Author: European Council for Classical Homeopathy
• Setting up and preparing for an interview with press, radio or TV
• Choosing who to contact
• How to contact the media
• What to do after having contacted the newspaper, radio or TV station
• What to do during an interview
• After the interview
• Using a newspaper’s Reader’s column
• Press conferences
• How associations can help their members
Setting up and preparing for an interview with press, radio or TV
• Decide what you want to achieve – be specific!
First ask yourself the question: What do I want to achieve? What is the message I want to get through? Your objectives should be as specific as possible e.g. it is not specific to say that you want to simply disseminate information about homeopathy. It is specific to set an objective that 20 patients per month over a period of three months will consult you for treatment of allergies after the publication of an article in your local newspaper. This objective is of course for your personal use only.
• Select a target group – focus on specific large groups of patients
In order to reach as many readers/patients as possible you should focus on a large and specific group of the population. You are more likely to attract attention when you focus on a specific group of patients such as patients suffering from hayfever or children suffering from recurring respiratory tract infections. You are not likely to attract interest among newspapers and their readers if your main message is comprised of such topics as: what homeopathy is; the principles or philosophy of homeopathy; the history of homeopathy; the homeopathy profession. This sort of information is of little importance and interest to the general public. The policy of most newspapers is that they want to bring forward information that is of importance and relevance to the general public, the larger the number of readers the better. You are more likely to attract attention if you focus on a group of patients suffering from a common disease compared to a rare disease, e.g. pre-menstrual syndrome versus Gilbert’s syndrome. Neither will you attract interest among newspapers and readers if your message is that homeopathy is of general benefit for everyone and in general preventive.
Keep your focus on the average reader and do not try to explain to medical doctors or scientists what homeopathy is. Focus on what you can do and what the results of homeopathic treatment can be.
• Prepare summarised background material
The ideal story to present to the media should contain documentation that confirms your clinical experience, most ideally clinical research. Documentation with any results in favour of homeopathy is always of major importance, even though the conclusion in the research publication is not final or in spite of the fact that others may have criticised the publication. It is always the case within the area of research that some projects show positive results and some don’t. You can safely focus on the positive results as long as you point out what the weakness of the study is, and as long as you state that the positive results support your clinical experience and/or the clinical experience of your colleagues.
Background material such as research articles should preferably be prepared for the journalist by producing a summary of the content and in particular highlighting the conclusions. You should add the full reference to the article, but it is unnecessary to send the original article you are referring to. Most journalists are very busy and will be glad if you produce a summary of research articles, but the full references must be included to ensure that your statements are reliable and the journalist can check them if he/she wants to.
• Prepare clear and specific statements
Be clear on what you want to say, what your main messages are. Put down a number of important statements/sentences you absolutely want to communicate to the public.
• Statements should be patient centered
Your main statements should clearly point out what the specific benefits for specific groups of patients are. Examples are: More than half of all hayfever patients improve after homeopathy. 80 percent of all migraine patients are either much better or cured. Most children treated with homeopathy no longer need antibiotics. My experience after being in practice for 10 years is that 75 % of all women suffering from PMS improve on homeopathy. Winter depression can be prevented by starting homeopathic treatment half a year beforehand. You must of course be able to argue why this is so, preferably by referring to research articles and to your own and your colleagues’ experiences.
• Successfully treated patients
The most popular and effective way of informing the public is to present a patient who has been cured or who has clearly improved after starting homeopathic treatment. To inform the average reader, this type of information is more effective than any research article or any statement you may put forward. Research and your statements may be informative, but it is much easier for a reader to identify with an actual patient who has suffered from a disease they too are suffering from. Sceptics may argue against you in the article, but their statements will normally be of little significance if you can present a cured patient. As the saying goes: He who cures is right! Rely on your own experience and other supporting documentation if you cannot find a patient who is willing to come forward to the media.
• Be aware of who you are and who you are representing
Are you presenting the information on behalf of yourself, the centre where you are working, your association or any other group? Be clear about this and present any relevant background information on yourself such as your education, your experience (e.g. with 100 patients suffering from migraine), any cooperation with medical doctors, the start of your new project where you want to treat patients suffering from food allergies and intolerance, etc. Mention that you are member of an association with clearly defined criteria for the education and practice of homeopathy. Do not expect readers to remember the name of the association, but do repeat it in each interview so that readers in time will remember the title. Most patients are concerned about the quality of the services healthcare practitioners provide and information on your membership status and background will be informative and reassuring for them.
