My first interview
About sixteen years ago, while establishing a private practice in Winnipeg, I was asked to do a live segment for Breakfast Television about healthy lunches for kids. Without hesitation, I said yes! I knew this was a great opportunity, but I admit, I was a little scared. For those with TV experience, I’m sure you all remember that first nerve-wracking interview!
Something that stands out for me was trying to figure out HOW to prepare for my interview. I had no idea! I remember preparing pages of information I intended to share. I didn’t know what a key message was, and didn’t realize how quickly a 3-minute TV segment would go by.
Despite being nervous, after my first interview I was hooked on working in media. I loved the idea of being able to share nutrition messages with a huge audience. I was elated when Breakfast Television invited me back, and I soon became a regular guest. Since that time, I have appeared in numerous TV, radio, and print interviews, participated in national brand media tours, and even a few national TV and radio commercials.
Working as a spokesperson
Over the years, I have partnered with food companies, marketing boards, and public relations agencies to represent a variety of food products and brands. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned from doing this work is the essential communication skill of delivering key nutrition messages on a “time budget.” This has been a big challenge for me. I’m used to having an entire hour with a client to share messages!
Developing key messages
Once you have your interview topic, the most important thing to do is create your key messages. Key messages are short, takeaway nuggets of information that you want viewers, listeners, or readers to remember. They are the most important things you want to say to the media on your topic.
The information you share during your interview should support your key messages. Try developing 2-3 key messages per interview topic. Think of your key messages as the foundation of your interview. For improved interview flow, consider providing your key messages to the media outlet you are working with ahead of time.
Achieving interview success
Preparing for a media interview can be both exciting and overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you ensure your interview success:
My media work today
- Practice saying your key message out loud
- Make your responses sound conversational
- Slow down your speech
- If you are doing a food demo, do a dry-run and set it up in advance
- If you are preparing a recipe on air, make it ahead of time to ensure a smooth on-camera demonstration
- For television, always look your best! Wear solid colours and jewel tones such as royal blue and emerald
I continue to do both volunteer and paid spokesperson work. I believe media work is an important way for dietitians to maintain visibility as the trusted nutrition experts. Currently, I appear as a regular guest on CTV Winnipeg Morning Live.
Admittedly, preparing for TV interviews is a lot of work. However, one of the ways I have found to consolidate the work load is to tape several segments at one time in my home kitchen. To do this, I brainstorm several ideas with the show host or producer. It will usually take me about two days to prepare for a multiple segment taping. These segments will typically air over a 2-month time period.
If you are interested in this strategy, consider pitching numerous segment topics to your local media outlets. Try suggesting ideas with seasonal trends, such as back to school breakfast/lunches in the fall, healthy holiday ideas for the various occasions, nutrition tips for diabetes management during diabetes month, etc. In my pitch I will often suggest a viewer friendly recipe that reflects the theme of the segment.
How YOU can become a media spokesperson
If you want to work as a paid media spokesperson, it is essential to build your own profile as a dietitian first. Get yourself out there and get noticed! Be sure that you’re visible and can be easily contacted. A great way to build your profile is by creating your own website and by engaging on various social media platforms. Networking will help you build relationships and gain exposure, so companies will recognize and contact you. All it takes is one successful interview to lead to other great opportunities!
If you have experience working in the media and would like to share your story, or have any comments or suggestions regarding being a media spokesperson, I would love to hear from you!
Editor’s note: Thanks for sharing your insights, Gina! I always love your CTV segments. Doing them back-to-back in your own kitchen is a great idea. Transporting food for demos can be such a hassle in itself.
Working with the media can be fun! Here are a few ways to get involved:
Dietitians of Canada’s National Spokesperson Program, which launched in 2014, is comprised of passionate dietitians who volunteer to act as official spokespeople for Dietitians of Canada. Each member of the team meets specific selection criteria and speaks out on important issues like food insecurity, food regulation, and access to dietitians. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the DC website.
- Participate in a media training session like this one from Gina Sunderland and Sue Mah available free to DC members on Learning on demand.
- Create a profile in Dietitians of Canada's Interview a Dietitian Database to make sure media can find you
- Consider becoming a spokesperson for Dietitians of Canada. There are two programs DC members can apply to: Dietitians of Canada's National Spokesperson Program and the Nutrition Month Spokesperson team.