Media savvy increasingly important

September 1, 2004

New York - You wouldn't perform a medical procedure without preparation. Nor should you participate in a print or broadcast-media interview without making sure you're ready.

New York - You wouldn't perform a medical procedure without preparation. Nor should you participate in a print or broadcast-media interview without making sure you're ready.

Use your resources In the content area, the AAD can supply background materials and statements of the academy's position on a wide variety of topics.

All interviews should be taken seriously, she says, "because they represent yourself and the specialty. They are definitely not to be done off-the-cuff."

To emphasize this point, this year's AAD meeting gave attendees a chance to hone their skills in mock interview situations. The basic media training centered largely around print interviews, as this is the most common type of interview dermatologists are asked to do. In addition, an advanced session included opportunities for attendees to play-act in on-camera interviews.

Getting your message across Regardless of the medium, Dr. Bergfeld emphasizes that it's important to keep cool in the face of almost-inevitable inflammatory questions.

"One must know how to be an informative consultant as well as how to react to controversial, harassment-types of interviews," she explains.

In the latter area, she recommends calmly redirecting the discussion toward a positive message, a technique known as bridging, or answering the question indirectly and quickly hooking to another topic. If an interviewer contends that dermatologists are killing patients with liposuction, for example, an appropriate answer might be that dermatologists invented liposuction, but research has shown that dermatologists have not been involved in serious adverse events connected with it.

"These interviews are often very short," Dr. Bergfeld adds. "So the messages have to come through quickly and in short sentences, which is something that dermatologists have to learn. They're used to telling everything they know. But with every subject there are one to three messages to be given. The rest that's added is just (information) that can be used if the interviewer wants to do so."

Most reporters come to the interview needing some education regarding the topic beyond what they've heard or read.

However, says Dr. Bergfeld, "the interviewer generally wants to know what the issues are - why is this of interest today? You need to have thought of that beforehand so you can communicate it succinctly."

Be aware of body language For TV interviews in particular, she advises monitoring your body language, as nonverbal cues speak volumes. Reviewing tapes of your performances helps immeasurably in this regard. In addition, learning something about your interviewer in advance can help you establish an on-camera rapport to which audiences will respond.

Other tips she offers include passing on interviews if you're unfamiliar with the subject (here too, the AAD can provide expert sources). No dermatologist needs to tolerate verbal abuse from an interviewer. Simply walk away or refuse the interview.

Finally, she advises taking frequent refresher courses in interviewing technique.

"Even people who are trained need to be retrained just to make sure their interview skills are top-notch," she says.

Dr. Bergfeld possesses no financial interests related to this article.