Whether you’re a presenter or an attendee, look for opportunities to boost your career and your practice

The annual trade shows and scientific meetings of the various plastic surgery associations are usually a wealth of media opportunities for presenters and attendees alike. As president of The Professional Image, the first medical-specialty public-relations (PR) firm in the aesthetic medicine industry, I have seen—and helped—physicians generate television interviews, magazine articles, and other media opportunities because they participated in one of these events in some way or another.

Associations like the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), and the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery generally have a contractual relationship with a PR firm, or have a PR liaison on staff. Their job is to generate excitement with the press and persuade them to attend the event. With a PR person’s involvement, presenters can be confident that an abundance of press members who are looking for news and story ideas will attend the meeting.

For instance, at an ASAPS meeting in Vancouver several years ago, the media in attendance included a writer from The New York Times. Within a few days of the meeting’s conclusion, a long article appeared in the Times about the future of injectable fillers. Many of the physicians who presented their findings during that section were interviewed for what was a very positive story about facial fillers.

Due to the credibility of the Times, this story created an abundance of interest from many television and print outlets across the country. In many cases, newspapers and television stations turned to local physicians for expert comment.

If You Are a Presenter . . .
When it comes to attracting the media’s attention, being a presenter at a medical meeting or a trade show can be priceless. The bigger meetings hold especially good opportunities for presenters.

If you are presenting at a trade show, be certain to make the most of your speaking opportunity.

• Introduce yourself to the press liaison prior to the event, when possible, to make certain that he or she has a copy of your abstract, outline, or presentation.
• Make certain that you provide the event representative with the correct spelling of your name and practice, its location, and your biographical information. The more information you can give the press about yourself, the better.
• Ask if there is an opportunity for your material to be placed in the event’s press package or media kit.
• Find out if there is a media event that you should be involved with.

Media events. If members of the media are invited to the meeting, there may also be press opportunities such as a media breakfast or luncheon. These activities are generally provided to attract the media’s attention and to generate excitement about the event. They give the media a sneak preview of what the scientific sessions have to offer, and they give the organization the opportunity to discuss statistics, trends, and recent developments with these opinion leaders.

Most likely, a handful of presenters will be asked to give shorter versions of their presentations at the media event. This is an opportunity for the presenters to get the press interested in the meeting as well as in their practices and areas of expertise.

To ensure that you are included, contact the PR firm, liaison, or chairperson who is handling the event to say that you would like to participate. Usually, these events are first-come-first-serve, or presenters are chosen based on their topics. Either way, you do not want to miss out.

Remember that the meeting’s PR firm typically provides the attending media with a press packet, media kit, or press bag filled with information about the event and its speakers. This is an opportunity for presenters to deliver themselves into the hands of producers and editors before actually meeting them.

At the meeting or trade show. At most meetings and trade shows, official programs and posted schedules give the times and locations of the presentations. It is extremely likely that members of the media will be attending your presentation without you knowing it. This is your chance to have your very own “audition” with producers, editors, and other members of the media.

Although producers first and foremost want a physician who is credible and knowledgeable in his or her field, they are not going to put just any physician on television. They typically want one who is well spoken, well presented, well credentialed, and media savvy.

Opportunities after the meeting. After the event, ask the PR firm or liaison for a list of media members who were at the show. Once you receive the list, personally send your information to each person from whom you have not already heard. Mention that you presented at the event and about what topic.

If you had the opportunity to speak with members of the media at the meeting, promptly send them a thank-you note for spending time with you. You should still be fresh in their minds, and this is your opportunity to reconnect with them and remind them about you.

Members of the press meet physicians all the time, and a trade show is a great way to get your foot in the door and establish yourself as an expert resource for upcoming stories and news features. If an editor or producer is doing a story that pertains to your specialty and has met you personally or seen you give a paper, you stand a much better chance of getting an interview.

When to approach the media. Often at association meetings, plastic surgeons and other anti-aging specialists are asked to discuss a paper they have written or show results of studies. Some presentations have been seen or discussed in some form before, but others are brand new and are not available for promotion until after the meeting.

Distributing your paper is a great opportunity for you to gain media attention, but you must remember to wait until after your presentation. Afterward, it is generally acceptable to send it out to the media. However, if your paper is being published in a medical journal, you will usually have to wait until after the article appears before releasing it elsewhere.

