Handling the media: communication and presentation skills for healthcare professionals
By John Illman. JIC Books.
"HIGHLY COMMENDED". 2017 British Medical Association Medical Book Awards. September 11. (See reviews below)
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The first book of its kind for healthcare professionals and healthcare communication professionals such as press officers, PRs and health and medical charities, it focuses on both the spoken and written word. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for discounts for bulk orders of three or more – and please buy this title from this website.
What the reviewers are saying about Handling the media
PULSE: "The book is accessible, practical and written with an authority which is hard to argue with. As a starting point for the budding media doc, or to simply keep a copy on the surgery bookshelf just-in-case, it is well worth a look."
THE PHARMACEUTICAL JOURNAL: "This book provides valuable and comprehensive advice for any healthcare professional who wants to make their dealings with the media as effective and satisfying as possible....This 184-page paperback book is the probably the only one you will ever need on this subject, and is good value at £14.99.''
JOURNAL OF FAMILY PLANNING AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTHCARE "This really is an excellent book, providing easy to read, well-crafted information presented with a logical flow....Now more than ever is the time to work with the media... To support this, John Illman’s book is the one book I most definitely recommend."
DOCTORS FOR THE NHS "Handling the Media is an attractively designed and extremely well-written 184-page paperback...John’s wide experience shines throughout with practical tips."
SIGNIFICANCE (Journal of the Royal Statistical Society) " This is an excellent book...Particularly insightful is his discussion of "bridging" techniques which are used to acknowledge and to respond constructively to difficult questions."
FRONTLINE (Journal of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy) If you want advice on how to find inspiration and avoid writing cul de sacs, this book will undoubtedly help."
BMA (BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION) MEDICAL BOOK AWARDS 2017) "...Good book by an experienced author. The book is a timely publication because many health professionals are being contacted by the social media, TV, radio and press. This book would help them practically.
THE REVIEWS IN FULL
PULSE Review by Dr Daniel James, a GP in Suffolk. (In September 2015, Pulse was reported by the National Medical Readership Survey, for the third year running, to be the UK's most widely read GP Magazine, with nearly half of all GPs reading an average issue.)
Dr James wrote: Often subjected to trial by media, it seems only fair that healthcare professionals have something in their toolkit for assistance when called upon for comment or opinion. This book seeks to offer that assistance. It feels as though it was mainly written with doctors in mind and gives practical insight into dealing with requests for interviews and how to prepare yourself for the rigours of appearing in the public eye.
John Illman is a medical journalist, who has written for a number of national newspapers and was the health editor at The Guardian. He was also at one time editor of GP magazine and chair of the UK Medical Journalists Association. Writing this guide from a journalist’s perspective provides insight about what the media is really up to when asking doctors for input. Reassuringly it’s not usually anything malicious.
Illman breaks down his guide into specific sections covering the types of public appearance healthcare professionals may be called upon to make, from TV to radio and print media. He also touches on use of social media as a tool for science communication and talks about some more general presentation skills. He illustrates his points with anecdotes from his own career and each chapter is closed with a summary of the take home points, useful for boning up if faced with a sudden telephone call from a journalist.
The book is accessible, practical and written with an authority which is hard to argue with. As a starting point for the budding media doc, or to simply keep a copy on the surgery bookshelf just-in-case, it is well worth a look. 8/10
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Pharmaceutical Journal Review by Steve Bremer MRPharmS, a freelance writer and editor, with over 20 years experience of community pharmacy practice and journalism. (The official journal of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the 'PJ' is believed to be "among the oldest professional journals in the world". It first appeared in July 1841 as a monthly publication: Transactions of the Pharmaceutical Meetings.)
Mr Bremer wrote: This book provides valuable and comprehensive advice for any healthcare professional who wants to make their dealings with the media as effective and satisfying as possible. But it also explains why health stories are presented as they are, putting journalists’ translation of these issues into context.
