Becoming a media darling

August 1, 2004

One of the best and most exciting ways to attract attention to your practice is becoming a resource for your local media such as newspaper, television and radio stations.

Choose an angle First, you need to have a story or an angle that will be of interest to the local media. You can begin this quest by monitoring the media. What are the health news stories that are receiving a lot of media attention on the national level? Examples for dermatologists are experts on skin cancer and summer sun and aging and the pros and cons of the myriad, and often confusing, products available in today's marketplace, or the new biological medications for psoriasis that are giving hope to so many patients. You can also give a local angle to a story about a famous celebrity or politician who has a dermatologic disease.

Also, if you are using new technologies and new devices for treating skin conditions, contact the media. This might be newsworthy. You can give the story an interesting angle if you have one of your treated patients providing a testimonial about the new treatment or the new device you used.

Who to contact Call the station and ask for either the health and medical reporter or the assignment editor.

We suggest you do not call right before or right after the program airs, since everyone concerned with the program is likely tied up during these times. When you do get through, identify yourself and your subject.

The purpose of the call is to identify the decision-maker and alert him or her that information will be coming. Keep the call brief. Media staff are extremely busy, and you need to "sink your hook" in the first minute of the call.

The best method to be a darling of the media is to get back to them in a timely fashion. In our practices, we consider a call from the media similar to a call from the emergency room, the ICU or a good referring physician. With rare exceptions, those calls are taken immediately or returned promptly.

The pitch Now for the pitch. It's best to keep your pitch letter simple and short. Point out the benefit and newsworthiness of your topic to the station's viewers or listeners. Have someone in your office follow up after the letter.

The editor should be contacted by phone a few days after you have sent your information packet, which, by the way, should be packaged as professionally as possible. If the assignment editor has reviewed your material, you will usually get the yea or nay when you call back.

You're booked You're booked. What's next? For television, always think about providing visuals. If you have something for the viewers to see as well as hear, this will increase the impact you have. You can't bring an entire laser lab to the studio, but you can suggest that a segment of the interview be filmed on site. Or you can bring photographs, slides, a video clip, or simple props to demonstrate your procedure.

One of the best methods of being a media darling is offering to provide patients who have experienced the condition, used the new technology, or benefited from the new surgical procedure. You will be amazed at how receptive patients are to appearing with you in media interviews. Many patients who have suffered from psoriasis, skin cancer, or hair loss are willing to share their experience with you and your treatment with the media.