2012 Nonprofit PR Awards: Press Release

Winner: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory — Advancing autism research: a new animal model provides evidence for autism’s genetic basis

To tout the news of a first-of-its-kind animal mode for autism that presented incontrovertible evidence of autism’s genetic basis, the Cold Spring Harbor Lab focused on a variety of targets—the lay public, scientific and general media, and advocacy groups. The challenge: creating press release versions that would be clear and informational to each of those groups. A collaborative process to meet this challenge ensued.

Hema Bashyam, science writer with the lab’s public affairs department, spoke with key lab scientists on how to best engage the different audiences. “I then worked with Dr. Guy Horev to identify and prepare news-quality research images (sample pictured) and videos showing behavior of ‘autistic’ mice,” says Bashyam. As a result, the “Mouse Model” release was responsible for 10 feature stories in the U.S. and internationally, as well as dozens of shorter items. Given the controversy surrounding autism and its causes, Bashyam stressed the importance of exercising clarity and sensitivity in releases to minimize chances of any misinterpretation by audiences. —SVC

Honorable Mention:

American Veterinary Medical Association – You Need a Vet on Your Zombie Apocalypse Survival Team: Leveraging the popularity of the AMC TV show The Walking Dead, the AVMA’s zombie-themed release spurred a jump in association Web site visits from an average of 12,000 to a peak of 20,000 at its launch on Oct. 31, 2011.