AHRQ Publishing and Communications Guidelines
Section 4: Media Standards and Policies
Table of Contents
Office of Communications (OC) Media Relations staff members are the only authorized individuals to coordinate AHRQ press releases and media requests and speak to the media on behalf of AHRQ. Contractors/subcontractors are not permitted to speak on behalf of AHRQ, either to the media or via social media. They are permitted to repost messages from AHRQ social media accounts to amplify messages if they wish.
Contractors and grantees will work with OC to coordinate the following media activities.
OC staff members ask several basic questions to assess the newsworthiness of AHRQ-funded research, tools, and activities:
- Will the research finding be published in a top-tier journal such as the New England Journal of Medicine or JAMA?
- Is the finding new, actionable, or of wide interest to a broad group of stakeholders, including clinicians, policymakers, payers, and patients?
- Can the finding change healthcare practice or have significant impact in the field?
- Does a new tool or activity represent a significant advancement that will be of wide interest to a general audience?
For those findings and tools that meet the criteria above, OC staff members work with AHRQ subject matter experts to draft a press release and submit the draft release to the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA), HHS’s press office, for clearance. OC requires at least 2 weeks prior knowledge of the publication or product release date to allow time to draft and clear a press release.
OC may also use the following tactics to promote significant AHRQ-funded research findings, tools, and activities:
- Announcements via various AHRQ lists
- Articles in AHRQ News Now, AHRQ’s weekly e- newsletter
- AHRQ Views blog post
- Social media message via Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook (see Section 5)
OC sends press releases to reporters via a national newswire service, social channels, and a media listserv for reporters who have requested AHRQ news releases.
AHRQ grantees and contractors may issue “third party” press releases about AHRQ-funded research and activities after approval and clearance from OC and program staff. Contractors and grantees must email all press releases to Lorin Smith for approval.
Third party press releases must:
- Clearly acknowledge AHRQ’s support and role.
- Accurately reflect AHRQ funding or research findings.
- Receive approval from the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA) if it includes a quote from a Federal spokesperson. OC Media Division staff will send the press release to ASPA for clearance.
- Not be issued prior to any AHRQ press release.
AHRQ News Now, published weekly, features news about Agency initiatives and products, AHRQ-funded journal articles, profiles of AHRQ grantees, impact case studies, and other activities. A typical e-newsletter article includes five to six sentences about the research or tool along with a link to the relevant section of the AHRQ website or a PubMed abstract. Bruce Seeman manages the newsletter.
Send media inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. OC arranges interviews with AHRQ subject matter experts in response to reporter requests. OC also may contact reporters to arrange interviews. To prepare for media interviews, OC obtains deadline information and, if possible, questions from reporters. OC also provides background information, talking points, and sample questions and answers for Agency experts to use in media interviews. Reporters, including bloggers, should have access to AHRQ employees they seek to interview.
Per HHS Media Policy, only an HHS employee can speak to the media on behalf of the Agency. Contractors, fellows, and other non-Federal employees cannot speak on behalf of the Agency. When technical questions require data or input from contractors, OC will help coordinate how the information is provided.
The AHRQ Views Blog is a platform for AHRQ’s director and other Agency leaders to offer insights on AHRQ activities and ongoing efforts to make healthcare safer, more effective, and of higher value.
To suggest a topic for an AHRQ Views blog post, email a summary of the proposal to Media Relations Director Bruce Seeman, who manages the blog. OC will evaluate the topic and, if approved, will work collaboratively with the author to develop the blog post.
Blog post authors should follow these guidelines:
- Highlight a new finding, issue, or perspective on something. A blog post should feel fresh.
- Start with the most important material to grab readers’ interest. Background is boring.
- Keep it short (400-500 words).
- Use plain language. Avoid acronyms, government language, and jargon.
- Include links to related information on the AHRQ website.
- Edit your blog post. If you realize part of your post is summarizing already known information, cut it.
- Avoid charts, graphs, and citations.
- Use active voice.
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short.
- Use bullets when appropriate to simplify content.
- Hyperlink keywords instead of saying, “click here.”
Page originally created April 2009