Most people dread public speaking and probably more of them dread giving an interview to a member of the media, especially on a controversial or complex topic.

But food-animal veterinarians are increasingly being asked for their views on topics such as animal health, activists' claims, food safety and more.

At a media training session in Kansas City for the board of directors of the Academy of Veterinary Consultants, public relations expert Colleen Church McDowall and her colleagues of Osborn Barr helped these beef cattle veterinarians make the most of a sometimes uncomfortable media interview situation.

McDowall and her team covered the five most important rules of engagement when dealing with the media.

  • Establish control — Find out the reporter's objective, deadline, audience and motive/angle. Decide if you are the right person to address this issue, and decline if you are not.
  • Prepare — Avoid spur of the moment interviews; schedule an interview and prepare for the reporter's questions.
  • Practice — Rehearse your key messages and the points that back them up.
  • Deliver — If you commit to an interview, follow through. If you offer to get additional information or answer a difficult question for the reporter at a later time, follow through.
  • Evaluate and follow up on the interview

"You have 0% control over the questions you are asked, but you have 100% control of the answers given during an interview," McDowall said. "Keep it simple, avoid jargon, use positive language and be enthusiastic and sincere."

And another important tip: don't break yourself into jail, McDowall advised. "Say what you want to say and then stop. Don't let silence cause you to keep talking just to fill space."

Read more about AVC’s media training here.