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Media spin: How to benefit from exposure

Article-Media spin: How to benefit from exposure

Ms. Clark
Chicago — The best time to prepare for a media interview is not when a microphone and television camera are thrust in front of your face as a reporter runs through a list of questions.

A better option, says Patricia A. Clark, is to do your homework and anticipate the inevitable media requests that are bound to come your way.

"The chances of today's physician getting through his or her professional career without speaking to the media are slim to nil," comments Ms. Clark, a Chicago-area media consultant. "You need to be prepared now. Do not wait until the news crew shows up on your doorstep to figure out what to say. Hiding under your desk is no longer an option."

She offered a training workshop on this subject at Plastic Surgery 2005, the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

"Cosmetic surgeons tend to be a bit more savvy in patient communication skills, and that translates nicely to media communication skills. They understand how to go at something in more than one way until the patient or reporter gets it," Ms. Clark says. But there is room for improvement.

Medical conferences, such as the ASPS meeting, are among the typical venues where clinicians could be interviewed by members of the host city's local media. Reporters seeking a local angle will interview high-profile members of the field about their participation at the conference, new developments, changes in the field and more.

On a day-to-day basis, cosmetic surgery professionals may be called upon to explain a new procedure, to clarify rumors about a procedure or to provide background information for a larger-scale report. Such requests could come from a local or national- level media outlet.

Advancing the agenda

Regardless of how far-reaching the media coverage is, Ms. Clark tells cosmetic surgeons, "The bottom line is to advance the agenda" for you and your practice.

For each person, "agenda" means something different. Cutting through the clutter of multiple messages and defining that agenda is a big part of the preparation that must take place before an interview.

She advises clients to hone the messages of their agenda by creating a message box, a visual reminder of four key points to convey in an interview. One message makes up one side of the box that is drawn on paper. The message box must take into consideration the audience as well as the primary questions a reporter is likely to ask. This box is a useful, visual reminder during an interview of the four primary messages that must be conveyed as questions are answered.

When faced with a question, Ms. Clark recommends that a cosmetic surgeon use a bridging technique to transition from the question to one or more points on his or her agenda.

"Answer the question, neutralize it, but then go ahead and use the opportunity to see if there is more information you want to share," she says.

Take advantage of the free media exposure that news reporting provides, but share only relevant points; do not go overboard with too many facts or go off on a tangent, Ms. Clark advises.

"Physicians know so much," she says. "Unfortunately, some feel compelled to share it all."

But the exact opposite scenario — where the physician offers nothing more than "yes" or "no" answers — is not desirable, either.

"Many times, interviews with physicians who don't have much media training remind me of a pingpong match," she says. "That's losing an opportunity to take that question and use it for your purposes, too."

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