Published 1/1/2012
Michael Schafer, MD

Tips for Interacting with Media

A public relations (PR) program can be a way for orthopaedic surgeons to enhance their image, not only among patients, but with colleagues, insurers, employers, and legislators. A good public relations program incorporates many activities—including interactions with the media, community outreach, special events, public service advertising, crisis communication, and public education.

In addition, a good public relations program is a long-term effort. One-shot publicity may raise awareness of a specific issue or program, but only a long-term, sustained campaign will permanently establish those important relationships and reinforce the reputation of orthopaedic surgeons as the experts in musculoskeletal care.

Media relations is the business of building relationships and contacts with journalists, bloggers, editors, or producers for radio, television, newspapers, Internet, and other media. By establishing key relationships with media representatives, orthopaedic surgeons can bring their messages to a wide audience.

Why practice PR?
When used correctly, public and media relations can help raise awareness of the medical expertise of orthopaedic surgeons like yourself, establish you or your practice as a local source of expertise and information on musculoskeletal health, and increase patient and public awareness of the range of orthopaedic procedures and treatments.

A good public relations program supports your goal of getting patients moving, back to work, and on the road to recovery.

How to use PR
Even if you don’t have a PR campaign in place, you or your office may be called upon to provide expert opinion to the media on various orthopaedic-related issues. When a sports figure has an orthopaedic injury or condition, your local newspaper or television station may ask you about the treatment. Every interview is an opportunity to leverage your expertise and credibility.

Bloggers and web media also are always hungry for interesting content. The quicker you can connect with a reporter, the better your chances are for being quoted in the story.

The following tips from the AAOS PR department can help prepare you for interviews and interactions with media representatives.

  1. Be familiar with the reporter and the media outlet before you call them. If they call you directly, you can tell them, “now is not a good time,” but be sure to get the deadline and schedule a mutually acceptable time for the interview. Use that in-between time to research the topic, the outlet’s audience, and create your key messages.
  2. Develop your top three essential messages and write them down—these are the key points you can return to during the interview. Make sure you have background information, statistics, and patient stories you can use to expand upon your key messages.
  3. Always state the most important point at the beginning of the interview.
  4. Be concise and always explain details in easy-to-understand language, or phrases that patients would recognize.
  5. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know,” but follow up with “Let me do some research and get back to you on that.”
  6. Assume that anything you say in the interview is “on the record.” Remember what you casually say to a reporter before or after the interview can also often wind up being included in the story.
  7. Always end the interview by giving a reporter a source for more information, such as your practice’s website, or the Academy’s patient education site (orthoinfo.org).

If you have any questions about the public and media relations, you can contact Lauren Pearson, media relations manager, at pearson@aaos.org or 847-384-4031.

Michael F. Schafer, MD, chairs the AAOS Communications Cabinet. He can be reached at mschafer@nmff.org

Speak for the AAOS
Have you had media training? Do you enjoy taking time to educate and speak to members of the media?

AAOS is always looking for experts who can serve as spokespersons for the Academy. These individuals always reference orthoinfo.org, and identify themselves as speaking on the Academy’s behalf. This group of members works closely with the public relations department on key messages in an effort to accurately represent the overall orthopaedic specialty. For more details, visit www.aaos.org/spokespersonsignup (login required) or contact Sandra Gordon, director of public relations, at gordon@aaos.org