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S-nitrosylation of the RING domain of XIAP decreases its E3 ubiquitin ligase activity both in vitro and in intact cells, thereby blocking its ability to inhibit apoptosis by degrading caspases. Wait….whaaaat?

Sending a pitch or press release with super complex scientific jargon is one way to quickly turn off any reporter. Simplifying your scientific message is crucial to hooking time-pressed reporters and influencing audiences their media outlets reach, like investors, big pharma and industry. It will also help reporters to understand why they should care.

Make it easy for them – many don’t have sophisticated scientific backgrounds, and even if they do, they don’t have enough background information to appreciate the relevance during a 30 second elevator pitch. With an inbox of hundreds of press releases, complicated by shorthanded news desks, even the most seasoned scientific writers have trouble prioritizing what’s medically relevant.

So, you have a really cool peer-reviewed article expected to publish in Nature and plan to write a press release. What to do? Here are some tips on what we do to explain complex peer-reviewed articles or other weedy science research:

  • Understand it yourself. Get on the phone with the lead investigator and ask, “Ok, how would you explain this to your parents.” Granted that their mom isn’t the chief neuroscientist at a top research institute…this should really help create easily digestible information. I recently interviewed a researcher on human embryonic stem cells and their potential to allow scientists to better understand Lou Gehrig’s Disease. She broke down the data and I turned that into a lay-audience friendly press release.
  • Take the time to establish the problem. Innovative solutions resonate louder when the unmet need is outlined clearly for the reporter. The problem is not always obvious.
  • Write a contributed article and do the legwork for the media outlet. Many outlets are shorthanded for content and appreciate a writer who can communicate at the level of their audience.
  • Write it up on your company blog. Take the time to develop the news into a social media- friendly piece on your blog, if you have one. The Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute does a masterful job of taking really technical basic science and turning it into fun and engaging blog posts.
  • Define unavoidable technical terminology. You and I might know what a caspase is, but your reader may not.
  • Analogies help. Relate the story to something easily understood. Kudos to Luke Timmerman of Xconomy when he captured Paul Laikind of Sanford-Burnham comparing the drug discovery path to football.  Score!

Megan Lavine is an Account Manager at Canale Communications and can be reached at or 619.849.5388.

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