I was at a function recently and was asked what group or profession needs media training the most? I didn’t have to think about that one. My answer was easy, “doctors and lawyers are 1 and 1A.” The person I was talking with was surprised and a bit offended, especially since she works in health care.
There are reasons that many times these professionals don’t come across as well as they could in their interviews. It’s obviously not because they’re lacking in smarts. Doctors and lawyers comprise some of the greatest intellectual minds we have on the planet, but being the smartest person in the room doesn’t make you the best communicator.
Not all doctors or lawyers come across poorly in the media. Some do very well and have their own TV shows. However, there are some common mistakes we see from these professionals when they get their shot in front of the mic. Many of these things they struggle with, you can learn from and use to improve your next interview.
What’s Up Doc?
I have worked with a number of doctors. One in particular really does a solid job in her media interviews. She never forgets any of the details when it comes to body language, personal appearance or where to look. She has an engaging smile and is willing to have fun during her live television segments. But one thing she has to remind herself to do is to simplify the message.
Doctors spend everyday of their lives talking about conditions or diseases we struggle to pronounce, let alone understand. It’s easy to see how doctors can have difficulty communicating to a wide, diverse audience in one sound bite, when they’re using a language with which we are not familiar. Too many Doctors need to remember who they are talking to and getting rid of their jargon will go a long way to connecting with their audience.
Law and Order
My mom, her husband and my father in law might also take exception to lawyers being in this group and feel their profession is being besmirched, tainted or discredited. They’re all lawyers and if you have a lawyer in your family, you know. Sometimes having a simple conversation with a lawyer can be exhausting. They enjoy and relish debate. Some lawyers might feel the need for a good interrogation during an everyday conversation. Most of which is not conversational or great for a 5-10 second sound bite on the evening news.
It’s not a hard and fast rule, but many lawyers and people in this field come across too abrupt and lacking emotion. Lawyers need the facts, but every good story on the news needs emotion. If your side lacks feeling you are going to look bad. Empathy and emotion play a huge part in swaying opinions. Make sure your message gives someone a reason to care and having the necessary emotion is critical.
We’ve also seen an over-confidence and sometimes a lack of preparedness. No doctor goes into an operating room and starts cutting on a patient without looking at what the issue and how the patient might react to surgery. And no lawyer would sit in a court room to argue a case without putting in the hours looking over files, past laws, cases and other things that might effect a verdict. Sometimes that “I can handle it attitude” shows up with and the doctor or lawyer and they will try to wing it. Too many things can go wrong when you try to wing it.
The media needs and uses doctors and lawyers in their news stories on a daily basis to explain and break down what’s happening in their field. Many times what they have to say can change lives.
So who is the biggest offender doctors or lawyers? We’ll call it a hung jury and too close to call. Both professions can use a good dose of media coaching, so call us and then take two sessions in the morning.