Media interviews can be a great way for doctors to market their practices for “free” by increasing awareness of a procedure or diagnosis. It helps to put some time into a preparation strategy before you talk to a reporter about a medical issue.
Physicians of all specialties are sought out for interviews by the media for a number of reasons. Writers of magazines and news articles, in particular, pursue physician input about health and medical matters. Depending on your professional objectives, interviews can be a great opportunity for you to advance your career. For example, if you want to raise awareness about a health issue, sharing your insight can have a strong influence. If you want to market your practice or promote your research, media interviews can help get your name out there. Preparing for interviews requires some strategic planning.
Know the Angle
If a reporter contacts you, ask the purpose of interview, what the article is about, or the working title of the article before you start the interview. It is best not to assume that you know the purpose of the story. For example, if a magazine writer contacts you for your insight about a procedure, you might assume that the article is about the indications for the procedure, when it is really about the bad outcomes of the procedure, or the cost, or any of a variety of other angles. Once you find out the approach of the story, you might still decide to go ahead with the interview, but you should be prepared to address the purpose of the story in advance.
Look Up Other Articles
If you have scheduled an interview with a writer, be sure to look up a few articles that the writer has written for the publication you are being interviewed for. This will give you an idea of the likely context in which your quotes will be used. If you don’t feel that your image as a physician aligns with the publication or the writer, you may want to pass on the opportunity.
Find Out Where Referral Came From
If you have a strong reputation as a leader in your specialty, then the writer may have simply looked up leading publications to find you as an authority on the topic. But if you are not established, the referral could have come from your boss or from someone you respect, in which case you may want to thank that person. Having an idea of where the referral came from can put things into perspective for you as you prepare for the interview.
Keep Your Professional Objectives In Mind
You may be very focused on sharing your research results, or on spreading awareness about an issue of consumer safety. Make sure that you keep this goal in mind. If you have a long conversation with a reporter, be aware that it is highly unlikely that every word you say will be used in the story. Your interview will be highly edited, resulting in just one of your insights or a few quotes actually being used. This means that you have to avoid deviating too much from your objective if you have a very important point that you want to get across. If you talk and talk about things that don’t matter to you, you could end up seeing a quote that you don’t care much about in print- and the point that you care about the most may not be included simply because it is less relevant to the rest of the article.
Be Mindful Of Your Confidentiality Policies
If you are working on a project with proprietary information, or if you are tempted to share interesting details about a patient case, or about your working conditions, do not forget that you are not talking to a friend, but instead, that you are talking to someone who is gathering information for the purpose of sharing with others. If you are employed by a hospital system, you likely have certain guidelines about what type of information you are permitted to share, and you should check the rules if you aren’t sure about them.
Don’t say anything in an interview that you wouldn’t want published with your name attached. It is good to think of an interview as a way to share something you want to say, but that you could not spread to as many people as you would like if you were to post it yourself on social media. When a reporter shares your words, they are more likely to be seen. While your interview statements are highly unlikely to go viral, imagine that they could- and keep that in mind as you guard your professional reputation.
Don’t Lie or Exaggerate Your Accomplishments
It may be tempting to represent yourself as having a higher position, more clout, a better salary, or more experience than you actually have when you feel in demand and important during a media interview. However, keep in mind that presenting yourself as more important than you really are could end up being very embarrassing- or worse- if your colleagues call you out on it.
Consider a Written Question/Answer Interview
If a reporter offers a written interview, consider that option. A written interview can provide you with time to think carefully about how you want to answer questions, and the reporter is more likely to quote you accurately without misunderstanding your meaning.