A while back we had booked a physician on CNN. It was a good segment. It spotlighted they physician’s expertise, reviewed a couple of his procedures and helped position him as an expert in his field.
Although we had prepped the client, reviewing the different possible scenarios and some media training, the physician left the interview confused and a bit perturbed. From the physician’s perspective, the interviewer did not ask all of the questions the client was hoping for and asked some questions that seemed obvious. Instead of focusing on the fact that he had just been featured on CNN and had been presented to a national audience as an expert, he was upset that the interviewer was not an expert in his particular field of medicine.
Clients who have done PR for some time generally understand the inner workings of a TV interview, but those who are new to the process can find it a bit bewildering.
Some physicians believe that interviewers and journalists will have the same medical knowledge as a trained physician. Whereas some know quite a bit about medicine and some are physicians themselves, many are generalists, journalists who are given a story to cover.
Other M.D.s believe that the questions that they want to be asked are the only questions that should be asked. This is seldom going to be the case. The interviewer is more concerned with his viewers needs than with his guests. TV interviews are geared for a lay audience. The interviews job is to present a story in a way that informs and educates the general public.
The secret is to give the right answer, not to wait for the right question.
The target audience for mainstream TV is not a physician peer group. Nor should it be from the client’s perspective, since the purpose of an interview or article is to build a brand, reach prospective patients present a physician as an expert in his or her field.
If you’re a physician doing PR chances are you’re aim isn’t to reach other physicians. Admittedly in some specific cases that could be the case. If your target is your peers, the approach will be different than if you’re targeting the general public, but generally physicians are looking to reach potential patients and reach a mainstream audience, meaning the public at large.
With that in mind, remember your audience whenever doing an interview. I generally recommend that before doing any interviews, that clients practice, delivering their information as though they were speaking to a group of seventh graders.
If this were the case:
How would you present your information?
What language would you use?
How would you modulate your voice?
What would you want your body language to communicate?
Remember an effective TV interview is not simply about the words you chose; your inflection, your delivery, the way you carry yourself and your overall demeanor all come into play.
A successful TV interview will not only reach your target market and establish you as an expert, but can lead to other opportunities. It offers you a powerful communication tool to use with your current patients and prospective patients.
But don’t go into an interview expecting to be asked the questions you want the interviewer to throw your way. Practice presenting your message so that no matter what questions are asked, your answers reflect the story you want told.
The bottom line is that you can’t control the questions, so focus on the answers.
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