Personally sending a news release about your presentation or paper is a great way for you to introduce yourself to members of your local media. Editors of newspapers and business journals are always interested in seeing what members of the community are doing in their professional lives. If you are planning to contact the local media, there a few things you should remember:

• Make sure you have the specific name of the person to whom you are sending your paper. If you send it to the general news desk without a name, chances are it will be thrown away.
• Include all of your contact information. If an editor or producer has to search for a way to contact you, you probably will not hear from that person.
• You should always include your bio. The more information the media have about you, the better.
• A picture of you is key. If you are sending your article or presentation to a local newspaper, its editor may also want to include a picture of you with your article. This will make your article stand out more. If you are sending your information to your local news station, the producer will typically request a picture of you before putting you on the air.

If you are given an award at a meeting. Awards are often presented to physicians who have done something significant in their field, and this is yet another way to obtain priceless publicity for your practice.

Typically, the media consider an award or nomination to be newsworthy. For example, a Houston-based client of ours was nominated as a delegate to the American Medical Association during a recent academy meeting. We used his appointment to obtain coverage for him in the local business journal and in an industry magazine.

Another client of ours, an Orange County, Calif-based physician, was nominated as a distinguished man of honor at a recent meeting. We were able to use this nomination to obtain articles in two local newspapers, as well as a mention in a business publication. In this case, the articles went beyond just reporting his nomination. They became feature profiles about him and discussed his practice, his years in business, and his lifestyle and hobbies.

If You Are an Attendee . . .
Although you may not be a presenter at a meeting, attending a meeting can be beneficial as well. Attending is a good way to obtain the most recent studies, results, and statistics that relate to procedures you offer in your practice. This is valuable information that you can use to back up your press relations at home, and it adds substance to your media kit.

The media. Although you may not be a presenter, you may still have the rare opportunity to rub shoulders with the media. Therefore, as an attendee you should be prepared to speak with the press at all times—if that is something you are interested in doing. Always have at least a business card in your pocket and, if possible, a handful of your media kits or practice brochures available to offer to a reporter.

If you are introduced to a writer, editor, or producer, be certain to get a business card or at least the person’s name (spelled correctly) and the publication or television program he or she represents so that you can follow up with him or her after the show.

The exhibit hall. Most meetings have an area designated for companies to showcase new products that can be used to expand your practice in a multitude of ways. This is your opportunity to meet representatives of these companies face to face and find out if they are offering any promotional programs that can help you obtain press for your practice by using their products.

Many of the larger laser and other technology companies offer media and marketing assistance to users of their equipment. One of our clients, a laser company, often gives its more experienced practitioners press opportunities across the country.

Over the past 6 months alone, this laser company has offered physicians in Houston; San Diego; Nashville, Tenn; Louisville, Ky; and many other localities opportunities to be featured on local television programs to demonstrate the laser and allow a reporter to discuss the treatment with their patients. This was not only a way to promote the laser company, but it was also a great opportunity for the physicians to gain exposure for their practices and to educate consumers about new procedures they were offering.

Appearing on the local news gives you instant credibility with the public. Furthermore, if consumers now want to have the procedure done, they will feel more inclined to visit the “physician on television.” The next time you are in the exhibit hall, take a good look at what is really going on.

Expectations and Results
One of the frustrations with publicity is that you can never fully control or guarantee that your story will be placed on television or in print regardless of how well your meeting went or how solid the contact is. Even the journalist or reporter that you met with quite often has little to no editorial control. However, the following basic rules we have developed will help you when the editor or executive producer makes that final decision.

• Is your story appropriate for the reader or viewer of the publication or program that you are approaching? Know and understand the media outlet that you are targeting.

• Are you talking to the appropriate decision-maker? For example, if you are pitching the sports writer, this is obviously the wrong person for a medical story.

• Can you give an interesting “elevator pitch”? An elevator pitch is a fast and easy-to-understand explanation of what you do in your practice. How will your new procedure affect and benefit the industry and the patients who receive it?

If you have the full attention of a journalist, remember that these are smart, well-informed, and connected people with a strong background knowledge of the medical industry. Never exaggerate your capabilities or say anything that you suspect to be inaccurate or untrue.

• Consistency in your efforts is important. Trying to get media attention with a few calls will yield only minimal results. The most successful results are from long-term relationships.

Even though we are an established and well-respected PR firm that has a reputation as a reliable resource, we still have to work hard to get the media’s attention. The difference is that our voice-mail messages are taken seriously and our calls are returned because we maintain consistent contact with the media. Be certain to take this into consideration as you begin to form relationships.

Above all, enjoy the show! Look at these events as more than just a chance to visit with old colleagues. See them for what they are: educational and innovative gatherings that will help you expand your knowledge, career, and medical practice—and for some, an opportunity to enjoy the media spotlight.

Angela O’Mara is president and owner of The Professional Image Inc, a medical-specialty public-relations firm based in Newport Beach, Calif. She is also a regular contributor to Plastic Surgery Products. She can be reached at (949) 760-1522 or [email protected].