"There's a lot of pressure to being a consumer advocate," says The Alliance for Aging Research VP of communications Katie Riley. "You have the weight of a specific population on your shoulders, and you want to get it right, especially when pitching the media."

Riley tells Doug Simon that her background as journalist has had a big effect on how she does her job. "I was trained as a journalist to be objective and right down the middle of the road and with patient advocacy, you have to take a side sometimes. And that's been quite an adjustment for me. It's important to make sure that you're using all the tools that you can to get those stories out and to advocate for the people that you're working for."

One key to successfully promoting her organization's mission of accelerating the pace of scientific discoveries and their applications is "humanizing news stories whenever possible." Riley says that "journalists need that connection. You can tell them a story, but if they don’t have someone to speak to or have a human voice to it, they're not going to cover it."

She also talks about the ways to get out the word about such events at the Alliance for Aging Research's Valve Disease Day Challenge campaign. "The trick to promoting a day is to spread it out as much as you can" and to incorporate as wide a range of strategies as possible."We had radio media tours, we had press releases, PSA’s, letters to the editor, we just kind of hit everything that we possibly could to flood the market.

In a changing media envionment, Riley also stresses keeping the multiple demands being made on a reporter top of mind. "I think the biggest takeaway that I have from my journalism experience is that when you're pitching a reporter, you have to think about what their day-to-day life is like. That means sending the pertinent details without bombarding, making sure that you're pitching the right person at an organization."

Riley's top advice to those who are building their communications careers? "Just go with it. If you have an opportunity arise and you think, I don't know if that's quite me, think about your marketable skills. Think about how you can translate those skills into a different type of work and I think you'll surprise yourself and how well you can do."

View all of the interviews in the “PR's Top Pros Talk” series. Subscribe to get notified when new episodes are available.

Interested in taking part? Contact Doug Simon at [email protected]

D S Simon Media helps clients get their stories on television through satellite media tours and by producing and distributing content to the media. The company also produces live social media events.