Member Guide: Working With The Media

3 Easy Ways to Get Involved With ASHA Public Relations

Have a passion for educating the public about communication disorders? Want consumers to know more about the professions? Wish your boss and colleagues knew about the value of your professional credentials and what they mean? Here are some easy ways to make an impact:  

1. Volunteer to be an ASHA media source. Sign up, and ASHA may be in contact with you if a media request is a good fit for you based on your expertise or geographic location. Email with your contact info and any areas of professional focus.

2. Become a National Speech-Language-Hearing Month Ambassador. May is National Speech-Language-Hearing Month—a time for our professions to shine. Leading up to May, sign up to be a National Speech-Language-Hearing Month social media ambassador, and get pre-made consumer education materials that you can easily share with your networks. Visit the National Speech-Language-Hearing Month site for more info.    

3. Leverage ASHA's Consumer Education Campaigns. Year-round, ASHA has evergreen information for public consumption that you can use to populate your social media, website, or blog; use as handouts; or otherwise utilize. Check out ASHA's Public Relations Initiatives.  

Sarah Schneider describes her experience as an expert panelist for speech-language pathology on the San Francisco-based radio show, VoiceBox. The show focuses on the human voice in the context of singing.

4 Tricks of the Trade: Your PR Toolbox

Working with the media is not a one-size-fits-all activity. There are many different ways to make an impact. Here are some PR tools to use:  

1. Op-Ed—Op-eds often have great influence. If you have a compelling argument on a topic of public concern, consider submitting an op-ed to your local newspaper. This is a tactic that ASHA and its members have used with much success to educate and advocate. Check out the op-eds in your local papers to gain a sense of what the papers will publish. Before you write anything, determine the submission requirements to save yourself from wasting time and energy.

2. Letter to the Editor—Did the media get something wrong? Only tell part of a story? Miss a key perspective? Give your feedback in a Letter to the Editor, which is a response to a published story—generally within a few days of it being printed. These are typically one to two paragraphs, so brevity is key. Think in terms of content that adds to the information that has already been presented; for example, corrects an inaccuracy or provides leads to resources related to the topic.

3. Press Release—Are you looking to promote an event or activity; publicize your research; or announce a new book, hire, or resource? A press release is the standard way to inform the media about something you'd like them to cover. You can find many resources online to help you write a press release. ASHA also has templates that it can provide. Find out first who or which department at your local outlets would be the recipients and follow up in a couple of days to confirm that the release has been received.

4. Online Commenting and Social Media—Are you reading a story online and have something to say about it? Comment right there (every once in a while, the reporter will actually reach out if a comment has merit). Consider sharing your perspective on social media, as well. Remember to always be professional! Once something is on the Internet, it is searchable by anyone—former, current, and future clients, bosses, colleagues, and so forth—so be mindful of what you say.  

How to Ace a Media Interview

Talking to the media can be a potentially nerve-racking experience—even for communication pros. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind if you are speaking to a reporter:  

Get the details up front—Before committing to a media interview, ask about the format (e.g., for television, is it a live appearance or taped?); who will be interviewing you and who else that reporter is speaking to for their story; what types of questions they are looking for you to answer; and where/when/how long the interview will be. If you have serious concerns, pass.

Prepare, and prepare some more—Think through one to two key messages you want to make during the interview, as well as any potential areas of vulnerability. Consider what your responses will be if any "difficult questions" are asked. Familiarize yourself with the media outlet and reporter, including their style and any possible biases.

Practice makes perfect—Practice saying your key messages and your responses to questions out loud. You don't want to be over-rehearsed, but you want to feel confident in your answers.

Dress the part—Plan your wardrobe carefully. Make sure you are picking something that projects a professional image.

Relax, and make the most of the opportunity—During the interview, be friendly and smile. Do your best to respond to the questions asked of you. Work your key messages into your answers. Don't use professional jargon. Try to enjoy your experience, but don't get too chummy or let your guard down. Anything you say can be used in a story, even if you think the "official" interview hasn't started or is over.  

Deborah Berndtson talks about how an interview with ASHA led to a grassroots media campaign regarding the importance of hearing loss and the role audiologists play in the field.

Writing an Op-Ed

It's not always easy to get an op-ed published, but there are some ways to improve your chances considerably. Consider these tips:  

Check the guidelines—You can craft the most well-articulated piece, but if you don't meet the news outlet's requirements (e.g., going over the word limit, not submitting proper author information), it may not even be considered. Make sure you check the requirements, which should be published online.

