I have had great mentorship over the
past 15 years on how to respond to
requests for interviews with the media.
Even so, I have encountered situations
that I never would have predicted.
I’ve found that things work out well
if I follow the steps below. Remember
the goal: to provide concise, accurate
information that will help children
and families lead healthier lives. As a
pediatrician, you are the expert.
Rules of engagement
You need to decide how you as a
person (or as a representative of a practice or medical center) are going to engage. Saying “yes” to a media request
is much easier than you might think.
Chances are, you already have a strong
understanding of the topic even if you
have not read the latest article from
beginning to end.
Are you a specialist who only feels
comfortable talking about your specialty? Or will you take the approach
that specialists and generalists each
have their own important take on pediatric issues and hearing from both,
regardless of the topic, can provide
unique insight to a story?
Ask about the interview format.
Will it be live or taped? Who else will
be interviewed? Most interviews are
taped. Therefore, you can always record another take. You may feel pressure to “get it right” the first time, but
you have the right to say “I want to
answer that again.” The reporter wants
a great sound bite from you, so he or
she is more than willing to give you
the chance to help create a great story.
“Yes, and …”
We want to help to ensure reporters
have easy access to accurate informa-
tion. What is the best way to ensure
this? Give them the information. When
you receive a media request, say:
• “Yes, and I have some extra infor-
mation for you.” Always go to an
interview with a printed sheet of
facts on the topic. Reporters often
will realize that they need that little
something extra to complete the
story. You don’t want them turn-
ing to a random website. Make it
easy and give them a “cheat sheet”
of what they need to know. My go-
to source is HealthyChildren.org.
• “Yes, and do you want to talk with
a family living with topic X?” I
learned this one the hard way. One
of my first stories was about the
importance of safe sleep practices
for infants. The reporter found a
family who had co-slept with all
their children and felt strongly
that the practice is perfectly safe.
Unfortunately, the story ended on
that message. Now, I keep a run-
ning mental list of families who I
think provide great examples for
some of common media requests
(e.g., asthma, nut allergies, safe
sleep) and of course, I ask their
permission before offering them
to the media.
• “Yes, and more information is available at HealthyChildren.org.” It is