Choosing who to contact
• For regional impact choose local or regional newspapers, radio or television channels
National newspapers are often published in more significant numbers compared to local or regional ones. A local or regional newspaper however usually sells in larger numbers in a local region compared to a national one. You will therefore increase the possibility of reaching more readers who live in the areas around your practice. Associations wishing to contact newspapers should focus on national newspapers for interviews, but press releases should ideally also be sent to all local and regional newspapers.
• Exclusivity – or not?
Make up your mind as to whether you want to present the information to one newspaper, radio or television station only, or whether you want to present it to several/all. A newspaper will usually prefer to be provided with information they have exclusive rights to. Make sure you make them aware of it if you do give them exclusive rights. Whatever you do – do not be insulted, angry or sulky if the newspaper decides not to interview you, but try again later with another or an improved story. It is up to the newspaper to decide what they want to publish. You will reach many more newspapers, radio stations and television channels if you contact them all (or several) at once. This may have a long term effect in the sense that more newspapers will know of you and will be more likely to contact you if they want information about homeopathy. If however you choose to contact one newspaper only, you will be able to build a good relationship with that particular newspaper, and they may use you as their ’expert’ whenever they want an opinion on alternative approaches to healthcare issues.
How to contact the media
• Contact the media personally
Contact the newspaper personally either by telephone or by visiting the newspaper (journalists’ office). Preferably you should contact a journalist you know. Briefly present yourself and the news you have, and ask whether they would like more background information or an interview.
• Prepare an introductory letter
Prepare an introductory letter of only 5–10 lines where you present the main news first. Present your main message in titles such as ’Homeopathy cures migraine’ or ’Less antibiotics with homeopathy’. Then inform them briefly why you are making this statement, e.g. new research and/or your experience, and present yourself briefly. Finish by stating that the journalist may contact you for an interview or more information. Attach a written summary of a research article or any other documentation that may be of interest, and inform the journalist that you have more information you believe is of interest.
• Press releases are ’out’
It is very difficult to be heard simply by sending out press releases by fax or e-mail. Newspapers daily receive hundreds of press releases and other faxes. Your message might very easily end up in the dustbin with many others.
Individual homeopaths are not recommended to send press releases. This way of informing the media is normally only used when you want to contact a number of newspapers. For individual homeopaths it is usually better to contact one or two local or regional newspapers. If associations choose to send press releases these should be brief, to the point, a maximum of one page with 1.5 lines space in between each line. The main point of the message should be presented at in the first paragraph of the press release. It should be headed ‘Press Release’ at the top of the page. Do not include logos, drawings or pictures. Do not send press releases to press agencies as it is their job to prepare them. Send them the relevant information only. If you send information to press agencies and not directly to newspapers, radio or television, then make the press agency aware that you have sent the information to them exclusively.
• Send information to the appropriate individuals by e-mail or fax
Send the information you have directly to the journalist you know, by e-mail or fax. Do not send it by post as this takes too long time. A newspaper functions on speedy exchange of information through modern ways of communication. Also send a copy of your information to the editor’s office to ensure that the fax or e-mail reaches the newspaper.
• Use journalists you know, but not too often
Although the most effective way of ensuring that you are interviewed and that articles are published is to contact a journalist you know, be aware that if you contact one journalist too often the editor may decide that this particular journalist can no longer write articles about homeopathy, at least not for a while. Newspapers do this to ensure that they are not suspected of being partial, but to keep a clear policy of impartiality, transparency and objectivity.
What to do after having contacted the newspaper, radio or TV station
Be available by phone
The media works under enormous time pressure so you must be available by phone after you have contacted them. You risk losing a great opportunity if you are not. If it is difficult for you to do this, then include the telephone number of a colleague who is willing to be interviewed too. For associations – always have at least two contact persons.
What to do during an interview
• Use clear and specific statements
Use clear specific statements you have prepared in advance. If you really mean what you are saying then you will know your statements by heart. Reading out loud from written notes can give the impression that you do not know what you are talking about. Do not forget what your main messages are, irrespective of what comments e.g. a medical doctor or scientist may make. A clear ’yes’ or ’no’ is normally a good response, whereas ’I am not sure’ or ’I don’t know’ or ’maybe’ is of little help, and only creates insecurity among readers.
• Go straight to the point, stick to it, make it brief and interesting
Use strong statements, but be sure you can back them up with more information. Do not present too many reservations such as ’but it is of course not always so that …’. Point out what is positive, do not hesitate. Present your conclusion/your main statement first, especially on TV, as you never know how much time you have got, you may be on the air for only a few seconds.
• Use simple language
Remember that you are talking to the average reader or viewer, and not e.g. sceptical medical doctors or other practitioners of non-conventional medicine. Therefore use an understandable language with terms that are known to the public.
