Last Updated: 27 September 2018
By Jordan G. Roberts, PA-C
A Public Relations Tool for Clinicians
The various specialties within healthcare have long lived separate lives. Smart people have isolated themselves from each other, the outside world, and even patients in the name of medical and scientific advancement. This has taken us as a society far to be sure. However, it comes with at least one major drawback: a public relations crisis. In this article, you’ll learn about one simple tool that makes public relations for clinicians insanely easy.
It’s common to hear small groups of professionals talk among themselves about ways to improve their public image, get more respect, or make more money. Maybe so many of us are focused on that last one so we can pay off our student loans. But that’s a topic for another day.
Listen to the discourse on the internet and you might think healthcare practitioners are more divided than ever. People starting negative conversations would have you believe each type of healthcare professional formed their own feudal tribe centuries ago.
You may even get hints of some clinicians lamenting other healthcare professions with more characteristics alike than opposite. This is usually because the one complaining feels their target for the day has made more professional progress than they have. And so help you if a tribe member thinks you’ve encroached on their clinical territory.
On a side note, if this is you, might we recommend the classic How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by the great (if not controversial) Dale Carnegie. It’ll help with much more than just career stress. And priced under $15, it costs a lot less than a therapist.
The only reliable fact in a disagreement is this: there are three sides to every story. His side, her side, and the truth. There are a number of reasons for other professions’ success in the legislative, clinical, and media arenas. Rather than disparage others, why not try to boost your own profession’s standing?
We’ve always been inclusive at Modern MedEd, so I doubt this is new information to you.
One way individual clinicians can boost their profession’s image, as well as their own, is through media appearances. How many times have you read a story about healthcare only to realize the science is shaky at best and your specialty was omitted, discounted, or otherwise incorrectly labeled?
Maybe that’s because nobody from your corner of medicine was available (or made themselves available) to the creator of the piece before it was published.
However, if you’ve ever tried publish an article in the New Yorker, you’ve probably realized it’s hard work. After all, that’s why marketing firms and public relations agencies exist. And yes, there are agencies that specialize in public relations for clinicians. How else do you get these widely-distributed and far-reaching media appearances?
What if I told you there was an easier way to disseminate your expertise to the world? And you could choose your desired medium – newspaper, online publication, television, books, and more.
The secret is a place called Help a Reporter Out (HARO).
Clinicians (anyone, really) can sign up as a source for free. Once registered, expect to receive up to three emails per day during the week. It sounds like a lot, but each one contains a different list of queries by reporters or websites looking for experts. One of the daily subcategories where many of us can be especially valuable is ‘biotech & healthcare.’ It’s a small niche that, for now, comes with every email.
I’ve mentioned this resource before, and it seems to become pretty popular once readers learn of it.
The caveat is that reporters, like us, are busy. They work on deadlines and need experts and information yesterday, not when you get out of the operating room. This may limit your success rate if you are slow to respond to emails, but the point is to help when you have the time and ability. The truth is that you won’t qualify (or be interested) in all of them.
For Best Results, Use as Directed
HARO relies on two very different types of professionals (journalist and expert) to trust each other and build rapport in a limited time frame. As clinicians, we are supposed to be good at this. But a mic and a crowd (even figuratively) can make even the most stone-cold clinician a little nervous.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to follow some guidelines to ensure your pitches are noticed and selected by the folks who need you.
Capture the Audience Early with a Compelling Bio
First, make sure you have an attention-grabbing bio ready to send out with your responses, or pitches. Write one now if you don’t already have one that you love. This will help you get your pitch submitted well before the journalist’s deadline.
I recommend including it in the body of your email. Reporters, like most people, don’t like opening email attachments from strangers, no matter how nice they say they are. Save them the anxiety and include it below your pitch as plain text.
The Thee C's: Complete, Concise, and SpecifiC
Ok, come back to me later for the third C. My point is that in addition to the perfect bio, every pitch should be structured to stand out from the rest. Include your answers to any specific questions the journalist asked, confirmation that you meet the requirements listed (or why you believe you do), and your contact information.
The art of being a good source creates a symbiotic relationship and increases your chances of being called again. Make the journalist’s life easy and be sure to specifically address each question they listed. Even if you think it’s not clinically relevant or believe you know a better question for them. This is your chance to fill in knowledge gaps.
As Dr. Seuss says, be concise.
In the words of Dr. Seuss
If you’ve done it right and are a good match, the reporter will reach out to you for more information. Don’t include vague, incomplete replies and definitely don’t pitch irrelevant topics or those that you lack a firm understanding of.
The platform has a short page of rules, but it essentially boils down to what we learned (or should have learned) in kindergarten.
Be excellent to each other.
The Skills to Make the Camera (or print) Love You
Not quite ready to talk in front of a microphone and camera? Pick up the official TED Guide to Public Speaking and never picture the crowd in their underwear again. And if you’d rather improve your writing skills, you’ll need this medical writing guide for clinicians, educators, and researchers.
Alternatively, if you’d rather take your time to create a structured curriculum of your expertise, we’ve got you covered. Head on over to Teachable where you can start creating your own course and kick off your journey to educator and entrepreneur today. Did we mention they’ll help teach you to make your course as profitable as possible?
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If you are ready to begin your media tour, don’t forget to brush up on the basics first. Here’s a list of recommended books that might help.