8.2- Panel Interview
And then the second thing I did was, right before the interview, I made a one-page document or bullet points that I wanted to get across on what are the take home messages, what we did, and then some additional details in case they asked about those. I met with my senior author and together we, as well as with the press office, developed our kind of key bullet points that we want to convey succinctly and that was really useful to have. I would say the other thing I didn't expect is on the morning talk radio show I was on, they asked me to really speculate on my findings and the implications for health care reform.
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All right, so in this next module, we’re going to be talking about being interviewed by the media and I have with me today, I’m going to have a conversation with three of my former students. They’ve all done some really interesting research that’s been picked up in the general media. So they’ve all had the experience of having to be interviewed, both on the radio and for print media, and they’re going to tell you a little bit about their experience and give you some tips, because if you do end up getting published eventually, which a lot of you will, especially if you’re published in a high profile journal, you will likely be contacted at some point in your career by somebody from the media who wants to do an interview. So you have to be a little bit prepared. So I have with me today three of my former students. I’ll just give them a brief introduction. So this is Dr. Kit Delgado. He’s an instructor of emergency medicine at Stanford University. I have Dr. Crystal Smith-Spangler who is an instructor of medicine at Stanford University, and Eran Bendavid, Dr. Eran Bendavid, assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University. I’m just going to briefly tell you a little bit about each of their individual research and their experience with the media. They’ll be telling you more about it as we go along. So, Kit actually had a paper in the Annals of Emergency Medicine in 2010 that was about the use of preventative services, people receiving preventative care in the emergency room. That got a lot of media attention. He did a number of radio interviews, including on Health Radio and actually just last week in 2012, had a paper in the Journal of Hospital Medicine about patients being transferred from the emergency room to the ICU. He was interviewed by the Stanford news services for that. So he’s had some very recent experience with interviewing. Dr. Crystal Spangler-Smith had a paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2010 on sodium reduction strategies that was covered by a number of media outlets. And recently had a 2012 paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine that was on organic food and that’s a hot topic of interest. It was covered by quite a few media outlets. She was interviewed on NPR. It’s been talked about in The New York Times, the L.A. Times, ABC News. So that got some wide media coverage and she’ll tell you a little bit about that. And then Dr. Eran Bendavid. He had a paper actually in 2010 on antiretroviral therapy in Africa that got quite a bit of media coverage and also very recently in 2012, had a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association which has about U.S. AIDS relief to Africa and how were the impact that’s had. And so that was covered in a number of media outlets, NPR, was mentioned in the L.A. Times, The Washington Post. So he’s also done a number of interviews very recently. So I’m going to start just to give you guys a sense of how does the media even find out about your work. So my first question for the panel is just how did you know, if you knew how, how did the media that you were they interviewed by or the number of them, how did they learn about your work? So I’ll let anybody jump in who wants to take that question. Well, the Stanford press office writes a press release and I think for most publications if you would like them to do a press release, they work with you. And so they were helpful in crafting a press release. And I believe for some of the major journals, they also have press releases as well. Right. Eran, did JAMA issue a press release on yours? Yes. So JAMA issued a press release. In addition, we have by now established a relationship with the press office. It’s always good to have this personal relationship with the press office. And whenever an article will be coming out, you can let them know ahead of time and they will issue a Stanford press release. There’s often especially in the more high profile journals, they have their own press office and they will issue their own press release. Right. It’s often nice to have a relationship with the press office at your institution because they will usually allow you to take a look at the press release and kind of help craft the message which you don’t get, as we’ll talk about later with the independent media outlet. So, a very important question, what did you do to prepare for your interview once you knew that you were going to be interviewed? What were the steps you took to get ready? I met with T.L. Panabaker who was our media relations person in our research center and she pretended to be the interviewer on the radio station and that was extremely helpful in terms of coming up with my sound bites that I wanted to get across on the radio. And then the second thing I did was, right before the interview, I made a one-page document or bullet points that I wanted to get across on what are the take home messages, what we did, and then some additional details in case they asked about those. For a radio interview, you really need to be prepared because you’re doing it, was it live in or at least it was going to be whatever you said is immediately. Yeah, it was live. Yeah. Okay, so you really have to be prepared. Yeah, I did something similar. I met with my senior author and together we, as well as with the press office, developed our kind of key bullet points that we want to convey succinctly and that was really useful to have. Just like he had a one-page document written out word for word, just a couple of sentences so that, you really want you to be quoted correctly and I know I sometimes will in just conversation stop or not have a complete sentence but you want your sentences to be complete, well thought out. And so I thought it was very useful to have a one-page document in there, some bullets that they asked to remind you if there’s anything else that you wanted to add. Right. There are many things that are worth thinking about ahead of time. The kind of media outlet, whether it’s radio or television or just in the printed press, the implications can be very different. So I’ve had one radio interview with almost like a morning talk show kind of host almost like I listen in the morning but more serious. And ahead of time, our press office representative did some background check on the person and told me that he’s probably going to ask a few questions that are a little bit off, but, yeah, a little bit off the mark. And so for those kinds of interviews in