Nutrition Communications Professional Development

Put Your Best “Fork” Forward to the Media

National Nutrition Month has arrived, making it prime time for RDs to pitch tips and strategies for promoting nutrition awareness to the media. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the Academy) has chosen “Put Your Best Fork Forward” as the theme for National Nutrition Month 2017, and I couldn’t be more excited!

As a small nutrition communications business owner, I know how challenging it can be to work with the media to deliver sound, evidence-based information in a fun and creative way. Let’s face it: There are a million wellness professionals chosen time and again to present the latest food and nutrition trends to the public but who lack the credibility of being an RD.

This year I say we band together and get ahead of the game; let’s make it easy for the media to look to us for nutrition information so our communities can put their own “best fork forward”!

Since I truly believe we’re stronger together than we are apart, I reached out to some of the top RDs in nutrition communications to get their insight on how to creatively pitch evidence-based information to the media for National Nutrition Month. Here are some ideas to get your juices flowing:

  • Be professional and transparent. First and foremost, it’s important to always maintain your professional appearance. No, I’m not talking about hair and makeup, though you should always dress professionally. Remain the credible source in your area by disclosing relationships you have with companies you may represent. If we want to set ourselves apart, we need to be transparent and truthful with our audience.
  • Provide examples. “When pitching the media, include a link to an online video or TV segment you’re featured in so they can see how great you are on camera,” says Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN, CDE, founder of Sound Bites, Inc, and recipient of the Academy’s 2016 Media Excellence Award. “Also, make sure your e-mail subject line starts with ‘Story Idea’ and includes a short, catchy phrase that makes them want to read more,” she adds
  • Build relationships. “Pitch media with an offer to evaluate their seven-day food and activity journal, and provide guidance for making small changes to put their ‘best fork forward,’” says Jaime Schwartz Cohen, MS, RD, vice president and director of nutrition at Ketchum, a global public relations company. “A first-hand account provides a new perspective on tips for National Nutrition Month that resonate with readers. This will not only provide media with timely, unique content that benefits them both personally and professionally but it also helps you build relationships.”
  • Write 31 tips for 31 days. Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BTD Nutrition Consultants, says, “You can post them on your social media platforms or e-mail a tip a day to your favorite reporters. Start out with a blurb about the history of NNM, and send a tip a day from there.”
  • Highlight food trends. “Ancient grains are poised to be the breakout stars of 2017. Quinoa has become a household name, but grains like teff, sorghum, and amaranth are unfamiliar to most of the public,” says Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS, spokesperson for the Academy. She suggests creating a TV segment around more unusual ancient grains, using a title such as “Beyond Quinoa: How to Cook With Ancient Grains.” “Come up with three simple recipes using ancient grains and prepare them before going on set. Once on air, describe the benefits of ancient grains and cover all the many ways you can use them in cooking. People are looking for quick and easy meals, so review the recipes you’ve brought with you, including time-saving tips and what to do with the leftovers.” She adds, “If you’re filming with a reporter or news anchor, have them taste the dishes you’ve brought so that they can share their opinion with viewers.”
  • Focus on taste and let nutrition naturally follow. “I’m all about the food! I recommend showing people how simple it can be to incorporate delicious, healthful recipes into their regimen,” says Michelle Dudash, RDN, Cordon Bleu-certified chef and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families: Get Meals on the Table in Minutes With Simple and Satisfying Whole-Foods Recipes You and Your Kids Will Love. “While it’s good to cover some nutrition points, I prefer to put more emphasis on the deliciousness of a dish, how you can make substitutions and versatility of a dish. Select one or two recipes within a theme, like five-ingredient dinners.” She adds, “If you don’t have the time or know-how to create recipes, many RD bloggers or RD cookbook authors are usually more than happy to let you use their recipes when you provide credit and a link to their website. Just ask.”
  • Think outside the box fork. “Journalists love it when you can present them with fresh ideas and viewpoints on tried and true information,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RDN, HFS, founder of Capitol Nutrition Group and author of Body Kindness. “You’ll have better luck getting placed and reaching as many people as possible with a unique spin. Plus, you’ll maximize the impact you have in changing people’s lives. And be positive in your messages. I will usually say yes to interviews because I know that getting my message out there will be a breath of fresh air in a sea of negativity. For example, even though I don’t prescribe weight loss or dieting in any way, I may still participate in an article about weight loss where I can share a positive message like ‘You can create healthful habits even without weight loss.’ Most of the time, they print those leads that matter.”

— Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, is a nutrition communications consultant and adjunct professor of nutrition in San Diego. She’s the recipe creator behind the popular blog, freelance writer for Shape and Fitness magazines and coauthor of Fueling Fertility.

2 Comment

  1. Dietitians really, truly are the go-to health care professional all things regarding health and nutrition. Please be aware of charlatans who are “nutritionists,” look for REGISTERED dietitian if you want sound, scientifically proven advice!

    1. Thanks so much Amy for your comment! I love to promote the credibility of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists and the labor of schooling, internships and commitment to continuing education as we progress forward in the future of nutrition!

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