Clear your throat, put on your headphones, and make your voice heard. Appearing on the radio can educate pet owners and attract new clients.
Dr. Elizabette Cohen, practicing veterinarian, popular lecturer, and author of Most of My Patients Wear Fur: Tales of Small Animals and Their Big City Vet, has been a CBS news radio reporter since 2004 and continues to deliver "Healthy and Happy Pet" reports every Saturday and Sunday on WCBS880.com worldwide and WCBS 880 AM radio in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. I asked her to share some of her experiences and tips.
Being on the radio, Dr. Cohen says, is a lot of fun. You become well-known, receive fan mail and questions from listeners, and in time gain lots of new clients. On the downside, preparing for the broadcasts takes a lot of time and effort for which you probably won't be compensated, at least in the beginning. If you go to the station on a regular basis (as Dr. Cohen did when she started), there will be travel time. If you record your own material (as she now does), you may face costs such as rental time at a recording studio or, in her case, equipment and software that enables you to record your reports at home.
The benefits to your veterinary practice will come eventually, Dr. Cohen says, but you can't expect them right away or use that as your sole motivation. You need to approach this project as a community service that benefits pets, pet owners, and the veterinary profession because you're providing timely and accurate information on a wide range of pertinent topics.
Get started. Call or e-mail your local talk or news radio station and ask for the program director. Explain that you're a practicing veterinarian and that you're interested in doing some brief segments on a range of topics that pet owners ask you about every day, such as flea control, heartworms, traveling with pets, introducing a newborn baby to a pet, and housebreaking. When Dr. Cohen got the go-ahead from CBS, she was given a mere 30-second segment—later expanded to 60 seconds, at which it remains today.
Find a hook. Keep in mind that "standard" topics will take you only so far. You'll need to to come up with topics that sustain listeners' interests—and the station's interest as well. For example, one of Dr. Cohen's recent "Healthy and Happy Pets" reports discussed dogs that sniff out illegal DVDs. It was a topic that not only interested pet owners and pet lovers but the general public as well. Other topics included DNA testing of dog poop and training snakes to eat a thawed mouse instead of live prey.
Don't sell yourself short. Be sure to explain to the program director that your reports will be informative, timely, entertaining, and marketable to sponsors. Dr. Cohen's reports have been sponsored by a veterinary hospital, a children's hospital, and a car dealer, among others.
Think before you speak. Once you've booked a regular radio segment, speak with caution, Dr. Cohen says. "Choose your words carefully," she says. "Don't insult your audience—you can talk about obese pets, not obese people. Don't be a monotone. Be animated. Use humor. Expect your script to be edited. Abide by the limitations put on you—when you're dealing with radio, 60 seconds means 60 seconds, not 61 seconds. Avoid mentioning your practice and your clients—this is not a commercial."
For further information about Dr. Cohen, visit yourhealthyandhappypet.com.
Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is the author of 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing, and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices (Jones and Bartlett, 2007).