Veterinary Media Experiences at the Los Angeles Zoo: Tips for Survival in a High-Profile Zoo
Dealing effectively with the media is an art. Preparation before an interview, going into an interview with a core message, staying in control of an interview, bridging from tough questions, not falling into “traps,” and using appropriate body language are all effective techniques veterinarians can learn when speaking for their institution.1 A specific challenge to veterinarians is having to “translate” scientific and medical language into terms the media and public can understand, and not appearing “too scientific” which can be perceived as uncaring.
During 10 years of working together, the authors faced numerous challenging events that were faced proactively, instead of reactively, with carefully worded press releases and core messages, turning stories that could have been very negative for the zoo into stories that gained public sympathy and support. Additionally, using outside experts in the field where relationships had already been established before events occurred to support the zoo and corroborate the information given was also crucial. Careful selection of media personnel and establishing relationships there assisted in building a trusting relationship. Being honest, caring, and providing information to the public in a responsible way was a very successful way to deal with “hot stories” such as human tuberculosis in the zoo’s animals, deaths of aged and beloved animals, and animal medical problems related to an inadequate veterinary facility.
1. MS&L (Manning, Selvage & Lee) Communications Guide. 2006.