Media Doctors- You see them on TV or hear them on the radio. Sometimes they are quoted on news sites. Some of them have become so well known that they’ve given up their practice and now primarily comment on new media about medical issues.
There’s a lot of great doctors in practice, but some just seem to be better known or more respected than others. If you see a particularly successful physician, chances are they have developed medical professional and business skills and have leveraged this skill set to advance their career. Becoming a news media savvy physician is a highly valuable skill and one that is surprisingly easy for most physicians.
First, a definition. By “media”, I am referring to the traditional media. This includes television, radio, and newspaper. To a lesser extent this may also involve websites or podcasts. The idea here is that the message is curated and developed by a third party- the “news media”- and you are invited to act as an independent expert. There are lots of non-traditional media sources as well. You’re reading one right now! These are often called “social media”. Social media communication for physicians will be discussed elsewhere on medical success central. Please join our newsletter to keep informed.
The benefits to participating in media interviews are tremendous. First and foremost, you are educating and protecting the public. By helping present an honest, effective, and evidence based take on medical news you can foster useful empowering knowledge, counter spurious or harmful claims, and influence public health policy. If you come across as competent and compassionate, you will gain instant expert status. You and your institution will benefit from the introduction to potential clients and patients.
Media interviewing is also personally rewarding. It’s very gratifying to see a family member in the Emergency Department who tells you that they called 911 after recognizing the symptoms of stroke from the interview you gave last week. You will also gain an increased respect factor from fellow staff members who heard you on BBC America or maybe saw you on the evening news speaking about the need to get Influenza vaccinations this year. We all have egos, and although we strive to remain humble, there are few things more fulfilling than having your grandmother beam after your interview on the radio. You may be 45 years old, but you’ll still blush with pride when your newspaper clipping is hanging on your grandfather’s refrigerator door.
The rewards of media Interviewing are not typically financial. You will only rarely be offered direct compensation beyond an occasional meal or gift like a T-shirt. However, a single media event is worth thousands in equivalent advertising spending. The presentation of your practice, institution, and yourself as a recognized expert to a large and interested audience is a great way to drive market share and referrals. Since this financial benefit is indirect and difficult to measure, it will not be included in your typical physician contract. Be sure your negotiation skill set, market value, and strategy are in place to negotiate your physician contract to get properly compensated for this activity. (Author’s Note: drop me a line at physician advocates LLC if you need advice for developing this line of negotiation.)
You may not realize it, but as a practicing physician you already have most of the skills you need to be an effective media physician. You are already an expert in the field; you may not feel this way compared to top leaders in your governing society, but compared to the general public you have an understanding that is far more proficient. Hopefully, you are a strong believer in evidence based medicine, because you want to avoid controversial statements and stick to what is proven. Because most interviews take place with a single interviewer, you don’t need strong public speaking skills. Instead, you can play to your already well developed communication style that you use with patients and families. Your years of intensive training, oral exams, and being “pimped” at bedside rounds has made your intellect flexible and adaptable- you can think fast on your feet. You really are nearly there.
What is the biggest drawback? The biggest drawback to physician media interviewing is lack of time for scheduling. The news business moves quickly. If the Prince of Siam develops a bunion, the news organization wants a bunion specialist interview ready to be aired that morning before 9am. You need to be available and quick to respond. Of course, there will be scheduled features with time to prepare. However, these may not always work out. One time, I awoke before the sunrise, drove to the downtown studio, got a sound check and makeup (yes- they may put makeup on you!) only to be cancelled at the last minute due to a crisis that occurred overseas. That’s show business I guess…
How do I become an involved and active media physician? Future posts will explore this topic so please sign up for our newsletter. In the meanwhile, look into the following
- Undergo a public speaking class and practice your public speaking. Pay particular attention to eye contact and voice inflection
- Study your field of interest. Develop your one big message. Develop 2 or 3 other ideas you want to get across. Outline this for all of the topics you are interested in discussing with the media
- Gather the important research and guidelines. Write out a single sentence that describes the research and what it means to the average viewer
- Speak to the marketing department at your institution or local medical society. Schedule a meeting with them and ask what training they can provide. Avoid scheduling actual interviews until you feel prepared. Of course, you will get better as you do more, but you don’t want an early flame-out!
- Non-traditional media sources like podcasts, YouTube, and Facebook will be discussed in other posts. Look for further information at medical success central.
Medical School, residency, and fellowship taught you how to care for patients, but left you under-prepared for your medical career. To truly succeed as a physician, you need to development the medical professional and business skills required to thrive in modern medical practice. Learning these skills can be invigorating, enjoyable, profitable, and bring control back to your career. Becoming a physician with a strong traditional media presence may be just step you need to accelerate your career. With the right training and education, you can achieve your dreams and focus on those things that really matter to you.
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