Dermatology KOLs on Becoming a Go-To Media Expert

Dermatology KOLs Adam Friedman, MD and Joel L. Cohen, MD, and Heather Onorati, former dermatology magazine editor and managing editor for Pathogens and Immunity journal, share their expert advice on becoming a go-to media expert in the dermatology

When Adam Friedman, MD, began his dermatology career, he made the most of every media opportunity that came his way. He sent reporters scientific papers he mentioned in his interviews. He got reporters’ contact information to stay in touch. He always responded to media inquiries in a timely fashion. Over time, going above and beyond to develop media relationships paid off.

“There are some journalists I work with who I know their families,” Dr. Friedman said. “These are the best relationships.”

So how can an early career dermatologist become a go-to media expert? Here are some helpful tips from media savvy dermatologists and a former magazine editor:

Use Available Resources

“For those who go into academic medicine, getting started is easier,” Dr. Friedman said. “Every academic center has a communications department that is responsible for press releases, announcing faculty, covering a paper, or from a timely perspective they will put out media teasers related to various events. These departments also have media trainings for faculty.”

Dr. Friedman recommended the American Academy of Dermatology’s Media Relations Tool Kit, which includes talking points on several dermatology conditions.

Know Outlets and Reporters

According to Heather Onorati, former dermatology magazine editor and managing editor for Pathogens and Immunity journal, “Having a willingness to learn what outlets are covering dermatology and who the writers are is a good first step. Start keeping track of those writers who are reaching out and which outlets they are with.”

Reach Out to Reporters Periodically

“Provide them information they might be interested in covering – studies you’ve recently published, work or programs that you’re involved in, etc.,” said Onorati. “Let them know that you’re available if they have questions and willing to provide more insight.”

Denver-based dermatologist and Mohs surgeon Joel L. Cohen, MD, said, “Just because you think someone knows your credentials doesn’t mean they know your story. Represent yourself and your expertise.”

Capitalize on Lectures

“More often than not there are dermatology press at medical meetings, especially larger meetings,” Dr. Friedman said. “Ask the media team how to highlight your session to the media.”

Respond to Media Inquiries Quickly

“If you are busy, respond quickly and say, ‘I’ll get back on times,’” Dr. Friedman said. “Often the person who reaches out first gets the opportunity.”

Dr. Cohen mentioned he once missed out on a USA Today interview because he was boarding an airplane. “I said I would land in two hours and could talk then, but that wasn’t sufficient. Sometimes things happen very quickly, and there are firm deadlines.”

Convey Availability to Office Staff

“It’s helpful to convey to your staff when you’re away from the office how to get ahold of you for inquiries from major media outlets,” Dr. Cohen said. He noted one of the best articles he has ever been a part of occurred when TIME magazine called his cell phone while on the way to the airport. He credited the awareness and quick thinking of his operations director to text him that she gave out his cell phone number for an important media call that was coming right away while she was still on the phone with the media outlet.

Don’t Overstep Your Expertise

“Just because you are a dermatologist doesn’t mean you are an expert in every facet of dermatology and armed to speak with authority in every subject,” Dr. Friedman said. “I’ve seen colleagues make comments on subjects that they don’t know and be wrong because it was more important to be in the story than to be right.”

Dr. Cohen was once approached with a media inquiry about CBD products. “Since this is not my expertise, I gave them to a friend, actually – Dr. Adam Friedman – who is an expert on the topic.” Dr. Cohen also recommended referring out when asked about new procedures or clinical trials where you don’t have the experience. “When people are talking about things, they should talk about things they are appropriately trained about and have expertise or experience.”

Ask for Questions in Advance

Dr. Cohen cautioned, “If they are willing to share questions it doesn’t mean they will stay on script, so be prepared.” He noted a TV interview where the interviewer ended up asking him a lot of questions before they went on camera, which led to the interviewer incorporating what Dr. Cohen had planned to answer within the questions. “Having an agenda and trying to stick with it is helpful whether it’s print media or a TV segment.”

Prepare

“Take time to review the most up-to-date literature and evidence on the subject,” Dr. Friedman said. “Don’t assume you can just wing it. The journalist will appreciate the level of investment, and they will come back to you.”

Explain

“Be willing to explain details to ensure their understanding,” Onorati said.

Point to Manuscripts

“It’s rare that I don’t cite something in literature,” Dr. Friedman said. “Providing a reporter with a published manuscript makes the article better and takes the burden off of you to remember everything.” Dr. Cohen often sends reporters references to make sure the reporters know the data. This also makes a fact checker’s job much easier.

Be Transparent

“Never be polarized in either direction as an endorser or third-party spokesperson,” recommended Dr. Friedman. “Always be transparent regarding conflicts of interest.”

Address Concerns Directly

“When there’s something that concerns or upsets you, just call them to explain,” Onorati said.

Maintain the Relationship

“If you like working with someone, foster the relationship so they think of you first,” Dr. Friedman said.

He’s leveraging the media relationships he’s developed to pay it forward, introducing colleagues to the media so they can form their own strong relationships. “Bring people who you trust in and reporters will trust you even more.”

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