As my colleague Carol Kerbaugh has written, working with patients to tell their stories is one of the best things we get to do in healthcare PR. But we are also fortunate to work with these patients’ clinicians, either to provide medical background for their stories or other thought-leadership focused pieces.

We’re fortunate, because the clinicians we work with are great communicators. There is definitely a misperception among the public (and media) that clinicians aren’t able to effectively communicate with their patients, let alone hold their own in an interview. In fact, clinicians are some of the best interview subjects because they regularly have to take an incredibly complex medical issue and translate it into laymen’s terms for their patient.  

But identifying, securing and using clinicians who can speak on key issues and trends can be a complex process.

Here are a few tips to help you leverage your clinician thought-leaders.

Build a “speaker’s bureau.”

Is your sweet spot health reform? Do you have great data on hospital readmissions? Is one of your clinicians an expert on HIV/AIDS? Your first step is mining your staff for thought leaders, healthcare trend experts and executives who can speak in-depth about your organization. After you’ve identified your “speaker’s bureau” you can react to breaking news on key trends, develop op-eds or bylines, or pitch feature articles.  

Work with your thought leaders’ schedules and set reporter expectations.

It’s important for PR professionals and media outlets to understand that a clinician’s first responsibility is to their patients – and not to a reporter’s deadline. To make sure you don’t run into any deadlines, try to give clinicians as much time in advance to review drafted documents, prep for interviews or pull data for an article. Additionally, it’s good to set expectations with reporters that a clinician might not be able to respond immediately to an inquiry if they have a full patient load, or that they might have to do an interview before or after they see patients that day.

Make sure they know what to expect.

As Carol mentioned in her previous post, it’s vital to make sure everyone – clinicians, executives, thought-leaders and patients – feels comfortable and prepared before an interview. PR professionals should media train clinicians and explain what to expect from an interview. Develop a fact sheet with key messages they can refer to. Review basic interview tips with them and go over the best way to respond to questions.