Forcefully argue a specific opinion—An op-ed is not the place to take both sides on an issue. You should have a clear opinion, with facts to back it up.

Focus on a few key points—If you are passionate about your topic, you probably have a lot to say (or write). However, op-eds call for economy. Select the most important one or two points to focus on, and build those out. This will result in a stronger piece.

Use anecdotes when possible, but be mindful of privacy—Patient stories are compelling and are a great way to evoke emotion in readers— that's part of what makes op-eds great. Of course, privacy should always be paramount.

Include a call to action—What do you want people to do after reading your op-ed? Make sure this key piece of information is included.  

To me, if someone reads an article or hears a story and learns something, then it is worth it.

How to Leverage Social Media

We all know the power of social media in today's digital age, and it goes well beyond posting pictures of our dinner or sharing funny memes. Social media is a great way to educate our networks about our work, provide a perspective on legislation or a news story, and encourage a dialogue on a particular topic. Here's how you can use it to your professional benefit:  

Use ready-made materials from ASHA—During National Speech-Language-Hearing Month, or World Hearing Day, and throughout the year, ASHA provides shareable educational resources that you can easily post to your social accounts. Doing so reminds people of your expertise in addition to spreading awareness about communication disorders and the professions.

Consider (and build) your online presence—Whether it's a professional or personal connection, you can rest assured that someone has "Googled" you. What impression are you making? Is your LinkedIn profile complete with details about your employment, responsibilities, accomplishments, and expertise? Do you have a profile on ASHA ProFind? Are your privacy settings on your personal social media accounts up to date?

Create great content—Content is still king in the digital age. Some ASHA members have their own blog, which is one excellent way to build your public reputation. You can also write articles about professional topics and post them directly to LinkedIn, or write a guest piece for a reputable blog (including ASHA's blog)! Some savvy members have even created videos, infographics, and other types of content. Keep the content simple and accessible for public consumption.

Cross-promote your work—Were you interviewed for a media story? Published in a journal? Share it on your LinkedIn page! Make the most of your professional accomplishments by sharing the news on your channels. If your employer has social media accounts, send the piece to them so they can consider sharing, as well.  

Making the Pitch: How to Approach the Media With Your Story Idea

So, you have a great idea for a story for your local TV station or newspaper. But where do you go from there? Here's a step-by-step guide for reaching out to the media:  

Determine the appropriate contact person—You may have a particular reporter in mind, based on past reporting you've seen them do (e.g., a consumer reporter). If not, a good bet is to contact someone with the title of "assignment editor" (for a TV station) or "features editor" or "health editor" (for a newspaper). You can always call the main line and ask for the appropriate contact or you can sometimes find that online.

Craft a short "pitch"—In a couple of brief paragraphs, propose your story idea, noting why it's relevant to the community, offering examples of tips/advice you'd provide, and sharing any information you can find to localize the story. Reference past stories by the reporter that led you to believe they might be interested in your topic. Note that you'd be willing to be interviewed—and provide all your contact information. Email is often the best way to reach reporters, but you can follow up with a telephone call. Just don't expect that the reporter has read your email—they receive lots of messages!

Time it right—This is important both from a reporter's standpoint and yours. Your chance for success is diminished if you call a reporter when they are up against a deadline. For the most part, earlier in the day is better. It is also important that you reach out when you have the time to respond, should you get interest. The reporter will likely need you on short notice, so if it's a busy time and you can't accommodate them by clearing your schedule if necessary, then it's not the best time to reach out.

Line up a consumer—Most news pieces are richer when they include a patient or consumer who has dealt with the particular issue at hand, as it helps to humanize a story. Reporters will often ask to be connected to such a person, so you can increase your likelihood of success if you can provide the names of one or more parties willing to be interviewed. Make sure to state this in your pitch.

Follow up, within reason—A follow-up call sometimes will yield results. However, most reporters don't appreciate repeated calls on the same topic. Don't be offended or discouraged if you don't get a response—or if you get a rejection. Reporters may receive hundreds of story pitches a day, and they can't cover everything. Retool, and approach them when you have your next story idea!  

My work moved the professions forward and helped individuals and families who needed to hear ASHA's message of help.

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