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.
Steve Bremer The Pharmaceutical Journal 2016; 297, 7892 online
doi: 10.1211/PJ. 2016.20201541
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 healthcareintervention. To support this, John Illman’s book is the one book I most definitely recommend.
Toni Belfield. Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Healthcare 2016; 42: 246.
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.
Peter Draper. Doctors for the NHS.
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