Over the past 20 years or so, my public relations firm has placed many physicians on television. Now, with the popularity of shows such as Dr. 90210 and I Want a Famous Face, more physicians are enjoying Andy Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame.”
However, when the media’s huge appetite for plastic surgery stories is combined with surgeons who have been trained to perform surgery rather than act, the results can sometimes be less than enjoyable—or expected—for the reporter or producer and for the physician. So rather than write about “how to land an interview” or “how to dress for an interview”—as I have in the past—I thought I would share with you what not to do during a media interview.
The following are real stories—not mere possibilities dreamed up for this article. And they are based on real-life incidents retold to me by members of the media about surgeons with whom they have worked.
I can hear you saying, “I would never do that!”—but these surgeons did. You probably don’t even know who these surgeons are—or do you?
1) Don’t change your surgical techniques midstream. Whereas learning new techniques and surgical skills is a must for any surgeon, practicing those new skills for the first time is generally daunting to most—and it is not something you want to do on national television. Luckily for Dr X, this was something he learned during a taped interview rather than a live one.
While filming a segment for a national television show, Dr X—who was demonstrating a new facelift technique—commented while a patient was bleeding profusely, “I usually don’t do it this way. I just learned this technique last week.” The producer was ready to pack up his equipment right there and then!
2) Make sure your equipment works. This holds true for any new equipment purchases. Recently, a Chicago-based producer told me about a surgeon who had bragged about being the “only” surgeon in his particular area to obtain a new laser for liposuction. Of course, the producer wanted to have the surgeon on his show as soon as possible—but he didn’t expect that the surgeon would not have at least tried the laser a few times before going live on the morning news.
It turned out to be a complete mess because the laser was not working properly, replacement fibers were not available, and the surgeon did not have any patient testimonials of his own yet. Not only did the surgeon look completely incompetent on the air, he also jeopardized the opportunity to ever be invited back on that television show again.
3) “Let me do that shoot again, please.” A rather handsome, suave, and debonair young surgeon has really been enjoying the media attention he has received since relocating to Beverly Hills, Calif—so much so that he believes he is not only the “star” of the show on which he appears, he is also its director.
Recently, a producer friend of mine told me “that” was the last time she would work with this man. Apparently, the crew spent more time reshooting the surgeon at various angles so they could get his “good side” than they spent actually filming the patient and the procedure.
While all of us want to look our best, especially because the camera is generally not kind, remember that the purpose of the shoot is to gain valuable media exposure for your practice regarding your surgical skills—which are shown through patient results. If you would prefer to spend more time telling notable movie producer Cecil B. DeMille that you are “ready for your close-up”—as actress Gloria Swanson did in the movie Sunset Boulevard—you might want to consider switching careers.
4) Nod, nod, wink, wink—keep it to yourself. When you invite a television crew into your office to film a procedure, remember that they will walk away with more than a glimpse into your life. Ensure that they leave with a true picture of you, your core values, and your professional expertise.
That includes not flirting with the reporter. No matter how innocent a joke may seem, in this day and age it can easily be interpreted as a form of sexual harassment that might not necessarily land you in hot water, but will seriously harm your reputation.
And trust me, on this front I have heard it all: From the producer of a national morning show who, after flying from New York, elected to permanently shelve a 4-hour facelift shoot and then added the surgeon’s name to an internal blacklist for others to see; to a female staff reporter for an internationally televised entertainment show who almost filed a lawsuit against the show after filming a breast implant story, during which the surgeon repeatedly made silly jokes and off-color remarks.
Remember that no matter how casual and friendly members of the media seem, they are doing a job. It is always better to keep things professional.
5) Is the patient really a patient? Marketing 101 teaches us to find out who our competitors are. In the realm of plastic surgery television shows, not only do your competitors know who you are, they also know who works for you.
A successful Miami plastic surgeon who was scrambling to find a patient for a story on fat injection to the hands for the local ABC affiliate innocently thought, “Oh, well; we will just use Jane, our office manager. She’s a good candidate for this procedure.” And she was! Her hands looked fantastic afterward.
However, when the story aired during a news program later that week, an extremely jealous competitor called the station manager questioning the surgeon’s integrity and stating that viewers should be made aware when a surgeon uses his or her own staff members rather than unbiased patients to show the results of his or her work. All I can say is that the surgeon was never invited back on that news program again.
6) Mum’s the word. Don’t be a gossip! Although I am glad to say that this is not something I hear often, I have heard and witnessed it firsthand. Don’t gossip about your competition to a reporter!
Please remember that when a television crew or a writer from a newspaper comes into your office to interview you, they are also—and always—on the lookout for other stories. As friendly and innocent as they appear, this is still a business situation, and sometimes getting the “scoop” or “dirt” on another surgeon can make for a great future story.
I’m a firm believer that what goes around comes around. So, as tempted as you may be to divulge a little tidbit of information that may make you appear to be “in the know,” remember that someone else might be just as tempted to reveal a little something about you.
7) Who’s the diva now? We all know who the divas of the television talk shows are. However, the aesthetic industry has a few divas of its own—men and women—who have upset quite a few reporters and show hosts in their time.
|See also “I’m Going to Be on Television…Now What?” by Angela O’Mara in the August 2006 issue of PSP.|
One particular Dr Diva always seems to think that the show will wait for him. Believe me when I say it will not. You must make it to the show on time, and allow yourself ample time to find a parking spot or the limousine drop-off area.
Another Dr Diva believes she has every right to share make-up artists and have the luxury of several wardrobe “try-ons” before sitting down for an interview. Nope. That is not the case.
I encourage you to bring an extra shirt or blouse, or suit jacket, in case of accidental spills, but you should arrive in what you expect to wear on the show. And please do your best to look and act like a surgeon.
Angela O’Mara is president of The Professional Image Inc, a medical-specialty public relations firm that has been in business since 1988. She can be reached at (949) 760-1522 or .