There are plenty of reasons for aesthetic physicians to seek media collaboration. Some enjoy working with the media, while others do it out of necessity. Working with media—whether it be local newspapers and radio stations or national outlets—can be a way to reach new potential patients, to offer public health messaging, to open opportunities to collaborate with industry, or even involve a bit of politics.
Whatever your motivation and goals, it takes some work to acquire and make the most of media opportunities. Visit ModernAesthetics.com to view a presentation outlining the types of media opportunities that exist as well as suggestions for winning pitches. As a member of the media myself, I offer these tips to help you cultivate media relations for optimum impact.
You or a member of your staff can make outreach to local media, but the reality is that this is a potentially time-consuming and bewildering prospect. Here are some ideas for sharing the work.
Membership Has Its Privileges. Do you have a university affiliation? If so, contact your public affairs officer and make them aware of your areas of expertise. Provide them with your contact information, and let them know of your “key” activities.
Go Online. Consider registering with outlets such as Newswise's “Expert Pitch.” List yourself as an expert on specific topics. You can often even share preferences for types of coverage opportunities and availability.
Hire Help. Outside PR shops can be a key ally for the busy doctor or practice. Don't assume it costs too much to retain the assistance of a publicist. Shop around to find a proven expert who fits your needs and budget and can help you succeed.
Make the Pitch
When you or your representatives make the pitch, keep the target audience in mind. Choose “news” that has relevance to consumers, peers, and/or the media, respectively.
Consider that what is news to you may not be major news to your patients or media outlets. With that said, some news is local. Introducing a new product line can be newsworthy—especially if it fills a niche or is timed with a seasonal angle (e.g., back-to-school acne treatments).
Yearly stats are also newsworthy. Journalists are always looking for a fresh spin on the new data, so be aware of when the numbers drop and your unique take on the data. New guidelines, as well as FDA approvals and actions, will always get coverage.
Take advantage of trends. (See the sidebar above for popular trends of the moment.) Just as with stats and figures, journalists like to build on trends (and it's good for SEO). But you should be prepared to offer a unique angle. A word of caution: You may not want to step into anything that may be construed as celebrity-bashing. Frame any comments about a procedure itself or even alternative procedures, rather than appearing to judge the work a celebrity had done.
Get ahead of news where you can. Let reporters know in advance if there are any new studies you are involved in or aware of and can provide comments on. This involves trend-shopping, which can be as easy as setting Google alerts—even for such basic topics as “cosmetic surgery”—or watching some guilty-pleasure reality TV, or checking out all of the poster presentations and clinical sessions at a meeting.
Become a Preferred Source
Journalists are always looking for fresh sources and angles. At the same time, there are plenty of reliable sources out there. If you want to develop a true relationship with the media, you have to be willing to understand and respond to reporters' needs—not always easy in a busy clinic. Take heed of the following tips. And keep in mind, it's acceptable to say “no.” If you cannot make a deadline, let the reporter know as soon as possible and offer to be available next time. They'd rather candor than to have to keep perstering.
Follow Up/Reach Out. After your interview, send the reporter a follow-up email. Tell him/her what you liked about the story. Let them know you are accessible in the future. Mention other topics you are well-versed on.
When you read a reporter's story on a subject that you are an expert on, reach out. Tell them what you liked about their work. Ask them to keep you in mind for future stories. Let them know you are readily available
Recruit Your Staff. Let your staff know that you are open to media calls and/or expecting them. Be sensitive to the reporter's deadlines. If you are delayed for an interview, ask your staff to call the reporter and schedule a new time.
Sources are expendable; Too long of a hold time and/or a confused receptionist can be deal-breakers.
Create Your Own Press Corps. Develop relationships with reporters, publications, and media outlets. Invite reporters in for a meet and greet. “Desk-sides” can be helpful in putting names with faces.
Keep in Touch. Add the reporter(s) and influential bloggers to your newsletter list. Be aware of their work, even when it doesn't include you, and comment on it when relevant.
Speak English, Not Medical-ese. Know your audience; Don't be too technical in descriptions. If it is a consumer audience: be aware that most writers need to write on a 6th grade level
Don't speak down to reporters/readers, but make sure they understand what you are saying, otherwise, your quotes will be chopped and your message lost.
Explain as if you are at a cocktail party and someone asks you about the topic
Spin and Win
Media coverage is attainable and potentially valuable. Getting quoted in a single news story may not bring patients to your door, but as you build your profile, you'll gain local recognition. Plus, links to media mentions (and back links) help your SEO!
Becoming a media source involves some investment of time/money, so identify your goals up front and give it regular attention. Momentum pays dividends. Once you cultivate relationships, you will see rewards for years.
Based on a presentation given at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the AAFPRS in Dallas.