- On July 14, 2020
- July / August 2020
Engaging with Media
Looking to create awareness about a particular health issue or advocacy campaign? Media Mentor’s Director, Heidi Buchanan, shares insider tips on how to talk so journalists listen.
THE MORE we know about how the media think, operate, and what we can do to meet their needs, the better the outcome we have in trying to promote a specific interest or cause.
My years in the communications industry has given me a good sense of what works and what doesn’t when we communicate with media. First off, let’s look at why we need the media. The media is really an incredibly powerful platform from which we can communicate ideas and key messages. We can use the media to inform the public of a particular health issue, new medicines or treatments, ground-breaking research, or even to promote a doctor who is the spokesperson for a specific interest area.
If you are considering using mainstream media, I suggest you think strategically and make a thorough plan. This will help you to get the right message to the right people in the right way. It will allow you to target a specific audience, for example cancer patients, or patients with diabetes. It will also help you to set the agenda with well-crafted messages and give you maximum impact.
There are many ways to get your message across. Ideally, the media will find the information you provide is new and original – and in turn, they will write an article with the content you have provided. Coverage from the right publication or media outlet can really help raise awareness of your issue.
This sounds fairly simple, but there are a few “secrets” that will help you. If we fail on this front, they won’t even consider the information we have provided. For example, the information we are telling them needs to be new. It cannot have appeared in a medical journal last month or even last week. It can’t be self-serving or salesy and it needs to be very relevant to the particular publication the journalist writes for.
You need to do your homework, research information about the journalist you have targeted, read the publication in hard copy or online, and look at the types of articles that are appearing in that publication to ensure your story is relevant.
Okay, so now we have information that is new, hopefully newsworthy, and you have researched the journalist and publication to ensure it is going into the right place. What else do we need to think about to make it appealing to this journalist? Statistics and case studies.
Try and incorporate lots of new and (always) approved statistics into your pitch information and if you have any real-life case studies that can help to bring your story to life, please include them. By case studies, I mean examples of patients affected by the health issue, or those who may benefit from a particular treatment or procedure that you are advocating for. Real people with real stories. This helps us to pique the audience’s interest and to explain more about your particular area of focus.
Time is critical with journalists. If the media ask you to give them some background material and they need it in two hours, you need to ensure you have it back to them in two hours. As an industry, they often work to very tight deadlines, especially with so many stories appearing online. If you are pitching a story to a journalist, please ensure you have a good spokesperson who is credible, articulate and presents well, particularly if you are looking for broadcast media coverage.
And of course, all spokespeople need to consider media training before they speak to a journalist, because they need to ensure they are communicating effectively and are “on message” throughout the interview. If you have a spokesperson who rambles, is dull and wooden, and doesn’t have the ability to capture an audiences’ interest, the media opportunity is lost.
Media training also helps spokespeople get out of tricky situations when answering tough questions. It also helps to polish other performances, including telehealth presentations.
Remember to carefully plan your strategy, target your message, and incorporate media training into your program.
Heidi Buchanan, Director