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The TV Camera is On You: Handling the Healthcare Interview

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

retro tv setThe people you see on the nightly TV news make appearing on camera look easy. Study them for a few minutes. The anchor desk types—the particularly good ones—are calm, collected and confident. And, with years of training and experience, they deliver a sense of authority, sincerity and believability.

So there you have it. As a healthcare communicator—a physician, an administrator, a marketing or public information professional—being on camera is easy and effortless. Simply pull a fresh $800 outfit from your wardrobe and turning on the calm-collected-confident-authoritative-and-believable sincerity.

We’re kidding of course. As in virtually every profession, television news professionals work hard to make it look easy on camera. Did we mention their years of training and experience? Neither is it easy for the medical marketing or healthcare spokesperson that suddenly (and urgently) finds themselves in a face-off with an unblinking television camera.

Any number of circumstances that might put you in the bright lights, but generally, the three most common situations are:

The Scheduled News Event: This would include a press conference, a public announcement, a ceremonial something (ribbon cutting, grand opening, ground breaking, program launch) or other structured activity with invited news media.

Your Prep time: Forever (almost). Like a stage play, you can write the script, select the cast, and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. A little anxiety (“butterflies”) before the camera is natural, but you have the luxury of planning, preparation and run-throughs.

The Feature Interview: In this event the media picks the topic and you are the guest…perhaps in their studio or on your own turf. Often the objective is an informative discussion or presentation. The topic will be something where you are an expert and they want your words of authority.

Your prep time: Some, but it’s their schedule. Before agreeing to appear on camera, be clear about the topic, context, purpose and format. Typically, it will not be confrontational or controversial. To the extent possible, anticipate the questions, formulate talking points in advance, and do a mock interview. This is where your knowledge and experience pays off.

The Disaster News Interview: Exactly 4.3 minutes after an emergency or high profile news event, there’s a reporter and media truck on the spot and someone is grabbing you by the sleeve to talk to the camera.

Your prep time: Next to none at the time. This is why disaster planning and preparation includes training in media relations and communications. Speak only to what you know, and it’s OK (especially in an emergency situation) to say you “don’t know at this time.”

The bottom line…

Planning, preparation and, when possible, rehearsal—combined with your professional training and experience—is the cornerstone of calmly handling an on camera interview with confidence. After all, you are the voice (and the face) of authority.

For a fundamental guide for hospital, provider and healthcare organization regarding news releases and media relations, read The First 14 Immutable Rules for Successful Healthcare Public Relations.

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