Date: Thursday, November 20, 2008

Location: Volker Hall, Lecture Room D, 1st Floor

Organizers: Nancy Bell, Sarah Peek, & David B. Allison


A growing communications gap has become apparent in recent years between journalists and the public-at-large on one hand and scientists and scientific expertise and research institutions on the other hand. It is wise, if not imperative, for those with a research portfolio to equip themselves with skills enabling them to communicate their work to the public, as well as media agencies that directly reach the public. This event is a combination didactic/hands-on workshop on communicating scientific information (particularly, nutrition, food safety, and health information) to journalists. Presenters Nick Alexander, Sylvia Rowe, and Bob Shepard will, through PowerPoint presentation, oral explication, and interactive drills, explore effective media relations, risk communication, and message development strategies for the increasingly complex modern media environment.

Eligible to Attend:

  • Clinical Nutrition Research Center Members and Post-Doctoral Fellows
  • SSG Faculty and Post-Doctoral Fellows
  • SOPH Faculty and Post-Doctoral Fellows

Goals/Objectives: After this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the challenges affecting communications between scientists and the broader public as well as opportunities to positively impact the public dialogue;
  • Analyze, evaluate, and successfully address media interest in current scientific projects and research being conducted for public benefit;
  • Deliver efficient and effective messages to editors, reporters, and producers, at both traditional and New Media, to promote research mission objectives and successfully communicate projects' rationales and goals.


8:00-8:10 AM

David B. Allison, Ph.D.
University of Alabama at Birmingham

  • Announcements
  • Business
8:10-8:55 AM Gary Mans, UAB Media Relations How and why to work with your institutional Public Relations Office Watch Video
9:00-9:15 AM Sylvia Rowe and Nick Alexander Introductions
  • Participant welcome
  • Agenda overview
  • Goals/Objectives to be achieved
Watch Video
Watch Video

9:15 -10:00 AM

Sylvia Rowe and Nick Alexander Overview of the topic
  • Media Relations: definition and discussion
  • Media Communications: overview
  • Message Creation: definitions and broad discussion

10:00-12:00 PM

Sylvia Rowe and Nick Alexander Key Conecpts
  • Knowing your audience
  • Understanding how journalists think/operate
  • Preparing and delivering to journalists what they need
12:00-1:00 PM Lunch break (on your own)
1:00-4:30 PM Sylvia Rowe and Nick Alexander Hands-on Workshop
  • Role playing
  • Group Critique
  • Exercise on videotape followed by critique
4:30-5:00 PM Sylvia Rowe and Nick Alexander Summary/Conclusions
  • Reiteration of lessons/techniques learned
  • Invitation for follow-up guidance

Distinguished Speakers

Sylvia B. Rowe, President, SR STRATEGY, LLC

Sylvia B.Sylvia Rowe is currently president of SR Strategy, LLC pursuing communications and issues management consulting on a broad range of health, nutrition, food safety and risk issues. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Previously Rowe served as president and chief executive officer of the International Food Information Council (IFIC) and IFIC Foundation, in Washington, DC, (nonprofit organizations) that communicate science-based information on food safety and nutrition issues to health professionals, journalists, government officials, educators and consumers. IFIC’s programs are primarily supported by the broad-based food, beverage and agricultural industries.

During her eleven-year tenure, IFIC has established itself as a leader in consumer research and consumer-based communications in nutrition, food safety, and health. Rowe’s leadership has resulted in national public-private partnerships and coalitions between IFIC and preeminent government agencies and health organizations committed to developing science-based consumer communications on healthful lifestyles. Rowe's background in media and expertise in issues management are reflected in her professional history as a producer and on-air host of several television and radio talk shows covering social, political, economic and consumer issues. She also previously held positions in public relations, marketing, and membership development for the American Tort Reform Association, the American Association of University Women, and The Sugar Association. Rowe has served on several Boards and Advisory Committees of the following: the American Heart Association’s Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism, the American Society of Association Executives Foundation, Food Update Foundation, Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy Graduate Program in Nutrition Communication, University of Rochester Medical Center Nutrition Academic Award Program, Food and Drug Law Institute, Society for Nutrition Education Foundation, and Maryland Title IX Commission. She is also a member of the International Women’s Leadership Forum, the National Press Club, American Newswomen’s Club, the American Society of Association Executives and Institute of Food Technologists. Rowe received a Bachelor's Degree from Wellesley College and was awarded a Masters Degree from Harvard University, both with honors.

Nick Alexander, BA

Nick A.Nick. Alexander is former senior media counselor for the International Food Information Council Foundation located in Washington, DC. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University and is a former network correspondent with ABC News. Mr. Alexander has, for more than a decade, counseled a variety of clients, including research scientists on media relations, communication strategies and message development. Over the past several years, Mr. Alexander and Sylvia Rowe have collaborated on a series of published journal articles on science communications issues and the evolving challenge to public acceptance of credible science.

Gary Mans, MPA, Director of Public Relations, UAB

Gary M.Gary Mans has been at UAB since 1996, joining as the manager of media relations for the UAB health enterprise. He now has day-to-day responsibility for media relations for all 12 schools of the university. This endeavor includes oversight for the electronic communications division at UAB. Additionally, he handles issue and crisis management for the university’s athletic program. In 2002, the office won the CASE Gold Medal for Overall Media Relations Program and the Grand Award for, Overall Media Relations Program for District III. Prior to UAB, Mans was the director of media relations at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago. He also has worked at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, Shands Hospital in Gainesville and the University of Florida Health Sciences Center.