Watch Out for “Pay to Play” Media Opportunities
In recent weeks, AAO members have been contacted directly by representatives of media companies with offers to appear on televised health programs to discuss orthodontic treatment. The opportunities are presented as interviews rather than advertising, but the production companies often charge interviewees $20,000 or more for production expenses.
While the shows are not well-known, their hosts are often well-known media personalities who have retired from traditional network news or news magazine shows.
Orthodontists have recently received e-mails from representatives claiming to be producing shows for WebTV. Numerous AAO staff members also received the same e-mail pitch.
Typically, information about the production expense fee is only provided after extended discussion with the representative, with the dialogue taking a great deal of time before the reality of the situation becomes apparent to the orthodontist.
“Pay-to-play” interviewing by media production companies is not illegal, but it is a scam-like situation. Legitimate news sources do not ask a guest to pay any fees for any purpose. In the past, such offers were usually extended to public relations firms for specific clients or to organizational communication departments, but production companies are now contacting individual professionals, including AAO members.
Below is a list of red flags indicating that an interview opportunity is not legitimate:
- The opportunity is not a referral from the AAO communications and marketing staff *;
- The interview request is not from a local media outlet with which you are familiar or have a relationship, or a national show that is well-known;
- If asked if the opportunity is really for advertising, the representative will say no;
- If asked whether production expenses must be covered by the person being interviewed, the representative may avoid directly responding to the question.
If you are concerned about any contact that you receive from a media representative, the safest response is to refer the caller to the AAO, or to contact the AAO yourself to discuss your concerns or questions. The AAO contact for media relations is:
Marketing and Member/Consumer Relations Manager
800-424-2841, Ext. 524
* Depending on the reporter’s needs, the AAO usually refers legitimate interview requests to association leaders and/or to other members who have completed media interview training by the AAO’s professional media trainer.