Rheumatological diseases can be complex, so how can those within the specialty help ensure information about rheumatology shared by the media is accurate? Cue the ACR/ARHP Experts on Call program, which is designed to connect rheumatology health professionals with journalists looking for subject matter experts.
Experts on Call is managed by the ACR’s Public Relations Department. When a journalist contacts the department for story sources, staff members reach out to ACR and ARHP members who have expressed an interest in serving as an educational resource for the press on a specific topic, says Jocelyn Givens, public relations director.
At any given time, 75–100 members have said they would like to help with general media queries. Experts on Call receives multiple requests each week from reporters looking to speak with a rheumatologist or another health professional.
The kinds of stories in progress by reporters fall under a wide range of story topics and venues. “Often, these are trade reporters writing about research that has recently been released, and they want an independent comment on the findings and clinical implications,” Ms. Givens says. “Other times, a reporter may be writing a health and wellness or education article for the general public and would like to speak with a physician to get information and quotes they can use.”
Sometimes, journalists writing career or self-help articles need rheumatologists to interview about their personal experience with a topic, she adds.
Recent examples of stories where an Experts on Call source was used include:
- A story geared toward newly diagnosed gout patients for a consumer publication;
- a blog post on difficult-to-diagnose autoimmune diseases for a trade site; and
- an article examining a recent juvenile arthritis study for a trade publication.
How It Works for the Experts
A rheumatology health professional with an active ACR/ARHP membership can fill out a short questionnaire for Experts on Call and identify areas of expertise and interest. The topics on the questionnaire are based on prior requests received from reporters; the questionnaire has more than 60 topic areas. After that is completed, media requests aligned with the member’s interests are sent on.
“When we receive a request, we gather as much information as the reporter can provide to match them with experts who can provide the perspective they desire for their story,” Ms. Givens says.
ACR/ARHP staff try to have multiple members available to help with requests for all topic areas.