Author John Illman is now a media and presentation skills presenter and communications consultant, but his years of experience writing for and editing national newspapers and professional and trade medical publications make him one of the best-qualified individuals to write on this subject. His wealth of real-life examples and anecdotes bring important points to life as he explains topics, such as what makes the news, how to make an impression via different media, and different types of interview.
As one might expect from a journalist, the content is presented clearly, succinctly and is interesting to read. Page layout and design is also extremely clear, with text presented in bite-sized chunks. The occasional cartoon and photograph help to make for an easy read. The 12 chapters are summarised in the introduction, and cover topics including: ‘Responding to a media interview request’, ‘Social media and blogging’ and ‘Writing for the media’. In a nutshell, their overarching message is that, with a few simple skills and a basic understanding of the workings of the media, most healthcare professionals need not fear journalists and can communicate effectively.
A summary of key points at the end of each chapter is a useful check that nothing has been missed, as well as perhaps serving as a quick memory jogger minutes before that big interview or presentation. References are given at the end of each chapter for those who want to explore the subject in greater depth. This 184-page paperback book is the probably the only one you will ever need on this subject, and is good value at £14.99.
The Pharmaceutical Journal 2016; 297, No. 7892.Online doi: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201541
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Healthcare. Review by Toni Belfield, co-author of The Handbook of Sexual Health in Primary Care and author of the FPA Contraceptive Handbook: A Guide for Family Planning and Other Health Professionals. The Journal is published by the BMJ Group on behalf of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Ms Belfield wrote: How well do we know the media? Do you avoid talking with journalists or do you see how important journalists can be in promoting issues that relate to sexual and reproductive healthcare (SRH). Many are wary of the press; having concerns about being misquoted, worries about issues being sensationalised,or fear of being made to look foolish. John Illman sympathises with this but makes the point that while this may be a risk, most reporters want to get things right and that “they are only as good as their sources”.
Illman is a media and presentation skills trainer and a communication consultant, author and broadcaster. He has over 30 years of experience as a national medical correspondent and health editor and was Chair of the Medical Journalists’ Association for 6 years. Recognising the importance of good communication, he helped to pioneer Europe’s first BA (Hons) Medical Journalism course for medical students. He is passionate about good communication and the important role the media has in communicating issues. He stresses the difference between information — ‘giving out’ versus communication, which is about ‘getting through’. This book is all about ‘getting through’ and is written specifically for healthcare professionals, medical researchers, press officers, public relations practitioners and people working for medical charities.
This really is an excellent book, providing easy to read, well-crafted information presented with a logical flow. The 12 chapters are totally complementary and guide the reader through working with journalists –- “knowing how they think and work should make you a better communicator”. Outlining how the news business works – What makes news? How to prepare and respond appropriately to differing media interviews. Good, clear information is provided on making an impression, how to write effectively for the media and how to understand and use social media to best advantage. Illman provides numerous practical examples and pitfalls about working with the media – he discusses how to develop and present messages, the importance of ‘keeping it simple’,recognising that simple does not mean low quality. The golden rule running through the book is that when you have something to say, say it succinctly, get straight to the point and restrict yourself to three things if you want them remembered. Essential rules also include good preparation – “there is no such thing as a hard question if you have anticipated it and prepared a good answer”, have a sound knowledge of your expert area, and speak only within your competencies.
Now more than ever is the time to work with the media to raise the profile of SRH to improve people’s understanding of this important healthcare intervention. To support this, John Illman’s book is the one book I most definitely recommend.
Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Healthcare 2016; 42: 246. doi:10.1136/jfprhc-2016-101579
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Doctors for the NHS. Review by the late Dr Peter Draper, who was instrumental in creating the study of health policy in the UK. Described in The Guardian "as the country's outstanding public health practitioner in the second half of the 20th century,'' he launched the Unit for the Study of Health Policy at Guy's Hospital in London. Doctors for the NHS is campaigning for the restoration of the NHS as a publicly funded, publicly provided and publicly accountable service.