• Be aware of what you cannot say, be honest, be yourself and use your personality
Do not try to bluff and do not put forward statements that are too sensational to be believed. Examples of statements that won’t be believed are: ’All patients suffering from allergies are cured.’ ’Homeopathy can replace conventional medicine and hospitals are unnecessary if patients use homeopathy.’ Do not try to lie or cover up weakness, as you will often be exposed. Rather be honest and admit to weakness, but do not focus long on weak points. The main mistake critical doctors make when arguing against homeopathy is that they appear arrogant and superior, qualities that only increase readers’ or viewers’ aversion to doctors and increase their sympathy for the homeopath. This is particularly true for interviews and debate on television. Be yourself, use your personal qualities to bring forward your message. If you e.g. have a nice smile or a confidence building voice then use it. Look the journalist straight in the eyes. This is a sign of honesty and inner strength. Looking in other directions will only reduce your credibility.
• Be self-confident
Feel confident that you can put forward the statements your have prepared. Whatever happens no one but you has your experience and no one else can argue against your experience. Use authority, but not arrogance. If you can, feel free to include self-irony and make small jokes during the interview.
Dress as you normally do, but leave those true Sulphuric clothes at home! Do not wear a white shirt/clothes on television.
• Be prepared for tricky questions
Journalists often have tricky questions to start with, to try to push you slightly out of balance. This gives them more spontaneous responses from the individuals they interview. This is particularly true for interviews on radio and TV. Keep in mind what message it is you wish to bring forward to the public.
• Ask the journalist beforehand
Particularly for radio or television programs – feel free to ask the journalist what questions he/she is going to ask you beforehand. Quite often journalists will voluntarily inform you if you ask them.
• Reduce tension, be relaxed but enthusiastic
Homeopaths are often very good at making their patients feeling comfortable. So do what you normally do and everyone will feel comfortable. A journalist interviewing you and other individuals you meet for debate on radio and TV are human beings just like your patients. So do what you normally do – shake hands, be friendly. Touch reduces tension and stress, so both you and others will feel better. You are going to inform, not going to war. Reduce your own tension using whatever technique you know that works. Be conscious that you know best what you are doing, you are the homeopath, no one can take your experience away from you. Be aware of the fact that as homeopaths are still a group who are relatively rarely interviewed in the media. You will often be regarded as a ’weak part’ or representing a ’smaller group’ and therefore you will not be aggressively attacked, but met with friendliness and interest. So there is no need for you to behave any differently. Your enthusiasm for your work and the news you are bringing to the public is one of your great advantages. An enthusiastic person increases readers’ and viewers’ interest in you.
• The second of silence
When interviewed on radio or TV, feel free to have a few ’one second breaks’. While it is good to be sharp minded and present clear and quick responses, and it is equally important to take your time to think about what you are going to say when posed a difficult question. This normally only takes a second or two, and will often just increase interest among viewers who will be waiting to see whether you will be able to answer appropriately. They will respect the fact that you think about what you say – providing the pause is not too long!
• Contact details and public information
Always try to get your contact details included in the article or given out during the TV or radio interview –preferably given out by the interviewer rather than yourself. Or get the interviewer to ask you to give them. At the very least get the contact details of your professional association given out. Before ending your contact with the interviewer always ensure that your contact details are left with the information desk of the newspaper, radio or television station so that people who ring in for further information can access you and/or your professional association. Its useful to provide a one page briefing sheet to the media outlet you are working with which they can quickly photocopy and provide to their readers, viewers and listeners afterwards.
After the interview
Be aware that you do not have the right to edit written articles. In most countries, and unless the journalist uses a tape recorder, you will be given the right to have your quotes read out by the newspaper and decide whether they either can use your quote or not. Although this is your legal right most journalists will agree to let you have a look at the article in order to ensure that no facts are incorrect. But do not correct grammar or the layout of the article, this is the newspaper editor’s job.
Using the Newspaper’s Reader’s column
The readers’ column exists in most newspapers and is often read with great interest by many readers. Take the opportunity to write brief articles for this part of the newspaper. A brief article should preferably not be longer than 15 to 25 lines. Surveys repeatedly show that the shortest articles are read by the largest number of readers. The newspaper may cut your article if it is too long, so you might as well do it yourself. Any negative attack on homeopathy or non-conventional medicine is a good opportunity for you to clarify and increase focus on homeopathy and what you can do for patients. Be aware that newspapers will end debates going on between e.g. sceptical doctors and homeopaths if they continue using the same arguments. Your messages need to be relevant news and must include facts and arguments, but not ones you have already used.
Equally any good news about homeopathy reported in the press is a good time to make contact too to share your own experience.
