Excerpted from page 14 of the January/February 2017 edition of AOA Focus.
"Every media query is an opportunity to get the AOA's—and optometry's—message across," says AOA President Andrea P. Thau, O.D. So use these tips to make the most of your position as an eye care expert when the media comes calling.
1. Know your shtick. Although occasionally reporters may "cold call" you for an interview—due to breaking news or an immediate deadline—it's more likely that you'll have the opportunity to prepare for an interview. Get as much information up front, if possible.
Then gather your thoughts and develop an outline that stresses your overall message. Mentally prepare yourself with "proof points," such as valid statistics, examples, anecdotes or testimonials, says Angela Salerno-Robin, vice president at Edelman, a public relations and communications firm. You can even practice Q&A role-playing ahead of time.
2. Ace the interview. It can be intimidating to talk with a reporter, but Salerno-Robin suggests a few tips to make sure your message stays on point. Remember that though the reporter is the one asking the questions, you're the subject-matter expert and, therefore, you control the answers. That means every question is an opportunity to underscore your message, clearly and effectively.
Salerno-Robin suggests "bridging" from tough questions into constructive answers, and remember to stay positive because no one will be more excited about your message than you. Finally, assume that you're always "on the record" with a reporter, meaning what you say can—and will—be used in their story. If you're not the right person to address an issue, don't try. Instead, bridge to what you can talk about.
3. Develop good relationships. Reporters are often working against tight deadlines and timely, helpful responses could make you a "go-to source" for that reporter the next time a similar story comes their way.
"I'm always sure to give the reporter my contact information after an interview and tell them if they have any questions, I can get back to them quickly, or if they have a future story about eyes, vision or eye health, I'd be happy to help," says Dr. Thau. "As a result, I've had many reporters come back to me for repeat interviews on various topics."
4. Access AOA's media resources. Whether you're pitching a story to the media or looking for talking points for an interview, AOA offers resources for doctors to make the most of their media opportunities. "If any member is contacted by the press, it's a great idea to buy yourself an hour or two and reach out to the AOA or your state association to get help on the appropriate messaging," says Dr. Thau.
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