Q: Are you a real doctor?
A: No. I just play one on television!
Fortunately for you, you are a real physician. Yet, some of you may actually get to “play” one on television—you may get a chance to play yourself on television.
Like it or not, reality television is here to stay. As our population continues to age, the increase in medical television shows and consumer interest in those shows will only grow.
For those of you who are looking to further your medical career and increase your practice revenues by being regularly featured on television, here are a few ways you can still keep the appearance of being a physician and also project an image that is professional, knowledgeable, and—most importantly—attractive to the viewer.
Oftentimes, a television producer or reporter will have an agenda regarding the interview and how it is going to proceed. Although you need to be knowledgeable about the show’s format and the producer’s demands, you must never forget that this is about you. You are not there to provide entertainment. You are there because you have decided that you want to build a practice, build an image, and build a brand. And the medium of television is the fastest, most cost-effective medium in which to achieve that goal.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT
There is only one way to look on television—good.
Things You Should Know
You should do some homework before you appear on a television show:
- Learn the background of the show.
- Know the format for the show.
- Know what you are going to talk about.
- Identify the purpose for being there when you were first contacted to appear on the show.
- Write down at least three to five major points or objectives you want to discuss.
Image is everything, especially when you talk about aesthetic surgery. The best choice for clothes in a television interview is still a conservative blue or gray suit for men. Some men wear black and look great. Others look washed out. If you are uncertain, choose blue or gray. Both colors look neat and photograph well.
Wear a light blue or cream shirt and a tie with a small print or striped pattern. White shirts may make you look pasty on camera and can reflect glare. Light blue is still the best choice.
Check the length of your socks and pants (in a sitting position) to make sure no leg is visible. There is nothing more off-putting than watching a man on television who crosses his legs to show hairy legs under his pants. Wear higher socks or longer pants to be certain this does not happen to you.
The same color schemes apply to women, although they can wear more spring colors such as beige, light brown, and pale blue. When in doubt, stick with the basic that feels comfortable.
Skirt length for women is important. Just as our fear of seeing a guy’s hairy leg is very real in this context, there is also the fear of seeing a little too much thigh should your skirt ride too high when you sit down.
If you are unsure about this issue, practice in front of a mirror. Wear the clothes you are thinking about wearing on camera, and place a chair in front of the mirror. Try sitting in a couple of positions, crossing and uncrossing your legs to see what is revealed. Then make the choice.
In addition, I suggest that you bring a change of clothes (at least a shirt or blouse) to the shoot with you. All clothes should be freshly laundered. You do not want to run the risk of being without an alternate change of clothes should you spill something on yourself.
MORE THAN A DRESS REHEARSAL
Although looking good is imperative when making a television appearance, being well rehearsed is of equal value. Most times, you can go into an interview with the confidence that you know more about your subject than the host or reporter does.
However, don’t be fooled. Make sure you really do know your subject. For example, if you are going to talk about a specific procedure, know its history. Who else has performed it? Are there any complications?
Points to Remember
- You are the guest and the authority on your topic.
- Without you, there is no interview or story.
- Immediately redirect any conversation that is becoming inappropriate.
- Anticipate contrary points of view. Be prepared to rebut them.
- Plan your main points, and make them early and often.
- Know who it is you are going to be talking to.
- If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification.
- Don’t panic if you must pause to gather your thoughts.
- It is better to get it right the first time.
- If an untruth is made, refute it immediately and make your case.
- Be vigorous. Every interview is a performance. If you are bored, it will show.
- Be professional, keep your cool, and get your message out.
Anticipate questions that the reporter might ask, and have a friend ask you these questions at home and before the show. Listen to your answers. It is important to rehearse out loud so that you remember your answers in your “mind’s ear” rather than just in your “mind’s eye.” That way, when you are under the lights and feel the tension of the interview, you will hear what you say and immediately recognize that you got it right or not.
Think about the messages you want the viewers or listeners to receive. Decide in advance what key points you want to convey, and then plan to include them. A clear objective will help you keep the initiative during the interview.
Watch the program in advance of your appearance. Watch it more than once, if possible. Get a feel for the interviewer’s style and interests. Determine whether or not your interview will be brief or lengthy, restricted to a single issue or wide-ranging.
Will you appear alone or share the platform? To what type of audience is the program focused? Can you use visuals?
If possible, speak briefly to the interviewer in advance. This will help confirm your understanding of the situation. Also, understand the program’s audience. Is it largely made up of women? If so, try to appeal to women when discussing topics or answering questions.
Anticipate the questions you might be asked. Pretend Matt Lauer of NBC-TV’s Today show is about to interview you. First, remember that this is the media and they (and their viewers) are people who are expecting to be entertained. Talking in a friendly, upbeat manner is very important. This is not a patient consultation. Think about what you would ask if you were the interviewer. Pay special attention to potentially sensitive areas. Then formulate your answers. Decide not only how you will respond to each question but also how you can use it as a bridge to your communications objective.
You are not presenting at a medical meeting. You are talking to a broad range of people. You are talking to the public. Find ways to answer negative questions on a positive, upbeat note. Make a special effort to compose concise replies to technical questions and express those answers in easy-to-understand, layperson’s language. Avoid slang.
STAGE PRESENCE AND ON-CAMERA SUCCESS
On the set, you will usually be seated next to, or opposite, the interviewer. At first, this may seem unnaturally close, but on camera it looks very natural. Resist the urge to back away when the interviewer leans forward. If you do, that will look awful from the viewer’s point of view.
During the interview, look at the interviewer throughout the segment. Do not stare at the studio camera or the floor. Most times, you will be sitting. Do not cross your arms in front of you. This creates a barrier between you and the viewer, or it makes you look arrogant. Rest your arms casually on the arms of the chair or on your lap. This projects a relaxed, comfortable, and self-assured look.
If you ever need to stand, let your arms hang at your sides. This will feel awkward, but on camera it will look fine.
As much as possible, keep your legs uncrossed—or crossed at the ankle—or else you risk looking a little rumpled on camera. Or, as I mentioned earlier, you risk showing too much leg.
Be conscious of your movements. In particular, do not sway back and forth or side to side in your chair. It is a nervous movement, and that’s just how it will come across to the viewer.
Often, there will be a monitor off to the side of the set where you can glance and check for your posture and position. Check yourself just before you go on the air. Whatever you do, avoid glancing at the monitor repeatedly during the interview. Otherwise, you will look distracted.
Finally, refrain from standing up until the entire interview or your segment of it has been completed. Then lean forward and shake hands with the host/interviewer and end with as pleasant a closing expression as you can make.
See also “The Seven Deadly Media Sins” by Angela O’Mara in the July 2007 issue of PSP.
The more you consider yourself to be an asset to a news- or interview-based television magazine program, the better you will become at the interview process.
The goal of becoming a good medical resource to television shows is to get invited back in the future. Many news stories that appear today in both print and electronic media stand a good chance of being transferred to the media outlet’s Web site. This will double your exposure and can lead to viral media. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Sounds like an illness. However, viral media is good for you and your practice because it remains within the Internet “buzz” network, generating viewer interest and spreading your message.
Therefore, when on camera keep your head up, stay focused, look sharp, pay attention to the environment and, as they say in Hollywood, “Lights! Camera! Action!” Enjoy your celebrity status.
Angela O’Mara is the president of The Professional Image Inc (TPI), a public-relations firm specializing in medical practices that has been in business since 1988. She can be reached at www.theprofessionalimage.com or (949) 760-1522.