Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Frequently asked questions

How does Massey’s Office of Communications and Public Relations generate news coverage?
How can Massey's Office of Communications and Public Relations help you?
How can you help Massey’s Office of Communications and Public Relations?
Is your information newsworthy?
What are topics that typically gain media coverage?
How do staff honors and achievements get publicized?
How do I access Massey’s official logo and nomenclature guidelines?
What are the media guidelines at Massey and the VCU Medical Center?
What is a patient condition report?

How does Massey’s Office of Communications and Public Relations generate news coverage?

Massey’s PR professionals regularly work with print, broadcast and electronic media from around the corner to around the world. Research, clinical and administrative staff are encouraged to contact the Office of Communications and Public Relations with information about research, special programs, accomplishments, awards — anything deemed newsworthy.

Depending on the story and timing, we may provide promotion through one or several of the following:

  • Write and distribute a news release and/or media advisory 
  • “Pitch” the story to reporters, editors, producers 
  • Offer your expertise to the media for an expert opinion 
  • Write or edit an op-ed or article for targeted media 
  • Write a story for Massey’s website, Advance magazine, Momentum e-newsletter 
  • Write an internal e-announcement 
  • Link to a promotion from one of Massey’s social networking sites 
  • “Pitch” the story to VCU and/or VCU Medical Center for promotion through their 
    websites, social networking sites and electronic and print publications 
  • Submit an article to NCI Bulletin and AACI Update e-newsletters 
  • Arrange and manage a press conference 
  • Produce a video, podcast or audio slideshow

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How can Massey’s Office of Communications and Public Relations help you?

We can promote Massey’s basic, translational and clinical research. We can also promote awards, honors and events.

Partnering with the VCU Medical Center’s marketing office, we can advertise and promote clinical oncology services, support community outreach and develop a communications plan to support a clinical department’s strategic goals.

We can make updates to Massey’s website, or provide training on our content management system so a department can manage their own web content.

We can provide media interview tips, one-on-one media training, presentation coaching and branding guidelines.

We can also assist in the development of talking points and a range of printed and electronic marketing materials, such as brochures, press releases, fliers, posters, videos, online articles and more.

We regularly share newsworthy items with Massey’s Office of Development and External Relations for consideration in donor communications.

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How can you help Massey’s Office of Communications and Public Relations?

A lot of activity is going on at Massey and it’s easy for your event or idea to get lost in the noise. Here are two simple ways you can help us get your information the attention it deserves.

  • Contact us. Our first recommendation is the most obvious. Let us know when you’re doing something interesting, if you want to be included on our experts list or if you have other news. Don’t assume we already know.
  • Contact us early. If you wait until the day your research is published or your event is occurring, you’re too late. Timing is critical. The more notice you provide our office, the better we can assist you in coming up with an effective strategy.
  • For research publications, please provide us with the following information:
    • Name of article and the source of its publication
    • Anticipated online and/or print publication date 
    • Summarize in two to three sentences, and in lay terms, the essence of the research
    • What are the key findings? Please bullet
    • For which specific disease(s) does this have implications (if not answered above)? 
    • How does the research compare to other research on the topic? Is it the first of its kind? How does it challenge a prevailing viewpoint?
    • Any next steps planned to further explore this area? 
    • Quote (or the gist of a quote) describing the potential benefits of these findings, in lay language
    • Does this build on research that’s been conducted at VCU – by the author or other colleagues? 
    • List any other VCU collaborators, and/or other institutions/PIs involved in this study
    • List any institutions that provided funding for this study (full names of institutions)

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Is your information newsworthy?

Studies of media coverage over the years show that 55 percent to 97 percent of all news releases sent to media outlets are never used. This result is because too often news releases or pitches submitted to media contain information that is relevant or interesting to a small, specialized audience and does not meet the media’s criteria for what is considered to be newsworthy.

Editors and reporters look for specific factors in deciding on the newsworthiness of a story. Massey’s Office of Communications and Public Relations applies the same standards in determining the news value of potential news releases and pitches to the media.

