January 2022 Issue
Ask the Expert: Responding to Media Queries
By Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND
Vol. 24, No. 1, P. 9
Q: I’ve received nutrition-related media queries, but the idea of responding seems daunting. What are the best practices for responding to them appropriately?
A: As awareness of RDs’ expertise has evolved, local and national media outlets have been turning to RDs for quotes and information for food- and nutrition-related articles. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2018 Food & Health Survey, 70% of consumers trust RDs, so quoting RDs make the information from that media outlet more credible.
As a writer for numerous national media outlets, I often send queries to RDs and have found some responses to be much better than others. RDs who understand how to formulate good responses—and do so in a way that makes reporters’ lives easier—have a better chance of being included in media and getting their names and science-based messages into the public eye. This article covers some of the dos and don’ts of responding to media queries.
RDs may find a media query in a private Facebook group run by RDs or nutrition professionals, on the website HARO (helpareporter.com), or on other such online services for journalists looking for experts, or RDs may be contacted directly by writers. Responding to media queries may seem intimidating, but it becomes easier with practice. Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, New York City–based co-owner of the Master the Media Coaching Program (masterthemedia.co/course), shares the following tips for responding to media queries:
• Know your audience. Is the media outlet geared toward consumers? Health care practitioners? Industry professionals? Respond to each query as if you’re speaking to them. Regardless of the audience, formulate a concise, evidence-based response in appropriate language.
• Respond right away. Whenever a reporter reaches out to you for an interview, reply immediately and say that you can take the interview. The worst thing would be for you to delay your response, do the work of answering the media interview, and the reporter not include your quotes because they thought you were unable to participate.
• Reply within the body of an e-mail. Never send a PDF reply to a media interview. The writer wants to cut and paste your response into their story, not retype your answer. Word documents are OK, but anything that requires an extra step on the reporter’s side is seen as inconsiderate.
• Provide study links. Although this sounds like a lot of work, providing everything the reporter needs—including a study that supports your tip—makes it more likely that you’ll be included in a story. Most publications asking for quotes require that the research is human based, published in peer-reviewed journals, and no older than five or six years.
• Include a credit line. A proper credit line comprises your name, credentials, and job title with a URL link to your website or business. For example, I tend to use “Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal bestselling cookbook author.” Don’t provide a full bio or lengthy credit line, as the writer likely will edit it down and the most important part of your job title may not be included.
• Answer the specific media query. When seeking RD input for her freelance writing on HARO, Gorin says the majority of the responses she receives ask whether she wants to interview a certain expert, which doesn’t answer the specific questions she posted. The experts who respond and answer all of her questions in the body of an e-mail are the ones she most often uses.
• Speak in sound bites. According to Gorin, this means “giving concise, quotable answers that are neither too short nor too long. Write out your answers as you’d explain them to a patient, replacing complicated words with easier-to-understand explanations.”
• Link to your website. Reporters don’t always link to your website when crediting you, but you should provide one in case they do. Gorin says always link either your name or your business name to your website in your credit line to drive potential clients there.
Want to Learn More?
Several available courses train RDs on how to respond to media queries. These include a free seven-day media boot camp with Gorin and Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, LDN, CPT (masterthemedia.co/bootcamp); Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc, FDC’s Media Training Boot Camp (mediatrainingbootcamp.com); and Sharper Edge Media Training from Abbey Sharp, RD (abbeyskitchen.com). There also are experienced media RDs, such as Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RDN, CDN (bonnietaubdix.com), who provide one-on-one consulting services to RDs for media training. In addition, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a spokesperson program that provides media training.
— Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, is the founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition (tobyamidornutrition.com) and a Wall Street Journal bestselling author. She’s written several cookbooks, including The Best Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook and The Family Immunity Cookbook: 101 Easy Recipes to Boost Health. She’s also a nutrition expert for FoodNetwork.com and a contributor to U.S. News Eat + Run and other national outlets.
1. International Food Information Council Foundation. 2018 Food & Health Survey. https://foodinsight.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-FHS-Report.pdf. Published 2018. Accessed October 31, 2021.