Reactive Media Relations: Could Nanomedicine Fix Rob Gronkowski?

Reactive Media Relations: Could Nanomedicine Fix Rob Gronkowski?

Client: Northeastern University College of Engineering

Situation Analysis: 

Dr. Thomas Webster, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University and founding editor of the International Journal of Nanomedicine, is leading groundbreaking research efforts to solve the problem of ligament and tendon repair and replacement, which could help heal thousands of injuries worldwide. Northeastern University’s College of Engineering (NUCE) retained Schneider Associates (SA) to bring this important research work out of the lab and into the living rooms of mainstream audiences.

SA worked to identify how the application of nanomedicine could impact sports injuries, in particular those of high profile players, whose injuries attract large-scale attention and have a reverberating impact on the athlete as well as the sports industry. By tying nanomedicine to a current story line in the news cycle, SA believed the media would be more prone to cover a research topic versus medicine that is already available and FDA approved. SA worked to provide a forward-thinking story scenario that emphasized the shorter recovery period nanomedicine could provide for athletes and their teams.

When New England Patriots player Rob Gronkowski tore both his ACL and MCL, New England sports and news media quickly reacted to the injury with disappointment over the loss of a fan-favorite player, and reflected on the team’s diminished chances for a Super Bowl appearance and NFL championship. SA recognized this breaking story was the ideal media moment in time to discuss nanomedicine and its power to heal.

The application of nanomedicine for athletes who suffer debilitating injuries like ACL and MCL tears is just one type of breakthrough where this technology will deliver new and more effective forms of treatment. While traditional methods of repair and rehabilitation for injured athletes and weekend warriors have made great advancements over the last 20 years, nanomedicine is developing new—and much less invasive—solutions that will have game-changing benefits on the sporting world and beyond. Using nanomedicine to heal an injury, the recovery would be only weeks instead of months. This is because the nanotech material can provide mechanical support while healing is occurring. Cartilage and ligament injuries are very difficult to treat due to a lack of blood supply aiding the natural ability of cartilage to regenerate. Often, the cartilage or ligament never returns to normal after injury. Though nanomedicine is currently not approved by the FDA, the treatment effectively mimics the natural structure, geometry and roughness of the healthy cartilage and ligaments with synthetic material, enabling re-growth.


After monitoring the local and national media opportunities for placements to showcase how the work at NUCE is relevant to critical health applications, SA identified the Gronkowski knee injury as an ideal story opportunity. SA then outlined the following objectives to leverage this breaking news story:

  • Introduce diverse audiences to nanomedicine and Dr. Webster, a Northeastern University College of Engineering researcher and thought leader on this topic.
  • Position NUCE as a leading research institution in the field of nanomedicine and nanotechnology.
  • Emphasize the importance of this research to advance medical treatments and care.

Program Planning & Strategy:

With these objectives in mind, SA sprang into action to capitalize on this breaking news opportunity. The cutting-edge nanomedicine research being conducted at NUCE had not yet been introduced to the local Boston media market. SA knew that relating this innovation to a story—like Gronkowski’s injury—would help generate media interest and coverage. SA used its knowledge of the Boston market and created customized pitches for business, sports, medical and general assignment news. SA offered NUCE’s innovative research to the local sports media on how nanomedicine could be a “game-changer” for this type of injury and stressed that nanomedicine and the Northeastern College of Engineering should be a part of the sports injury conversation across New England. SA worked to make this story compelling, visual and timely for a rabid sports audience wishing to see one of its most important players get back into the game.

SA also faced the challenge of convincing media that nanomedicine was relevant to audiences who may be intimidated by the scientific explanation behind the technology. We remedied this by describing a real scenario: how Gronkowski could benefit given his current injury. SA used specific language about nanomedicine and Gronkowski’s injury – and offered the timing of the healing process with nanomedicine versus traditional methods to make the distinction clear.

SA secured interest from Fox 25 WFXT-TV in Boston on Thursday, December 12, for a segment to be taped with Dr. Webster the next day. WFXT’s one request was that SA provide video b-roll of the nanomedicine lab at NUCE for use in the segment. After confirming with NUCE that no such video footage existed, SA worked with Dr. Webster and NUCE to produce a video that captured the Egan Research Lab at Northeastern. SA sent the footage to the station in advance of Dr. Webster’s live appearance that same evening on WFXT.

Measurement & Results:

Fox 25 WFXT-TV broadcast a live segment with Dr. Webster at 5 p.m. on Friday, December, 13. Coming up on a big Patriots-football weekend, Dr. Webster was interviewed by WFXT’s Sorboni Banerjee to talk about nanomedicine in relation to Gronkowski’s injury. This mainstream news coverage (as opposed to features in medical news journals) on NUCE’s research focused on the application of nanomedicine to real people who suffer injuries like Gronkowski’s. The story identified how a modern application of nanomedicine could change thousands of lives. The placement on the competitive and newly re-launched 5 p.m. show on Fox 25 WFXTpaved the way for future stories in the Boston media market, and created a domino effect for securing other high profile local news coverage as well as interest from news outlets within the region. As a result of SA’s timely pitching and preparation, Dr. Webster was able to talk about the application of nanomedicine in layman’s terms as relevant to the breaking news cycle. The segment effectively positioned NUCE as a leader in nanomedicine research and Dr. Webster as an expert in the field, and made it clear to a diverse audience why this type of research is critical to advancing medical treatments and care.

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