From the CEO
One of the unique contributions of APA is our leadership role in educating the public about psychology and psychologists. A key mechanism by which we do this is through APA's Public Affairs Office, which works closely with news reporters, editors and producers to shed light on new research and respond to issues of the day. In multiple surveys that helped shape APA's strategic plan, members emphasized the importance of improving the public image of the field. As a consequence, a key objective in the strategic plan is increasing awareness of psychology as a science-based discipline.
Journalists know APA can provide knowledgeable sources on almost any aspect of psychology or human behavior. In 2011, Public Affairs staff responded to 1,100 inquiries from journalists and reached out to scores of individual reporters. The Public Affairs team is able to give journalists the right expert, dig up a specific piece of research or offer a thoughtful response to an issue on people's minds. Our Media Referral System is a database of a few thousand members who have indicated an interest in talking to reporters about their areas of expertise.
The Public Affairs Office works with journalists to bring news and information about psychology to the public. The office reviews all of APA's 60-plus journals, searching for psychological research that the mainstream media will find interesting and that can advance the public's understanding of psychology. APA issues news releases about these studies, in consultation with researchers, or makes pitches to selected journalists to garner coverage. APA communicates on a regular basis with the top science journalists in the country, if not the world.
These press releases are well-received because they provide real news about advances in the science of psychology that impact people in all kinds of situations. Any top media outlet you can think of — be it The New York Times, network TV news, the Associated Press or the Wall Street Journal — regularly features APA news and quotes member psychologists. Press releases in the last few months have included "Playing Highly Competitive Video Games May Lead to Aggressive Behavior"; "Perceived Racism May Impact Black Americans' Mental Health"; and"Working Moms Feel Better than Stay-at-Home Moms, Study Finds."
When news breaks, reporters frequently turn to APA for credible voices to explain an event and offer psychological perspective. After a major international incident, such as last year's earthquake in Japan or the 2010 Chilean mine disaster, reporters seek out APA experts to discuss the psychological ramifications for victims, families and even those people watching from afar. When the news is close to home, such as the Arizona shooting that left six dead and critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, reporters asked APA to recommend a psychologist to provide expert commentary.
APA also issues interviews with noted psychologists on compelling topics. When President Obama announced that U.S. troops would be coming home, APA issued a Q&A with psychologist Antonette M. Zeiss, PhD, who heads a leading Veterans Affairs office, discussing how people can help veterans adjust to life at home following their experience at war. These features are available to reprint in full or in part.
APA strives to make in-house experts available, such as Katherine Nordal, PhD, or Lynn Bufka, PhD, commenting on issues affecting practitioners, or Steve Behnke, PhD, on ethics or Shari Miles-Cohen, PhD, on women's issues, to cite just a few. Public Affairs, and the public relations staff in the Practice Directorate, work with staff to prep them for the interviews. And recently, the Practice PR office put together an amazing rollout of our annual Stress in America survey, which attracted wide media coverage (see 'Our health at risk' for full coverage).
In the coming year, all our public relations practitioners will not only continue this highly effective work, they will broaden APA's ongoing public education campaign to align it even more closely with our strategic goals. I'll have more to say about this campaign in a future column but for now, I urge you to keep an eye on the mainstream media for news of psychology. Chances are, APA had a hand in the coverage.