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Four granted Great Comebacks® Award

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Christopher Springmann Shows
How Dr. Mehmet Oz Gets Our Message Out

Life, Love & Health web site Editor’s Note:  Author Christopher Springmann is executive producer of Life Love & Health (www.lifeloveandhealth.com) the daily health, medicine and wellness feature program – and the winner of the 2010 ASCRS Media Award in the Internet category.  Springmann also produces custom Podcasts for hospitals and medical centers, including Scott & White Healthcare; and has done extensive media training, notably at the AMA Media Communications Conference. This is his first contribution for ASCRS News.

The Late Night Colonoscopy Show:
Playing It For Laughs, Saving Lives

By Christopher Springmann

Getting the word out to the media on advantages of colonoscopy is tough enough, but factor in late night comedian Craig Ferguson’s merciless poking-and-prodding for laughs with his trademark scatological humor, and you could find yourself in deep, ahhh . . . trouble. Emmy-Award winning cardiologist Dr. Memhet Oz had the courage, humor and style to keep up with a pro like Ferguson, all the while remaining focused on the mission, staying on-message and hammering out the 1-2-3 take-away value of an age-appropriate colonoscopy.

Let’s warm-up with few lines from the show, with the entire transcript of the segment posted below.

Craig Ferguson:  This is why I’m appalled [by the colonoscopy]. I’m going to have to have a camera up my ass!

[Applause and laughter]

Ferguson: Yeah, it’s not the camera that worries me. It’s the crew!

Dr. Mehmet Oz: Yeah. Hey, get my good side!

[Audience goes wild]

OK, you’re not a Dr. Oz or Katie Couric, so how are you going to nail an interview like this? The answer is in the details of the Dr. Oz-Ferguson interview, so let’s do a deconstruction, a reverse engineering, and learn from The Best, as the subtleties are crucial.

First, play the imbedded YouTube segment below, look, listen, and learn. The whole interview is pretty funny but the segment we’re talking about starts at 3:38 and runs for three minutes.

Follow our enclosed transcript and look for the highlighted, important messaging moments, as that’s why we’re taking the time to examine this interview in detail.  It’s your task, when working with the media, to imbed the crucial take-away points in people’s consciousness. 

The four “P” words to remember are:  Plan.  Prep.  Personalize. Passion. And, oh yeah, Practice.

First, it’s not coincidental that Craig Ferguson asked Dr. Oz, supposedly out of the blue: “Have you had any procedures done yourself?”

That was the perfect set-up and Dr. Oz undoubtedly had planned to discuss his colonoscopy and therefore prepped Ferguson to ask the right prompt question.  Dr. Oz  personalized his story with a stirring first-person account, his own grateful-patient testimonial he told with passion, suggesting that he’d just saved his own life.

The 4-5 “P’s” are the keys to media success.  Dr. Oz, despite Ferguson’s off-topic distractions, colorful asides and a tough, noisy audience, stayed on message and hit the mark:

  • Know your family medical history
  • Age-appropriate testing (a mention of ethnicity i.e. high-risk communities, would have been good, too)
  • “I’m no different than you,” as in:  ‘I’m a medical professional and I would have felt like a fool if I had not had the test, so I “gifted” myself on my 50th birthday.’  Brilliant!
  • Insurance may cover costs/reimbursement
  • The procedure was painless.  They got the polyp and the problem is gone (yes, he could have mentioned an additional test in x-number of years later . . .)

Addressing the media on radio is easier, as you can have a “cheat-sheet” in front of you.  However, even on TV, working from reminder notes and talking points on a clipboard or a cool iPad is perfectly acceptable.  Consider inviting the host (clear this in advance, please) to come on down to your hospital or medical center for a complimentary colonoscopy.  Never “sandbag” or shock/surprise the host with a serious request like this . . . it’s rude and puts them in a squirmy position.  (Hint:  Please also clear the idea first with legal, marketing communications, media relations, web services, your department head, the house staff . . . did I miss anyone?)

Otherwise, simply say your hospital has declared this as Colon Cancer Awareness Week.

