Published 2/1/2009
Frank Kelly, MD

Tips for Tackling the Media in 2009

Have you ever wondered how Dr. Jones made it to the “Today” show? Or how Dr. Smith was quoted as an “expert” on playground injuries? Have you ever imagined yourself in their place?

All media—radio, television, print, and Internet—are looking for interesting orthopaedic topics to cover and experts to quote. You can establish yourself and your practice as those very “experts” starting at the local level and building from there. The AAOS public relations department has a tremendous amount of information you can use to become well known as a resource on musculoskeletal issues. Most of the information is already easily accessible on the AAOS Web site by visiting the News Bureau. You can use the following tips to proactively seek positive media coverage.

Read the manual
First and foremost, order your free copy of the new Public/Media Relations Manual. AAOS members can access the manual (log-in required) and download it from the AAOS Web site. Or simply e-mail Pat Julitz (
julitz@aaos.org) and request as many copies as you need. Each doctor in your practice should have his or her own copy; it will be very handy in dealing with the media.

Make a pitch
Don’t wait for a reporter to contact you. Look to your practice for ideas and contact the reporter.

Look for reporters in print, broadcast, and on the Internet who you believe can tell a good story.

Almost all reporters can be contacted by e-mail. Just pull up the appropriate TV/radio station or publication Web site, look for the reporter’s name, and send an e-mail with your story idea.

Ideally you want to contact the reporter who regularly covers health issues, but if the outlet doesn’t have one, look for health-related issues or topics and contact the individual who wrote the piece.

Make sure the topic is general enough to appeal to a wide range of people and is appropriate for that particular outlet or publication. A piece on “Little League elbow” might not work for the “over 50” market, but one on tennis elbow will.

Keep your ideas simple so they can be easily and quickly communicated.

Remember, the more visual the story the better.

Always try to give the reporters or editors as much lead time as possible.

Show as well as tell
For example, the Academy’s media relations department received several inquiries last fall in response to an AAOS press release on how to safely carve a Halloween pumpkin. This is a great story for a local morning television news show because it can be very visual. Tell the station you would be willing to demonstrate the proper and safe way to carve a pumpkin and to use a knife safely, as well as give safety tips on how to avoid an injury.

You can use the press release from the AAOS Web site for safety tips. The AAOS regularly issues press releases that focus on injury prevention across a range of topics. Just remember to contact the local TV station at least one month before Halloween. Recruiting a patient whom you’ve treated for a pumpkin-carving injury would give the story an additional “personal” angle.

Plant a seed—and say thanks
With help from the Academy’s public relations department and a little pre-planning, you can certainly provide a wealth of good musculoskeletal-related stories to your local media.

If you do appear “on-air,” here’s just one more tip: never leave the station without suggesting a future topic or topics so you will be invited back. When you establish a bond with reporters or producers, they will start reaching out to you as the expert on future orthopaedic-related issues. The following examples are positive orthopaedic topics that will entice media coverage:

  • Choosing the right backpack for children and adults (especially good topic when children are returning to school or in early summer when people begin to bike or walk to work)
  • The proper way to shovel snow and use snow blowing equipment safely (something to suggest if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow)
  • How to handle luggage when traveling to avoid injury (good idea around the holidays or during the summer months when families take vacations)
  • Tips to help family members and friends who are undergoing a joint replacement (good topic at any time of the year)
  • Tips for “Weekend Warriors” to play safe and avoid injuries to their bones (another year-round topic that can be adapted to seasonal sports)
  • Tips for keeping bones healthy and strong (a great suggestion anytime)

The AAOS public relations department has information on all these topics and many more so you will be fully prepared for any interview. And don’t forget to send a thank-you note after the story has run or you have appeared on air.

For more ideas
If you are planning to attend the 2009 Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, stop by the AAOS press office, located in the Venetian Hotel, Level One, Room 902. The public and media relations staff will be happy to talk with you about how to proactively increase your involvement with the media.

Frank B. Kelly, MD, is chair of the AAOS Communications Cabinet. He can be reached at fkelly@forsythestreetortho.com

Tip of the Bone
Whenever you do an interview on the phone or in person, always assume that every microphone is always on and every camera is always rolling. Nothing is ever “off the record.” Remember, what you casually say to a reporter before or after the actual interview may wind up being included in the story.