Published 5/1/2013
Michael F. Schafer, MD; Lauren P. Riley

How to Make the Most of Every Media Encounter

The AAOS public relations department hosted two media training sessions at the 2013 annual meeting in Chicago. Both sessions were led by one of the world’s leading global public relations firms, Weber Shandwick. Steve Johnson, senior vice president, conducted the training, which provided valuable insight on how orthopaedic surgeons can optimally engage the media to meet key professional goals.

Today, “media” is a broad term encompassing traditional national and local print and broadcast media, as well as “niche” social media, websites, and blogs. All types can provide you with opportunities to tout your individual brand and expertise—as well as your practice, institution, and profession—to key audiences.

Net impression
Mr. Johnson discussed the importance of presenting a favorable “net impression”—the reputation or image that embodies the personal relationship you have with your organization and your important audiences—when engaging with and through social media. This is important because a net impression affects people’s preferences and choices. The net impression made by orthopaedic surgeons can help maintain and increase demand and interest in orthopaedic skills and expertise.

To improve your net impression, it’s important to regularly assess the words and tone that you use and, in a media interview, the physical cues that you convey.

You can influence your net impression with the media by taking the following steps:

  • Be solution oriented. If you have the opportunity, always help reporters by being flexible and addressing their questions and concerns.
  • Put people first. Always make people the central theme of your story—on social media or in a news story. Ask yourself: How will this information or patient story/example help the audience that I am trying to reach?
  • Follow the Golden Rule. Treat media and the general public the way that you would want to be treated.

Key messages
Before a media interview, create several key messages on the topic that is being addressed. During the interview, state them early and often. Key messages can help you stand out from the competition, convey information to audiences in meaningful terms, and strengthen your brand by helping you to overcome barriers (real or imagined) held by your audience.

Never be afraid to repeat your key messages multiple times during an interview. Whenever possible, use “bridge” or “flagging and hooking” statements, such as “….what I can tell you is…” or “…the most important thing to remember is…,” or “while that might be true for some…” to keep the interview and messages on track.

Media dos and don’ts
In addition, always do the following:

  • Remember that you are an expert.
  • Keep it brief—less is more.
  • Anticipate questions.
  • Correct misconceptions and inconsistencies.
  • Give more than a yes-or-no answer.
  • Be honest.
  • Show compassion and enthusiasm.
  • Stay cool.
  • Assess the reporter’s level of knowledge and offer background if appropriate.
  • Rephrase questions if you are not sure that you understand what is being asked.
  • Offer the reporter an opportunity to follow up with additional questions.
  • Be yourself!

Don’t allow yourself to be trapped by run-on, negative, forced-choice, hypothetical, post-interview, off-the-record, or multiple questions. And never do the following:

  • Speak “off the record.”
  • Say “no comment.”
  • Guess or speculate if you don’t have information or an answer.
  • Use jargon.
  • Comment on rumors.
  • Dwell on your competitors.
  • Overcommunicate.
  • Be afraid to repeat—and repeat—your key messages.
  • Be defensive.
  • Give personal opinions.
  • Repeat negative words or ideas, even to refute something.
  • Say or write anything you wouldn’t want to hear or read the next day.
  • Ask for a sneak preview of the story, although, again, do make yourself available for questions/fact checks.
  • Tell the reporter how to do the story.
  • Be flippant or sarcastic.

Media reporters are looking to access accurate and newsworthy information quickly. You want to ensure that the reporter has a greater understanding of, and the correct information about, you, your institution, and the particular procedure or healthcare issue that is being addressed. Ideally, a rapport between you and the reporter is established for future, mutual benefit.

If this topic is of further interest to you, the AAOS has a PR and Media Relations Manual, which can be downloaded online at http://newsroom.aaos.org/member-resources/toolkits/

This toolkit provides you with ideas on how to create a PR program in your local community, tips on key media message development, and sample press releases or letters-to-the-editor.

Future media training is planned for the AAOS Fall Meeting, Oct. 17–20 in Austin, Texas.

Michael F. Schafer, MD, chairs the AAOS Communications Cabinet. Lauren P. Riley is manager, media relations, in the AAOS public relations department.