You may never be a guest on The Today Show, and you definitely don’t want to be the subject of a 60 Minutes expose. But you could have your “15 minutes” of fame with your local radio or TV station or newspaper.
Media interviews are a great opportunity to educate people in your community about allergy issues. The media may approach you, or you can pitch yourself as an allergy expert to local, state or regional media. The College has free seasonal templates available for you to customize at college. acaai.org/mediatemplates. But, if you’re ever contacted by the media, here are six tips to keep in mind before you begin.
- This is your interview – Many people go into an interview thinking, “As long as I can answer the questions, I’m good.” An interview is an exchange of information. The reporter contacted you because you have information they need. Before the interview, know your message. What will the headline say? What should readers know after the story runs?
- Don’t be rushed – If a reporter wants an interview “right away,” ask what their deadline is and tell them you will call back in 15-30 minutes – or longer if time allows. Give yourself time to figure out what you want to say and what information you want to include.
- You probably won’t get to review the story before it appears – While you can ask the reporter to send you the story before it runs, they probably won’t oblige. You’re better off asking them to send their questions in advance, so you know what information to prepare.
- Don’t speak like a scientist – You earned a medical degree, and you know lots of fancy names for things. But if your audience doesn’t understand you or the acronyms you use, you’re not communicating. Speak as if counseling a patient. Use simple terms, and repeat points for emphasis.
- Never say “no comment” – Although TV and movie actors say, “no comment,” you’ll look like you’re hiding something. Instead say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have that information because it’s not my area of expertise.” Or, “We’ve never studied that, so we don’t have data on it.” You can also use it as an opportunity to re-state your message: “I can only tell you what the data in our study showed, which was that…”
- Follow up with charts and graphs – Reporters may not catch all the data you offer. Follow up the interview with charts or graphs that support your statements. The reporter will appreciate seeing the information in black and white, and you’ve made yourself a valuable resource for the next time they’re looking for an allergy expert.
Remember when going into an interview that you’re the expert with the information the reporter wants to write their story. They need you to fill in the blanks. Use interviews to build up your voice as a community expert and to become a resource that reporters come back to again and again.