We attended an informative educational event coordinated by ACHE of North Texas, August 25, 2016 held at Maggiano’s in North Park Mall in Dallas.  The topic was, The Role of Media in Shaping the Public’s Perception of Healthcare.

The panelists, Janet St. James, Assistant VP Strategic Communication of HCA North Texas Division, Matt Goodman, Editor of D Healthcare Daily and Jennifer Coleman, Sr. Vice President, Marketing & PR of Baylor Scott & White Health, were all well versed in what happens in the media and how all business entities are impacted.

One of the questions raised was should the healthcare industry and its executives help consumers, its patients, understand healthcare through the media?

Panelists stated the most effective method for educating consumers is by getting your story to the media.  If you can explain what is happening in layman’s terms to a journalist, that journalist can, in turn, film or write for consumers of all ages to understand.

The panelists suggested healthcare executives have their Marketing/PR team cultivate relationships with several local reporters.  This helps get the word out, pitch successes, and share special interest stories, new types of treatments, procedures, etc.  Having that relationship with journalists is very useful when stories are positive and/or negative.  A good journalist verifies something twice with credible sources before publishing and printing.

For all practices and corporations, there are Do’s and Don’ts when educating the public.  Here are some tips from The Brummitt Group:

When Responding to Media Requests


  • Train all personnel that answer phone calls on the correct protocol. They are the media’s first impression of your organization.
  • Ask questions to determine who you are talking to.
    • What is your name?
    • Who do you represent?
    • What is the interview about?
    • Are you talking to other people?
    • What is your deadline?
    • What is your phone number and email?
  • Be polite, helpful, and friendly.
  • Be clear that you need information before you talk to them.
  • Set boundaries for the interview and ask for topics ahead of time.
  • Determine the right person in your organization for the interview.


  • Don’t Say anything you don’t want repeated or printed.
  • Don’t Say “no comment” or “off the record.”
  • Don’t Automatically agree to the interview. You have the right to information and may need to decide if it makes sense for your company to do the interview.  If you can’t do the interview, let the reporter know and put them in touch with the appropriate person if possible.
  • Don’t Try to stop a story. It will just fuel the fire.

The Interview


  • Create speaking points if you have time to prepare. Make those points regardless of the questions asked.  It’s fine to bring them as printed notes and take notes during the interview.
  • Be aware of the company’s stance on controversial issues.
  • Send the reporter background information on your organization and/or the subject matter.
  • Use a mirror or even record yourself.
  • Carefully listen to the questions asked and ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand. Take time to think about your answer if you need to.
  • Use visual aids to illustrate your points.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Give concise answers.
  • Be friendly, confident, warm, and yourself (unless you aren’t friendly, confident, and warm…then pretend).
  • Being funny is fine, but avoid sarcasm.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Sit up straight and keep gestures to a minimum.
  • Project appropriate empathy in situations involving injury, death, and hardship.
  • Stick to the facts and don’t give your opinion.
  • Say “I don’t know” if you don’t know. And, offer to find the answer and get back to them quickly.
  • Be honest that you aren’t able to answer a particular question. For instance, it would be inappropriate for me to comment because this issue is under review, under negotiation, with the courts, violates a patient’s privacy, or is very sensitive.
  • If you and the reporter disagree on something, “agree to disagree” and move on. Don’t let it monopolize the interview.
  • Correct inaccurate statements during and after the interview. If you feel a reporter has made a mistake or mischaracterized your words, say so immediately.


  • Don’t Let your guard down at any point. Assume everything you do and say may be repeated or printed, including facial expressions and body language.  Reporters may use anything you say and do before, during, or after the interview.
  • Don’t Bring your phone in, fidget, play with your jewelry, or drum your fingers.
  • Don’t Use acronyms or industry-specific terms. If you are talking about hypertension, say high blood pressure.  Even common acronyms may have multiple meanings.
  • Don’t Use “ugh”, “um”, “uh-huh” or similar terms. Practicing is key here.
  • Don’t Say “no comment.” It makes you appear evasive or guilty.  Instead, use the question to answer something that you wanted to cover in your speaking points.
  • Don’t Say “off the record.” If you don’t want it reported, don’t say it.
  • Don’t Answer a question outside of your area of expertise, even if you know the answer. Refer the reporter to the appropriate person and warn that person.
  • Don’t Tell a reporter more than they want or need to know.
  • Don’t Give long answers. Try to limit them to 30 seconds.  People stop listening to even the most fascinating people when they talk too long.
  • Don’t Be dishonest or embellish.
  • Don’t Be defensive or lose your temper. If a question is inappropriate or too personal, say so, but do it politely.
  • Don’t Be tricked into filling an awkward silence. It’s a tactic reporters use to get you to say something unplanned.
  • Don’t Blame anyone for anything, including your competition.
  • Don’t Talk bad about your competition.
  • Don’t Comment on patients. In limited circumstances, there may be times when a facility may get a release from the patient and may want a Chief to speak to a particular patient’s condition.  Seek guidance from the facility’s media personnel and ensure that a release has been signed.
  • Don’t Refer to a previous statement. When interviews are edited, this is problematic.

On-Site Interviews


  • Ensure your office or facility conveys a positive image of the company.
  • Remove any items you wouldn’t want the media to see.
  • Assign someone to escort the reporter the whole time they are in your building.
  • Hold all phone calls and interruptions during the interview.


  • Don’t Do an interview from behind your desk. Find a more interesting and relevant spot in your office.
  • Don’t Leave a reporter unescorted in your office or facility, ever. The interview isn’t over until they leave the building.

Social Media

Several companies, like Delta Airlines, have begun using Media Listening Centers.  Take a look:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysjEqGLjmZA.  Staff monitor Twitter, Facebook, blogs, anything that is posted about their company.  One of the panelists stated their company is calling social media,“reputation media.”  Stories are discovered and reported, based on what a journalist sees on social media.

Being aware of what your employees are saying about your company is also important.  Have you reviewed your company’s reviews on Glassdoor to read what your employees are saying about your leadership and/or management?  Check it out: https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/index.htm.

At the end of the day, have an honest, great story.  Equip your team players with good information. And by all means, develop a crisis communications plan and rehearse what you want the public to know.