particular, it’s very important to have again your speaking points and you can always bring the questions back to the speaking points. So being prepared is going to be very important. Sometimes you can ask for the questions ahead of time and know what the people are going to ask you and again. So having a prepared response is helpful. You can also ask if they have a particular angle they’re going to be covering, like what the angle of the article is, you can find out about that and also, as you mentioned useful if you can find out a little bit about who you’re going to be doing the interview with, soy you can get an idea perhaps what they might ask you about. So you just have to keep in mind that you know your topic more than anyone else. So you will know the answer. It’s just a question of making sure you can convey it very articulately. Did you two practice at all with a sort of do a mock interview with anyone as well? Yes, so I’ve done mock interviews and I actually had someone film me because one of my interviews was a video interview. So your body posture and body position makes a difference. And the other thing I will say is again, the relationship with the local press office is important because they will sometimes screen the people who want to come in and interview you. And you know you can then at least someone who will think through you whether that’s an interview that’s worth doing or not worth doing. So there may be some times where you might want to turn down an interview possibly? Especially I’m sure for very highly publicized articles can be overwhelming. Yeah. Yeah, Crystal’s was covered quite extensively. So you may have had to turn some interviews down just for time. Yes, so once it became clear that there was a lot of interest, Stanford press office handled all the requests and helped triage which ones I should prioritize. That’s great. Very good. Good. So there was a lot of research and preparation and it sounds like that went into all of these which is good for the students to be aware of. The next question is what was the most surprising thing about the experience, perhaps were your first experience being interviewed, were there things you weren’t expecting that came out of that, either good or bad? I think what you don’t realize is that it’s really over very quickly. You know a three to four minute interview, the interviewer is going to be talking at least two minutes for the time setting up the questions, so you really only have about a minute or two to get across your main points. It really boils down to about one or two take home messages and maybe one or a couple of sentences about what you actually did for your study. So I think that just goes back to really honing down your message into that one bullet point and before you know it, the interview is over. I would agree that you have to be very succinct or at least think about what amount of time you’re going to have. Especially for TV you have almost no time given to you to express your thoughts. It’s very, very limited. Right. And I would say also it’s not a very impromptu experience. So, by and large, your message is prepared ahead of time and the interviewer sometimes they only want to hear is that message in a sound bite. And so it’s not an opportunity for you to explore and discuss. Again, it’s a very succinct kind of experience. Yeah, that’s probably surprising to a lot of students because a lot of times they try to present these types of interviews as if they are spontaneous and conversational, but in fact there’s a lot that goes into them ahead of time. I would say the other thing I didn’t expect is on the morning talk radio show I was on, they asked me to really speculate on my findings and the implications for health care reform. And that was a curveball question to me. But I think it’s important not to speculate too much and kind of bring it back to the message, so kind of thinking ahead of time if you get a curveball question kind of figuring out how are you going to get it back to your message. Not really go beyond the conclusions of your paper and speculating too much about what the big picture implications are. I think that’s important. So the next question is what would you do differently to prepare for your next interview. So you’ve all done a number of interviews. Now at some point, did you go back and sort of revise your process a little bit based on your early experiences? I think you get slightly better at handling some of the questions and sometimes one of the things that I plan for now is to actually create that bridge when people ask you the question that you don’t want to answer, you figure out how to bridge it back to the question you hope you were asked and the question you do want to answer. And so having that bridge is useful. And then the other thing is, you know, early on I had a script that was written and it’s useful to have a script that’s written. I try not have it be scripted now but practice the things I want to say ahead of time. I think one thing that’s hard to do is you have your bullet points. It’s very easy to say your bullet point and keep going because there’s a pause, and before the interviewer asks the next question and I think if I were to keep doing this is to just say your bullet point, get the interviewer to ask the next question because then you can start rambling for a long period of time and that does sound a little bit awkward on the radio. And as someone who does interviews a lot. I actually like sometimes when I will pause because I do like it when the scientists rambles on a little, you sometimes get some interesting material, so that is a strategy that a journalist will use to try to get something more organic from you. I think also talking to the print media, you have to keep in mind that they’re writing or typing really fast and it helps if you pause and talk really slowly. And some of them taped the interview which I thought was really useful because for their own purposes so they could get that quotes right. But particularly if they’re not taping, you just need to be very cognizant of the fact that if they want them to get your quote right, you really have to talk slowly and take lots of breaks and kind of say a sentence and wait a second, then they’ll write down the next sentence. That’s a good point. Yeah. Some of them are taking it on the fly, yeah. One more tip that I think is going to be helpful for me in the future and I haven’t done this yet but my plan. Is that a lot of times what people take away from your interview, the journalist as well as the people who are the audience is the very last point that you’re making. So to prepare a real sort of take away point that you want to end on that note and have that be the main point. So that it’s not a qualification or a limitation but really the main point that you want to have people remember. Good. Making sure you get across that take home message and knowing what exactly your take on message is ahead of time. And you’ve all given a number of tips already but if you had to give tips to sort of young scientists who might be embarking soon on their first interview, you’ve already hit upon some of those. But