Throughout the workshop, many participants mentioned the need to keep expectations appropriate. Dan Zenka, vice president of communications at the Prostate Cancer Foundation, suggested leading with a clear and open communication strategy from the beginning so that there is no need to manage expectations because everyone is always on the same page (Box 5-1). Zenka pointed out that this process requires significant management buy-in long before any problems need to be addressed or before a substantial funding or research event occurs. In addition, an organization and its researchers and institutional partners should be in frequent communication. “At the Prostate Cancer Foundation, staff are very close to those that we fund,” Zenka said.


Cathy Carlson, senior director of research information for the Research and Clinical Programs Department of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, advised that it was key to have advance notice from either grantees or medical journals about upcoming publications or results so that communication strategies can take advantage of opportunities to showcase readiness and a plan of action. Carlson agreed that communication often becomes most critical when doing damage control or when trying to balance the high expectations for a very promising drug versus

BOX 5-1

Steps to Creating Open Communication

  • Show where the foundation wants to go. Announce a program, most likely breaking it into phases, and announce what you believe the end goal is or what breakthrough is sought.

  • Define milestones and decision points where each phase of development will end and the next one will begin. Outline possible outcomes, along with problems and anticipated challenges. Define where the go/no-go decisions will be made.

  • Give lots of updates along the way. Communicate successes and failures and explain what the failures teach you and where you will go from there.

SOURCE: Zenka, 2008.

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