Factors determining the newsworthiness of a story:

  • Timing
    The word "news" means exactly that — things that are new. Media outlets will not cover a story that is old or seems old. It must be happening now. If it happened last week, chances are it is no longer interesting. Timing also involves competition for media attention. If there are a lot of newsworthy stories on a particular day, then some stories will be dropped until a later time. Time-sensitive news often will be dropped permanently.
  • Novelty
    Is the story unique or innovative? Does it go outside the norm? Is it a new or fresh approach to meeting a need? Is it something that has never been done before? Is it information that previously did not exist?
  • Significance
    The number of people affected by the story is important. Does the story involve something that will instigate a change that will have an impact on a large group of people or the community? Does the story tie in with a trend or identify a trend that affects a large group of people? Is it information that can help people make an important decision or avoid a serious mistake? Does the story impact the public’s health or safety?
  • Proximity
    A newsworthy story must seem relevant to the audience. It must happen near to them – hit close to home either in terms of location or interests. Does the story have an impact on a particular community or industry? Does the story tie in with current items in the news? What part of the story brings the topic closer to the public? 
  • Human interest
    Human interest stories appeal to emotion. They arouse the audience’s feelings for the people and problems involved in the story such as sympathy, pride or even amusement. Does the story highlight sorrows, triumphs or overcoming hardships? The most successful news stories include some element of human interest – the impact of the news on an individual or group of individuals.

If you have a possible newsworthy item, please contact us.

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What are topics that typically gain media coverage?

  • Faculty experts addressing current topics in the news
  • Research that results in real-life benefits to individuals or communities 
  • Examples of new trends in oncology 
  • New technology, innovative therapies and treatments, cures 
  • Events that include famous people or topics of interest to the general public 
  • Human interest stories

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How do staff honors and achievements get publicized?

News about clinical and academic awards and achievements usually are communicated to the Massey and larger university community through print and online publications directed toward faculty and staff, alumni, donors, and others with ties to Massey and VCU. These outlets include online publications for faculty and staff, alumni magazines and alumni and donor publications of the university’s schools and departments.

Academic awards and honors typically are of little interest to media that serve the general public. However, there are some academic recognitions that are considered newsworthy to a general audience and would be considered for a news release distributed to national, regional or local media.

What are the criteria for distributing news on academic honors and achievements?

  • Is the work being recognized highly topical and of broad public interest?
  • Does the recipient have a compelling personal story? 
  • Is there anything unusual or surprising about this award? 
  • Does the award carry a high cash value or come from an interesting or surprising source? 
  • If this story originated from another institution would you want to read it?

If there is a possible newsworthy academic honor or achievement, please contact us.

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How do I access Massey’s official logo and nomenclature guidelines?

The VCU Massey Cancer Center identity (name, logo and sunburst element) should be represented in a consistent manner, providing the Center with a visual signature for all Web and printed communications.

All clinical, research and administrative staff at VCU whose work involves cancer should adhere to our guidelines on identity and nomenclature. View our guidelines

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What are the media guidelines at Massey and the VCU Medical Center?

Patients who agree to be interviewed on hospital premises must provide prior written consent and a PR representative must be present. Hospital security will remove unauthorized media personnel from Massey and the VCU Medical Center as necessary.

In compliance with federal government regulations, the media must identify a patient by name to obtain information. If a patient opts out of the hospital directory, no information can be provided.

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What is a patient condition report?

If an adult patient is in the hospital directory, a general condition report may be provided to the news media. The condition report may not communicate specific information about the individual, such as age, gender, marital status, occupation, time of admission, hometown, location in the hospital (i.e., ICU) and diagnosis. General condition information about patients who are minors will be released only with the permission of the patient’s parent or legal guardian.

Condition information includes the following:

  • Undetermined – patient is undergoing assessment
  • Good – stable and progressing/satisfactory and moving toward discharge 
  • Fair – stable/fair 
  • Serious – critical but stable/serious 
  • Critical – patient remains in a life-threatening condition

Information beyond a general condition report will be provided only with the expressed written consent of the patient or, in the case of a minor, the expressed written consent of the patient’s parent or guardian.

Deaths may be reported only after the patient’s next-of-kin or legal guardian has been notified.

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