Dr Draper wrote: I think this book could be usefully read by all doctors, nurses and other health professionals who have to deal with the media and by medical journalists in training. Handling the Media is an attractively designed and extremely well-written 184-page paperback. Its author, John Illman, is a very experienced medical journalist whose career included 5 years as a medical correspondent of the Daily Mail, 8 years as health editor of The Guardian, 3 years as medical correspondent on The Observer and founder editor of New Psychiatry.
The title of the book gives a very good idea of its content. It consists of 12 chapters such as Journalists; The news business; Responding to a media interview request; and Social media and blogging. Each chapter begins and ends with a neat summary.
Would the book help members of Doctors for the NHS liaise successfully with local and national media? I think the answer is definitely positive. For example, several chapters helpfully discuss different aspects of media interviews. John’s wide experience shines throughout with practical tips. Would the book help the reader overcome the widespread bias in newspapers against public services? The book doesn’t discuss such bias – it is focused on the media as they are rather than how they might be if reformed, for example, along the lines advocated by the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom. A second edition of the book might well include a chapter on media bias.
Significance Review by Paul Webb for the Royal Statistical Society journal
Dr Webb wrote: This book is primarily for healthcare professionals who may not know to communicate with the media or who may be reluctant to do so. Written by an experienced medical writer, the book shows how the interests of journalists differ from those of heallthcare professionals, while emphasising that the relationship between the two groups need not be an antagonistic one. Because journalists will be interested in stories which are novel, universally appealing and controversial, the author argues that healthcare workers with the media to avoid misrepresentation. But to engage successfully, communication skillls need to be honed.
John Illman consequently offers concrete advice on how to respond to a request for a media interview and how to prepare for the interview once accepted. Particularly insightful is his discussion of “bridging” techniques which are used to acknowledge and to respond constructively to difficult questions. This is an important skill to master where the agenda of the interviewer and interviewee differ.
Useful guidance is also given on how to prepare and deliver presentations and how to use social media to communicate effectively. The advice on writing for the press and on pitching an outline of an article to an editor is similarly good and will appeal to readers who want to make medical journalism their career.
This is an excellent book. There is some theory in relation to journalistic balance, bias and law, but the focus is practical. It is well written and will certainly encourage the reader to believe that they can use the media to communicate with a non-specialist public.
Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. April 2017
Frontline Review by Ian McMillan, deputy editor
Journalist and trainer John Illman covers a lot of ground in the 12 chapters of this 184-page book. As someone with 30 years' experience as writer specialising in the healthcare field, he is able to weave in plenty of real-life anecdotes to bolster his advice on getting your message across in the media.
My experience of working in the communications field is limited mainly to the writing side, and I enjoyed finding out more about how the broadcast media works. If, for example, you would like to become the go-to person for a particular condition or aspect of physiotherapy practice, you will find plenty of food for thought in this publication. Illman has been a health correspondent for both the Daily Mail and the Guardian and, while the two papers may have strongly contrasting readerships and political outlooks, the nuts and bolts of what makes interesting and lively 'copy' differs little. For example, Illman recommends never using a long word if a short one will do, using active rather than passive verbs, and removing any word from your submission that can be cut.
His style is upbeat and encouraging but resolutely realistic throughout. For example, you might get no feedback at all from an editor if your article is rejected, but adding an eye-catching photo or graphic to your written piece might just sway an editor's verdict. Of course, in the 'old days', you had to navigate your way through various gatekeepers or editors before your work could be shared with the outside world. Today, it's relatively easy to sidestep such filters by starting your own blog, and Illman devotes a chapter to using social media, such as blogs and tweets, as a way to voice your concerns and opinions.
In my experience, many would-be writers who earn their living in the healthcare field are put off because they find the idea of writing too daunting. My advice would be to start in modest ways by, for example, writing something short for your trust newsletter, or by sending Frontline a punchy letter on something you feel passionate about. In fact, I am always on the lookout for letters (sent by email these days rather than post) for the Comment pages.
If you want advice on how to find inspiration and avoid writing cul-de-sacs, this book will undoubtedly help.
BMA (BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION) MEDICAL BOOK AWARDS 2017: CITATION
This book aims to encourage the target readership to make the most the most of media interviews. Most of the readership has reservations – not without justification – about the media, but if medicine does not represent or communicate its position in the media, it risks being misrepresented.
People who understand the media are bettter able to work with reporters. Much of the target readership do not undserstand news values. For example, healthcare professionals frequently tell journalists: "You should write about this: it is important." They are right, but the worthy and the newsworthy are not the same.
The book sets out, among other things, to show that knowing what makes news is a prerequisite for effective communication in the media, and that, although the words 'communication' and 'information' are often used as though they were interchangeable, they are not. Information is about giving out; communication is about getting through.
The author believes it is the first book of its kind for healthcare profesionals about written and spoken communication.
It is a good book by an experienced author. There are chapters on journalists; the news business; responding to a media interview request; preparimg for an interview; different types of interview; making an impression; writing for the media; social media and blogging; presenting to the media and other audiences; patient case histories.
It would be very helpful to healthcare professionals, medical researchers, press and PR professionals; professional representative bodies and medical charities. The book is a timely publication because many health professionals are being contacted by the social media, TV, radio and press. This book would help them practically.
Chapter One Journalists. Who are the reporters behind the headlines and what drives them? Their stories are rarely told. Knowing how they think and work should make you a better media communicator.
Chapter Two The news business. What makes news? Healthcare professionals frequently tell journalists: “You should write about this. It’s important.” They may be right, but the worthy and the newsworthy are not necessarily the same. Knowing what makes news is a prerequisite for effective media communication.
Chapter Three Responding to a media interview request. Inappropriate responses to interview requests are probably the most common reason for bad outcomes.
Chapter Four Preparing for a media interview is about defining objectives, developing messages and anticipating and answering questions. Preparation is essential when an ill-advised comment can go around the world in seconds.
Chapter Five Different types of interview describes how to respond when the interviewer and interviewee have the same agenda and – critically – when they don’t.
Chapter Six Making an impression covers the varying demands of different interview formats such as recorded and live broadcast interviews, and examines issues such as press conferences and your right to see an article featuring or mentioning you, before publication.
Chapter Seven Writing for the media is about finding your voice, developing and submitting ideas, research, interviewing, the writing process and the different storytelling traditions in medicine and the media.
Chapter Eight Social media and blogging explains how blogging has shaken up and extended medical writing, and the importance of Twitter in establishing a digital identity. It warns about the risks of presenting yourself to the online world without training and without the restraining hands of an editor and protection of peer review.
Chapter Nine Presenting to the media and other audiences is about planning and giving a talk that may become headline news.
Chapter Ten Patient case histories – a suitable case for treatment examines the benefits and risks for patients who speak to journalists. It points out that media interviewees are often the very opposite of what you may expect – impulsive and over-trusting rather than cagey and cautious.
Chapter Eleven Narrative medicine – keep taking the words explores how writers such as the twice winner of the Man Booker Prize Hilary Mantel and the late British journalist John Diamond have used writing to manage and understand their illnesses and to reach out to fellow patients. This chapter also looks at the role of therapeutic writing for healthcare professionals.
Chapter Twelve Medicine and the media: 1950-2000. A brief history looks at key developments that have shaped medical and health journalism since World War Two. These include the thalidomide tragedy, consumerism, the first human-to-human heart transplant and the internet.
Other books by John Illman
- The Body Machine (1981) with heart transplant pioneer Christian Barnard;
- Pathways to the Mind (1984) with Malcolm Lader;
- Use your brain to beat Depression (2004);
- Use your brain to beat Panic and Anxiety (2005);
- Beat Panic and Anxiety (2006); and
- Politics, Protest and Progress: 100 years of animal research – the History of the Research Defence Society (2008)