federal funding

Your research is important and we want to hear about it! The best way to do this is by making sure each publication, press release, or other document about research supported by an NIH award includes an acknowledgment of NIH award support. For example, “Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award number R01GM085232.” We encourage mention of NIH early in the text of the release (grant number, etc., can be in the footer). Prior to issuing a press release concerning the outcome of this research, please notify us. NIH communications offices may be able to highlight your release on NIH platforms.

How to make a press release effective

  • Make sure your headline and lead paragraph capture the key news aspect of your announcement. Reporters receive a lot of news releases and you need to capture their attention quickly.
  • News is digital, so be sure to include digital resources like photos, video, and infographics.
  • Explain in clear, non-technical language how the research represents an important advance.
  • Use analogies to make the research more accessible (e.g., Telomeres are small pieces of DNA on the ends of chromosomes that act as protective caps — like the plastic tips on the ends of shoelaces.)
  • Include non-technical quotations from the researchers explaining the significance of the research.
  • Translate technical terms into language that an educated non-scientist can understand, in a way that does not alter the meaning.
  • For further guidance, please see the “Describing the science” section of the Science, Health and Public Trust’s Checklist for Communicating Science and Health Research to the Public

Press release distribution service — How to use it in your PIO role

A press release distribution service is a central place through which universities, and others who conduct research, may share their news with the media. Examples of such services are: EurekAlert!, PR Newswire, Cision/Vocus, Newswise, etc. Once you register with them as a PIO, you are able to submit news releases that follow their guidelines via a secure log in. You may choose various tags like mental health or infectious disease or other relevant information. Please note, it is important to fill out the funding field in the submission template, so the appropriate parties will be alerted of your upcoming release. It is also helpful to have detailed support language in the body of the release. As a PIO, you may register and post for free, but your institution must have a subscription.

Contacts at NIH

This page last reviewed on February 8, 2017