The Bottom Line is that Dr. Oz did it just right, as he; 

  • planned the talk on colonoscopy;
  • prepped the host to ask the right question;
  • personalized the experience as a first-person testimonial;
  • passionately spoke like a real and grateful patient, who just happens to be a physician;
  • practiced his talking points in advance. 

That’s what makes him a media star and, in this case, a great friend of the ASCRS.

Please, I’d like to hear from you about this story and especially your experiences in Media-Land.

Transcript beginning at 3:38 (our underlining for emphasis)

CF:  Have you had any procedures done yorself?

MO:  I had a big one . . .about two weeks ago.  I had a colonoscopy,  a screening colonoscopy. Get this. I had my fiftieth birthday this summer.

CF: Right.

MO: For my birthday present that’s what I got myself.

CF: Wow. You know how to live, Doctor.

MO: Yeah, it was a good time. So I go in there, and a little bit arrogantly. I was checking off the box. And, you know, I said, “Camera guys, you come along. We’ll tape it for the show. And it’ll be really cool. I’ll show everyone how easy it is.”

CF: Right.

MO: So meanwhile, I wasn’t a very good patient. I had a big bowl of lentils the night before the colonoscopy.

CF: Oh, man.

MO: And then I tried to wash it down with that Golytely stuff. Terrible. Pains, gas, bloating. I felt, you know, my wife said, “Now you know how I feel. Big and bloating like this.” So anyway, I go in the next day and halfway through the colonoscopy my doctor, his name was Dr. Lapuke [phonetic], not Lapute, Lapuke. Real name. Good friend.

CF: You live in a cartoon. Yeah.

MO: I swear. It’s crazy. He says, “Look at the screen. You’ve got a polyp.”

CF: You have?

MO: I had a pre-cancerous polyp.

CF: [feigning shock] NO!

MO: Yeah.

CF: What did they have to do, cut it out?

MO: With this little camera, with the scope out, it’s in there, before he loses it, he snipped it, took it out, did a biopsy. I waited over the weekend and on Monday they confirmed it. It was a precancerous polyp. Get this – if I – you know, I had no family history. I’m not overweight. I don’t smoke, don’t drink. You know, if they measure my risk I’m where you’re at.

CF: Yeah.

MO: So all that stuff is in my favor.

CF: This is why I’m appalled. I’m going to have to have a camera up my ass!

[Applause and laughter]

CF: Yeah, it’s not the camera that worries me. It’s the crew!

MO: Yeah. Hey, get my good side!

{Audience goes wild}

CF: Well, listen, I’m 48. Is it time for me to have a colonoscopy then?

MO: Anyone in your family ever have colon cancer?

CF: My dad had cancer, but it was of a different part of his—it was the esophagus he had it.

MO: Yeah, no, age 50 is the time to do it. If you have a family history age 40 is when you start. And that was the big deal for me because now that I have a diagnosis of this I tell my kids that they get screened 10 years older [younger] thanks to dad.

CF: All right.

MO: But that all said, the good news—I mean, at the end of the day, how dumb would I have been to not have been screened. And this happens to me. I mean, when I go talk to people and they have metastatic colon cancer, and I look them in the eyes like I’m looking at you, and I realize because it’s deflating to you, like a hole is being, you know, is being dragged into your soul and cut out of your body. And you’re looking at this person and you’re realizing they’re dying because they didn’t have a simple test, a colonoscopy.

CF: Is it expensive though? A lot of people can’t afford it.

MO: You know, most insurance companies cover it because it’s such a smarter thing to do, to catch it before it becomes a problem.

CF: You would think, right, the insurance companies would pay for it.

MO: But I cannot think of a smarter tool, because unlike other screening tests where they just tell you you’ve got a problem, this one cures the problem. I mean, my problem is gone now from the inside of my body.

CF: I’m going to get one during the next commercial break.    [laughter]

MO: Can I help?

CF: Yeah.

MO: I want to help. [laughter]

CF: Yeah.

MO: I’ll just get you started.

CF: Is it a very painful procedure?

MO: No. Well, Dr. Lapuke, he told me I have a long and winding colon.

CF: I love that song. Yeah.

MO: And, well, no, you know, they give you some medication. It’s very relaxing.

CF: Oh, I bet. Yeah, all right, yeah. That’s right. You had me at that, Dr. Oz!