For press conferences you can use many of the recommendations already put forward in this document. Start by asking yourself the question: What is it you wish to achieve? Press conferences should only be arranged when you have major news and wish to communicate it to a large cross-section of the media e.g. when you are responding to a crisis situation. Press conferences are complicated to plan, arrange and carry out. As a basic principle it is better to contact the media directly in order to be interviewed rather than organising a press conference. The media prefers exclusive information rather than information that is available to all other newspapers, radio and TV stations.
Individual homeopaths are not recommended to organize press conferences. Some associations may be able to do this, provided they have representatives who have experience with press conferences or who have extensive experience with being interviewed by the media. The invitation should not contain too much information, but sufficient information to attract attention. It may be a good idea to phrase your main points as questions. Do not expect all journalists to be prepared. Prepare documentation by producing summaries of the main points and leave copies for participants for reference and further reading (should they be interested). Make brief written documents with summaries and glossary lists available for all participants. Let a good presenter give a short presentation that makes the main points at the beginning and let experts answer questions afterwards. Do not always use the Chairperson of the association, but the individual who is best suited to respond to questions.
How associations can help their members
Homeopathic associations can help their members in a number of ways:
A. Arrange media seminars, with both theoretical information and useful practical exercises.
B. Inform members of any information on major events or news items that are going to be sent to the media, or when there is not enough time – what has been sent to the media.
C. Plan national media events, such as e.g. campaigns with a focus on specific diseases (e.g. hayfever and antibiotics in Norway) or Homeopathy Awareness Week in the United Kingdom. These events can include production of posters, leaflets, press releases, etc.
D. Send all members a document containing important facts that can be used in interviews and articles. This should include summaries of research articles, surveys and statistics, as well as statements put forward by individuals and organisations such as politicians, professors, medical doctors or celebrities. All facts must be accompanied by references. The association should make individual homeopaths aware that not all facts should be used at once, but only one or two relevant facts with each interview or article.
1. Media and publicity strategies. ECCH report 2002.
2. Hovland I.T.B.: Markedsundersøkelse av pasientgrunnlag, Dynamis nr.1 1996, Norske Homeopaters Landsforbund.
- Include all the basics – who, what, where, when and why.
- Make your news release as newsworthy as possible – unique and impactful to that particular news venue.
- Ensure that your writing and language is clear and concise.
- Be brief – keep news releases to one page if possible.
- If additional information is required, send it as fact sheets separate from the news release.
- Double-space your news release.
- IF POSSIBLE, send your news release electronically.
- Be accessible – always include your contact information (cell phone number, e-mail addresses and other ways to reach you at home or work.)
- FOLLOW UP with phone calls to reporters and editors.
- When speaking with the media – be upbeat & enrolling.
- Be prepared to provide complete information and to answer questions once you have a reporter’s interest.
- Be flexible – when calling a newsroom, ask if they are on a deadline. If so, ask when it would be a good time to call back. By working with the journalist’s busy schedule, you can improve or increase coverage of your project.
- You may want to bring a digital camera and take your own photographs of your event.
- Don’t use jargon or acronyms.
- Don’t hand deliver news releases.
- Don’t ramble on with the media. Think and respond in one- to two-sentence answers.
- Don’t say something you do not want to see in print or on the air: Assume nothing is “off the record” – even when talking casually before or after.
- Don’t take it personally if the media doesn’t show up at your event. Journalists are asked to cover a wide range of stories every day. Persistence pays off. If your story, offer to be interviewed, or op-ed is rejected, take the opportunity to ask the journalist what type of information they would find helpful and worthwhile to pursue.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Your contact information, name & phone number goes here
A CATCHY HEADLINE (or Name of Project) goes here
Free lecture on Homeopathic treatment for Ear Infections
World Homeopathic Awareness Week
CITY, STATE (where being held) –
Who, what, where and when of your project goes here – example below
Joan Griffin, an Albuquerque business owner, is hosting a fund-raiser to benefit The Barrett House, a facility that serves homeless women. The event will be held on Friday, June 13 at the Albuquerque Hyatt Hotel. There is no admission and the fund-raiser runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be many donated items for sale including fine art, trips and services. Griffin created the project while participating in a Landmark Education leadership program. Part of the coursework was to create a project that benefits the community (whomeopathy.org).
A quote about the why of the project goes here – example below
“Homelessness is a huge problem in Albuquerque and New Mexico,” Griffin said. “When I had the opportunity to create a project that would make a difference in the community, this seemed like a natural.”
Any background information goes here – example below
Visit www.worldhomeopathy.org for details.
(PLEASE NOTE – THIS WILL ACCOMPANY A DIGITAL PHOTO OF YOUR PROJECT THAT YOU WILL SEND OUT)