A Guide to Public Information Offices

A Public Information Office, also known as a Press Office, Media Relations Office, or Communications Office, is the bridge between researchers and reporters. Virtually all colleges and universities have their own Public Information Office as does the ASA. The Department of Public Affairs and Public Information (PA/PI) is ASA’s Public Information Office.  

In general, Public Information Office employees:

  • Identify newsworthy research
  • Write and distribute press releases and media advisories on important information and research
  • Respond to inquiries from journalists
    • Connect reporters with experts
    • Give official statements
  • Proactively publicize experts who can comment on timely topics
  • Provide communications training and resources
  • Organize and host press conferences

Some Specifics About What Research PA/PI Publicizes

The PA/PI employees work to promote ASA member research published/scheduled to be published in ASA journals or presented/scheduled to be presented at the ASA Annual Meeting. PA/PI employees review the research to identify those studies that are most likely to generate media interest and then publicize as many as they can. To expand its reach, PA/PI often partners with college and university Public Information Offices to publicize this research. Keep in mind that PA/PI cannot publicize all ASA-affiliated research even if it is newsworthy.

Deciding Whether to Contact a Public Information Office About Your Research

Typically, if your research is published/scheduled to be published in an ASA journal or presented/scheduled to be presented at the ASA Annual Meeting, PA/PI employees are aware of it and will contact you if they plan to publicize it. It is important to note that some ASA journals send study authors material to share with their college or university press office to encourage the office to publicize the research. If your school’s press office plans to publicize your ASA-affiliated research, please have the office contact the ASA PA/PI Office. It is likely that PA/PI would then partner with your school to publicize your research.

For non-ASA-affiliated research, you may want to contact your college or university press office about publicizing it. Before contacting the Public Information Office at your school about any research, it is useful to conduct an honest assessment of your work. Ask yourself, is it really newsworthy? Would a journalist be interested in producing a story about it? Will the general public want to learn about it? Your research may be an important contribution to sociology and social science, but may not necessarily be something that would generate media coverage.

Information about contacting your college or university Press Office can generally be found on your school’s website.    

ASA Database of Subject Matter Experts for the Media

PA/PI is always expanding its database of ASA members who are subject matter experts. This database serves as an easily accessible resource that PA/PI employees consult when reporters request interviews with experts for their stories. In addition, PA/PI employees peruse the database before proactively offering names of experts on particularly timely topics to journalists. For example, after Osama bin Laden was killed, PA/PI employees developed a list of sociologists who could discuss the significance of bin Laden’s death from a variety of sociological perspectives and made it available to reporters. An up-to-date database of sociologists who have agreed to speak with journalists on areas in which they have demonstrated subject matter expertise will expedite PA/PI’s media communication process. Learn moreJoin.

For more information, contact the ASA Department of Public Affairs and Public Information at (202) 383-9005 or via email at pubinfo@asanet.org.