is there are additional advice or tips that you’d give them? One thing is as a scientist or a researcher, you know your study intricately and all the fine details and if you’re explaining your study to the general media, I think it’s one thing, one trick you can do is imagine like you’re having a conversation with your Uncle Bob. You’re trying to tell your Uncle Bob, this is what I did with my time over the last six months. This is what we found. And if you envision that person, then you start dropping a lot of the scientific lingo and really cut down to the main message that the lay person can understand. Keeping in mind your audience make it very general is a good idea. Yeah. In fact both of them mention doing mock interviews, I think this has been useful and helpful. So you know especially early on, it’s a very useful doing especially with someone who is perhaps not a fellow scientist but someone who’s a little more lay. Were you happy with the final outcome, maybe there were good experiences and bad experiences? Can you talk either about a good experience or a bad experience where the final article or the radio show came out as you’d hoped or maybe it didn’t quite come out as you’d hoped? And what were the issues? Crystal, you want to jump in. I know you’ve had mixed experience recently. Yeah. Yeah, well, I did an NPR radio talk show and there were two other discussants on the radio show and so I presented by my findings, made a couple points and then I was actually very happy that they were kind of debating things that were peripherally related to my study but not exactly what my study was about. In fact my study could not answer that question. So I was very happy that there were people who wanted to debate it because that really wasn’t something that I was going to debate, because that’s not what my study was about. So I was happy. So I had asked the NPR interviewer what we’re going to talk about and who were the other discussants and let him know that I’m going to talk about my study but not about issues related to but not about my study. So that was a good experience. Yeah, good. Any other good or bad experiences? I’ve had at least one interview where the printed piece that came subsequently to that grossly misrepresented the article. And I don’t know if there was partly lack of clarity on my part but it certainly felt like there is something there that there are lots of pieces like that you don’t necessarily want to have out there sort of covering your article. Did you think of anything you could have done differently after that one that could have changed that experience or not so much? Part of the reason was that the reporter really wanted to know very detailed issues about the methods and how the numbers were derived. And I think that there’s a difficulty in communicating that both because I wasn’t prepared and also because I think it was very difficult sometimes to convey a lot of these sort of concepts in a very sort of easy way. So I don’t know exactly what I could have done but perhaps ask her to review the article ahead of time to make sure that these are accurate. That’s a good point you bring up because a lot of times you don’t have an opportunity to review. Does any one want to comment on have you ever had an opportunity to review or most of them you’ve not had an opportunity? Yeah, I always offered and be like if you want to send me bits of it to check or do some back checking, I’m happy to help, but rarely did they take me up on it. Occasionally someone would send me a clarification, like, did I get this correct. And so I really appreciated that. I think it brings up a point is you can do your best. I had the same one-page talking point with every person I talked to and the articles had various different takes on it. So you do your best to do it but you don’t have the control. They’re writing about what you did, you’re not writing about it. Right, good. Yeah, and I think if you do have the opportunity to review it, you should ask for it. And then also with developing a press release that goes and what the journalists use a lot of times to get quotes for their article, just making sure that you’re very comfortable with every word of the press release in the revision process before the interviews even begin is very helpful. Yeah, the press release really does control a lot of the media message, so if you have an opportunity to do a press release that can help to sort of shape the message that the media picks up. This is sort of a related question, but do you think that the media outlet that you interviewed with accurately captured the take home messages, obviously there were instances when you did not think that? In general, does the media do a good job or you have more good experiences than bad experiences? Mixed bag. It’s hard to make generalizations. Yeah, it varies. It varies. With JAMA, they actually hired sort of a freelance video company to come and do the interview. And so when it’s motivated by the journal, by and large, they’ll do a very thorough job in understanding the article ahead of time asking questions that highlight aspects of the research. And so the final product of that was very well captured. And if I could just get a quick closing point from each of you. We’re running out of time here. So I’ll let whoever wants to take it first, one kind of parting message for, again, young scientists who might be getting published soon and getting some requests for interviews. I think one is getting to meet your press officer or whoever is going to write your your press release at the moment that you know your papers accepted to the Journal and giving them some advance time and notice, and then that way they get in touch with the journal and find out when the paper’s going to come out. Instead of having a rush job, right at the end when your proof gets accepted, I think is key. I think the second thing is really just having all the things we’ve talked about with the preparation with a mock interview, having bullet points and then really tailoring your message to a smart individual who’s a non-expert, maybe at the level of a family member and as if you’re communicating with them I think is helpful. Definitely we’ve heard a lot of good suggestions here and it’s a good opportunity to explain your research and so if you’re about to get published, congratulations, and use that opportunity to be able to explain your work. Yeah, being interviewed by the media is a good thing in the end. Yeah. So again, it’s really your opportunity to speak with the world and explain your work to the world and it’s both challenging and at the same time rewarding. And the media sometimes has a life of its own. And so what the final product of your work, it’s partly in your control and you want to make sure that your message comes across accurately as possible. But some of it is just about our world in the free press kind of a society. Great. So I just want to thank my panel. Dr. Delgado, Dr. Smith-Spangler and Dr. Bendavid for being here today. You’ve provided some wonderful information for our audience and thanks everyone for watching.
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