“Talking about citizen journalists is like talking about citizen dentists!”
- register as a paying delegate (full-price)
- register as a patient advocate for a reduced rate (like the American Society of Clinical Oncology – ASCO – conference in Chicago in May, which offers a discounted $295 Patient Advocate rate reserved exclusively for patient advocates and not intended for medical professionals). You qualify for this lower rate if you work or volunteer for a national not-for-profit patient advocacy organization.
- apply for official media accreditation if you can demonstrate that you write/edit an online blog, or play a key role in a social media medical/patient forum (conference registration fees are normally waived for all accredited media granted a press pass)
- get invited to be a speaker onstage representing the patient perspective – happily, a growing trend among conference organizers and the Patients Included movement. (See also: “We Are All Patients!” No, You’re Not).
“We see bloggers as valuable contributors to sharing health and science information and in engaging others in the conversation.
.“We treat bloggers exactly as journalists and ensure that they too meet our guidelines but, since they are a different type of media, we look at them through a different lens and research each blogger who applies to ensure they qualify..“We have in the past denied people media accreditation because they do not meet our criteria. They are not arbitrary decisions: we review each case and some have been escalated to ensure it is the right decision.”
- book and magazine publishers
- publication and broadcast outlets’ sales, advertising, or marketing department representatives
- industry representatives
- specialized in-house magazines and industry newsletters
- public relations firms and advertising agency representatives
- corporate, university, or hospital public relations, advertising or marketing department representatives
It would be difficult – some might say impossible – for patients, patient advocates or caregivers to simply show up at a medical or healthcare conference and waltz in the door with no credentials while claiming to be a traditional journalist.
One of the reasons for strict gatekeeping is that a press pass basically gives you free range access to all delegates and speakers at a medical conference, including admission to all conference sessions, workshops and keynote presentations.
It is also your key to getting inside the Media Room – usually a separate quiet area where you’ll have access to desks, printers, phones, private interview space, and helpful staffers who can help you book appointments with the specific speakers/researchers you want to interview – or offer suggestions for good story idea you may have overlooked in the conference program. You’ll often even find a corner table where coffee and light meals are laid out for your enjoyment while you’re busy writing.
“I probably would accredit a patient blogger, although I do vet applicants if I am not familiar with their work. Most journalists who request credentials are legit, though one time we declined a videographer who tried to get access to make a video report for an unnamed client. But he sneaked in anyway by lying at the registration desk!”
- Check into the Media Centre as soon as you arrive at the conference venue. Introduce yourself to the conference staff working there – they will help you get oriented and settled in. Give them lots of notice if you’d like them to arrange interviews for you.
- Be realistic (as Jane-Diane Fraser reminds us about the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress: “We encourage bloggers to apply for media accreditation if the information being presented is a good connect with their blog’s theme.”) In other words, if it isn’t a good connect, either don’t apply in the first place, or at the very least, refrain from being one of those annoying types who try to insinuate their own agenda into each Q&A session during presentations.
- Be considerate of the journalists working alongside you in the conference Media Centre. Unlike patient bloggers, they’re likely working on tight deadlines.
- Respect embargo dates and times. Those working in the Media Centre may receive advance copies of news releases, speech transcripts or other material about papers coming out of this conference. This material often includes a specified publication date and time of day coinciding with the conference speaker’s presentation of the paper. Journalists must agree not to share anything about this story until AFTER this date/time has arrived. Do not under any circumstances try to scoop these news stories by tweeting, blogging or sharing anything about them on social media before the specified embargo time has come and gone.
- Have fun! Be friendly and open, meet new people, do more listening than talking, and enjoy this unique behind-the-scenes opportunity.
- “It’s no hobby. It is a vital service.”
- My blog post in the British Medical Journal
- Short vs long online articles: which are better?
- The sad reality of women’s heart disease hits home
Q: Should patient bloggers be offered media accreditation to cover medical conferences?