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Mastering the Media: How to calm your nerves, get your message out during interviews :

June 8, 2016

Most pediatricians get nervous when asked to be interviewed by the media. Yet we answer questions and give messages to our patients and families every day.

We speak about the importance of vaccinations to the parent who is hesitant. We talk about the difference between viral and bacterial infections and when antibiotics are needed. We soothe the distraught parent who has come in with her 4-month-old who is teething and reassure her that all is well.

It that any different than giving a message to an interviewer?

After several years of doing interviews for broadcast and print media, here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way to feel more comfortable and to deliver important messages effectively.

  • Take control of the interview. You are in charge, not the reporter.
  • Statistics, stories, calls to action and sound bites are great ways to get your message across.
  • Avoid negative language. This may take away from your point and distract from the issue. Find a positive way to respond. Once a reporter asked, “Shouldn't parents be more responsible about latching their kids into high chairs?” I tried to reply positively by saying, “Parents are so busy with many balls in the air. But being careful about this, too, may prevent a lot of accidents.”
  • Pediatricians often are driven to give details and extra information when talking to families. But during interviews, the simpler the message, the more likely it will be remembered.
  • Be professional and polite no matter how the reporter/anchor acts.
  • Always prepare. The best interviewees look like they haven’t prepared. To give precise and understandable answers, however, you definitely need to be ready.
  • Have fun. This is a great way to get information out there — not just to one patient, but to many.

Dr. Bhargava is a member of the AAP Council on Communications and Media.

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