Public Relations

The CNS organizers were aware of the importance of public relations. We established a newsroom at annual meetings and assigned a member to watch over it. We asked speakers to provide a manuscript before the meeting (many responded) and copies of their papers were available for the news media.

Local news agencies were alerted and invitations were mailed to science writers using a national mailing list. The Program Committee selected some program items that were expected to be newsworthy (difficult but possible). The early Honored Guests were from abroad and they attracted considerable attention from TV reporters.

We encountered several impediments that are chronic afflictions of scientific societies:
Many presentations are complex or technical and generate little public interest.
All of the CNS programming is current but seldom a new discovery.
The thrust of CNS programs may be exciting to neurosurgeons, but it is largely postgraduate education.
National level science writers receive many invitations and must choose which society to attend (competition).
Local reporters often lack the background to handle high tech items.
Many scientists are uncomfortable talking to reporters.
Some leaders of societies place PR on the back burner.

At the time the CNS was founded, there were some dramatic examples of neurosurgeons making themselves newsworthy with dramatic announcements or claims that were soon discredited by peers. One neurosurgeon developed a cure for Parkinsonism and made the mistake of talking to the press before he made his dramatic announcement at a national neurological society (attendees read about it in The New York Times at breakfast several hours before his presentation at the meeting). He never recovered his place in scientific circles and his claims later proved to be overstated.

Principle: Public Relations is a necessary obligation and service to both the scientific community and the public. It takes hard work to be effective. The same high ethical standards of science applies to PR.