Media Professional Development

Insider Tips for Working With the Media

About 16 years ago, I was asked to do a live segment for an early morning live news and entertainment show called Breakfast Television about healthful lunches for kids. Without hesitation, I said yes. I knew this was a great opportunity, but I was a little scared. For dietitians with TV experience, I’m sure you all remember that first nerve-wracking interview.

What stood out for me was trying to figure out how to prepare for my interview. I had no idea. I remember preparing pages of information I intended to share. I didn’t know what a key message was and didn’t realize how quickly a three-minute TV segment would whiz by.

Despite being nervous, I was hooked on working in media after my first interview. I loved the idea of being able to share nutrition messages with a huge audience. Since then, I’ve done hundreds of TV, radio, and print interviews, participated in national brand media tours, and national TV and radio commercials. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned is the essential communication skill of delivering key nutrition messages on a time budget.

Determining Your Interview Topic
Your interview topic can be based on a seasonal theme, upcoming event, eg, Nutrition Month or a timely news hook. I often pitch my interview topic ideas directly to the TV host I will be shooting the segment with or the show producer. I also create my own food props and visuals to help me tell my story during the interview.

Developing Key Messages
Once you have your interview topic, the most important thing to do is create your key messages. Key messages are short, takeaway nuggets of information that you want viewers to remember. They’re the most important things you want to say to viewers. Your key messages are the foundation of your interview.

Preparation Counts
Preparing for a media interview can be both exciting and overwhelming. Here are some tips to help ensure you’re ready:

  • Practice saying your key messages out loud.
  • Make your responses sound conversational.
  • Slow down your speech.
  • If you’re doing a food demo, do a dry-run, and set it up in advance.
  • Always look your best. Wear solid colors and jewel tones such as royal blue and emerald.

My Media Work Today
I continue to do both volunteer and paid spokesperson work. I believe media work is an important way for dietitians to maintain visibility as the trusted nutrition experts. Admittedly, preparing for TV interviews requires much work. However, one of the ways I’ve decreased the workload is to tape several segments at one time in my home kitchen. To do this, I brainstorm several ideas with the show host or producer. It usually takes me about two days to prepare for taping multiple segments. These segments usually will air over a two-month period.

If you’re interested in this strategy, consider pitching numerous segment topics to your local media outlets. Try suggesting ideas with seasonal trends, such as back to school breakfast/lunches in the fall, healthful holiday ideas for various occasions, nutrition tips for diabetes management during diabetes month, etc. In my pitch, I’ll often include a viewer-friendly recipe that reflects the segment’s theme.

How to Get Involved in TV
If you want to do TV interviews, it’s essential to build your profile as a dietitian and obtain professional media training that will give you the confidence to get yourself out there and get noticed. Make sure you’re visible and can be easily contacted. A great way to build your profile is by creating your own website and engaging in various social media platforms. Networking will help you build relationships and gain exposure, so companies will recognize and contact you. All it takes is one successful interview to lead to other great opportunities.

Looking for Media Training?
Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, and I are cofounders of Media Training Boot Camp. We’ve professionally media trained and coached hundreds of dietitians, interns, and nutrition graduate students. We’re delighted to offer an exclusive media training webinar with Today’s Dietitian called Delivering a Dynamic TV Interview on Tuesday, May 9th, 2-3 pm ET. Watch our webinar promo and sign up now.

Free bonus: When you register for our webinar, we’ll give you our exclusive tip sheet “10 Questions to Ask Before Every TV Interview.”

If you’re interested in participating in media interview opportunities, but don’t know where to start, or if you’re already working in the media and wish to take your skills to the next level, then this webinar is for you. You’ll listen, watch, and learn from discussions and videos of media interviews featuring dietitians in action.

With over 35 years of combined experience, Sue and I will share our media coaching tips, real life experiences, and secrets for success to help dietitians develop their media skills and boost their confidence in working in media.

If you have experience working in the media and would like to share your story, or have any comments, I would love to hear from you.

— Gina Sunderland, MSc, RD, is a leading Canadian media dietitian with a flair for fabulous food demos and displays. As a recognized expert, Gina typically tapes four back-to-back interviews for her regular segments on CTV Winnipeg Morning Live. She also has been featured in national TV and radio commercials. She has been a Nutrition Month spokesperson for Dietitians of Canada for the past five years. As a cofounder of Media Training Boot Camp, Gina provides media coaching and training at conferences and events across the country, and has a consulting practice in Winnipeg. Visit Gina’s website at GinaDietitian.ca or get in touch with her via e-mail, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

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