Make Your Mark with Media Skills

Make Your Mark with Media Skills

February 4, 2013

Kim Kirchherr, MS, RD, LDN, CDE
RDBA Executive Committee 

Media skills are an important part of your skillset when it comes to educating the public effectively.  Whether doing a live TV or radio interview, pretaped segments, a video for a blog or website, or a presentation in store or at a trade show, honing these skills can make the difference in being asked back and/or growing an audience following.  In addition to knowing nutrition content and the science behind the message, there are other aspects to keep in mind when planning and executing nutrition education in a variety of spaces:

  • Know Your Topic and the Messaging “Rules.”  Picking the top three take away messages is one of the most basic, yet effective, things to do to prepare for media interviews.  Evidence-based food and nutrition information can be overwhelming to the public.  As the expert, narrow it down to the “must have” information and use language that is appropriate for the audience, from kids to seniors, high school graduates to college educated. 
  • Know Your Audience. Find out as much as possible about the audience before preparing talking points to be sure your message can be heard and understood.  Be sure to use words wisely – think about label claims, serving sizes, and keep your message appropriate for a broad audience– can you weave a phrase in for someone managing a chronic condition?  For example, when doing a taped presentation for an audience on weight management, does your message work for someone who needs to lose 5 pounds or 50 pounds? 
  • Give Credit and Context. Be sure to properly credit sources, and when discussing nutrition research, identify whether or not it’s a single, “promising” study or if it’s backed by years of research.   Share only information that is sound – ride the trends – but bring them into context with proven information.   Network to find the content experts needed to fact check – from food safety to statistics on public health – details matter.   
  • Remember the Regulations. It’s also imperative to use words wisely – keep Food and Drug Administration (FDA) label claims and phrases like “high in calcium” or “low fat” in context and be aware of all Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations impacting your segment/presentation as well.  Not sure about this aspect?  Be sure to check out the links at the end of this article to learn more and look into formal media training.  If you have already been media trained, consider ongoing training to stay up to speed on the latest regulations and guidance for all media outlets.
  • Know When to Say No.  Sometimes a story isn’t a good fit personally or professionally.  It’s ok to turn it down, pass it to a colleague, or ask if it can be tweaked to be more scientifically accurate or correct.  Trendy topics can sometimes be tricky to navigate, and at times may be ones you don’t want to take on.  To truly be the go-to expert,  be sure that the story matches the skillset you have – and building a network of professional colleagues means you have resources to pass stories on to – and they may pass stories to you, too. 
  • Know Your Outlets.  Familiarize yourself with the stations in your community or region.  Watch the shows that have guests and follow them in social media.  Knowing the format, personality of the show, and the anchors or deejays is important for getting your point across – knowing your audience for the story includes the people you will be working with and talking to in addition to who is watching and/or listening.
  • Know Yourself.  Pay attention to how you present yourself.  When you’re first getting started, have someone videotape your interview and watch it back. Over time, keep watching – ask trusted colleagues for feedback on content, presentation style including hair, makeup and wardrobe.   No matter how long you have been doing something there is always room to improve and learn. 

For further information: