Depression in the Media Strategies for Talking to Reporters

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					 Depression in the Media:
Strategies for Talking to Reporters

U-M Depression Center Colloquium
    Why does it matter?
 In today’s information-saturated
society, the news media and informal
  media influence public opinion,
  patient/parent/clinician behavior
and public policy like never before.
Who do we need to reach & how?
•   Journalists and editors
•   The undiagnosed and under-treated
•   “Empowered” patients, families & advocates
•   Publicity-conscious industry & government
•   Discerning donors hoping to make a difference
•   Clinicians and payors who need evidence-based
    aid in depression and related disorders
 All of these audiences need:
• Information spoken/written in language
  they can understand & use
• Credible, independent sources
• Context and lack of “hype”
• Information readily available via
  accessible channels, especially Web
• Constant stream of “newness”
Depression in the News: Good News
 • Clinical trial recruitment and results
      • Rx, behavioral, combined, wellness, complementary
 •   Genetic findings – differences in “vulnerability”
 •   Neuroscience – differences in “chemistry”
 •   Outcomes & economics - better understanding
 •   Celebrities who use fame to bring attention
 •   “Teachable moments” linked to news events
 •   Public-service pieces on depressive disorders
                         The Oprah Winfrey Show, 4/5:
                      Depressed, Mentally Ill & Famous



                      Therapy Said Good as Drugs
                      for Some Depression
 Hollywood.com
 Shields Reveals
 Depression Hell                                         Steroid addiction
                                                         a risk for young
                               Contents under            athletes
                               pressure:                 Withdrawal can cause
Newer Antidepressants          Academic communities      depression, suicidal
                               pay increased attention   behavior
Work 2 Ways                    to graduate students'
SSRIs boost serotonin levels   mental health
on two fronts, study shows
Depression in the News: Bad News
• Medication backlash
   – Adolescent SSRI controversy
   – Vague or conflicting data
   – General mistrust of mental health profession
• High-profile crime/tragic events
   – “Prozac defense”
   – Suicides
• Lack of progress on parity policies
• Individual patients’ “horror stories”
 Shooter's family wonders                Red Lake teen wasn't
 about medication effect                 alone in his despair
 Weise's aunt says Prozac dose
 recently upped

                                           Compromise mental
                                           health bill advances



Issaquah schools grapple         Legislature rejects mental health bill:
with suicide                     Lawmakers cite budgetary concerns

                          SSRI Data Continue To
                          Confound Researchers
Depression in the News: No News

• Wary researchers and clinicians
• Lack of willing first-person
  spokespeople
• Lack of visual appeal limits TV news
• Missed opportunities to use natural
  “news pegs”
   Recent UMDC Newsmakers
• Michelle Riba: April Health Minute video & press
  release on cancer depression, APA lead spokesperson
• Reg Williams & Bonnie Hagerty: Arch. Psych. Nursing
  paper (U-M news release)
• John Greden: US News & World Report grad school
  mental health
• Dan Maixner: TV interviews on TMS trial
• Huda Akil: FGF Pritzker Consortium paper in PNAS
  (UMHS press release)
           The Players
       UMDC            MEDIA
•   Clinicians               •   Newspapers
•   Researchers              •   TV & radio
•   Administration
                      PR     •   Magazines
•   Outreach staff
                     staff   •   Health web sites
•   Affiliates               •   Trade publications
U-M Depression Center’s Roles
• First, best, only – national leadership
• Reliable, credible, responsive source of experts
  for reporters
    – Top-of-mind, top-of-Rolodex (or Google)
•   Continuous stream of research results
•   Useful web site & programs for the public
•   Clinical guidance and training for providers
•   Evidence & advice for payors & policymakers
             Special Challenges
• Finding patients who will “tell their story”
  is difficult because of stigma
• Media & public perceptions and preconceptions
  get in the way
• Retaining credibility means disclosing ties to pharma,
  and being careful about what you allow in your name
• Other usual risks and challenges:
   – Talking to reporters takes time
   – Responsiveness and agility in communications
     are hard work – especially with breaking news
Aren’t there risks to media exposure?
                 Yes.
           But we risk more
   if we don’t work with the media!
• Missed patient care   • Incomplete/incorrect
  & trial recruitment     public perception of
  opportunities           key issues
• Lost chance to reach • Lack of recognition for
  clinicians & gov’t     U-M achievements
 What kinds of interactions might
you have with PR staff & reporters?
•   Press release & interviews on your latest research
•   Publicity for new clinical trial/clinical service
•   Expert opinion on a topic in your sub-specialty
•   Health Minute feature story: video & press release
•   Commenting on someone else’s research
•   Commenting on a societal event, issue or trend
•   Compelling stories about patients
•   Crisis/problem situations
       What makes a reporter tick?
• Most reporters serve a general audience
   –   Most have no (or basic) medical/scientific knowledge
   –   Might ask “dumb questions” or seek better quotes
   –   See themselves as serving the “public interest”
   –   Audience: speaking to “ordinary people”
• Reporters are on tight deadlines
   – Respond quickly to requests or tell PR you can’t do it
• Reporters have little space/time to tell the story
   – Keep your answers short, especially with TV/radio
• Reporters value their independence
   – You probably won’t see questions or stories
     ahead of time, but you can ask to verify quotes
Timing is everything: The embargo system
• Embargoes are designed to increase media coverage
   – “Scout’s honor” system: Reporter agrees that if given the
     news in advance, he/she will not publish it until set date
   – Increases newsworthiness and coverage of research news
   – Gives reporter time to prepare, increases accuracy
• Journals/professional societies routinely use them
• Only select reporters get embargoed news
   – Privilege can be revoked if embargo is “broken”
• Activity permitted during embargo period:
   – Sharing paper/abstract with reporters, interviews
     by authors/outside experts, video/audio recording
        How to talk to a reporter
• Work with PR office to anticipate questions
  and prepare for interview
   – Media training is available!
• Have key messages and “sound bites” in mind
• Avoid jargon, don’t assume knowledge, speak
  colloquially and at high school level
• Except for live TV/radio, it’s OK to repeat answers
• Forget about “off the record”
• Don’t play favorites or ignore “small”
  media requests
    The Role of UMHS PR Staff
• Seek out news ideas       • Consult with leadership
• Devise best publicity     • Fill requests for expert
  strategies for stories      sources & patients
• Write accurate &          • Counsel patients &
  readable materials          families, handle consents
• Release & “pitch”         • Escort cameras in
  stories to media            patient areas
• Prepare for crisis and    • Report PR results to
  strategic communication     UMHS community

                 …and it’s all free!
      UMHS Publicity Vehicles
   For news media           For other audiences
• Press releases           • UMHS web sites
• Health Minute series     • Bulletin, Star, E-News,
  (TV, radio, print)         Applause!, M News Now
• Pitch calls or e-mails   • University Record
• Response to inquiries    • Medicine at Michigan
• UMHS, UMMS,              • Advertising, brochures
  UMDC web sites             (charges may apply)
• External web sites       • Referring MD fax
  and e-mail lists           (small charge)
        When to contact PR staff
• You have an interesting paper or abstract accepted
• There’s breaking news on a topic in your specialty
• You’re starting a unique or new clinical service
• You need patients for a clinic or subjects for a trial
• A company, journal, society, patient advocacy
  group or patient contacts you about publicity
• A reporter calls your office or e-mails you directly
   – Let your support staff know they can run requests through PR first!
• You have an idea for a Health Minute feature
  story on a topic important to public health
How to handle bad news or crisis
• First: Call or page PR staff for help and advice
• Don’t panic or clam up (ask “Can I call you back?”)
• Put the best face on information,
  but don’t distort or omit key facts
• Try to understand reporter’s perspective,
  goals and time constraints
• Empathize with any expressed concerns
• Refer reporter to other sources and
  experts for context and balance
              The End Result:
  Talking to reporters can be good for you!
• Better public/peer awareness of research results
• Better public understanding of the importance of
  depression research
• Increased chance that your findings will have an
  impact on future research or clinical practice
• Visibility within UMHS, U-M & beyond
• Clinical trial/patient recruitment
• Funding agency/donor appreciation
• Unexpected benefits!
     How to contact UMHS PR
Call: 647-1154 (Kara Gavin direct) or 764-2220
(if it’s urgent, ask to speak with my colleagues)

E-mail: kegavin@umich.edu (or Groupwise)
Fax: 615-2169
Page: 9554 (There’s a PR person on-call after hours & on weekends)

Submit events at: www.med.umich.edu/prmc/subform.htm
Fax broadcasts to referring MDs, and Telecare
recordings for public calls: Lynn Bryant

				
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