Working with the Media
When a reporter calls: A guideline for campus experts
The following tips will help you make the most of your contacts with members of the media. If you have questions about dealing with the media, contact the Office of Communications.
Before an Interview
Outline your main points. Make a list of three to five brief main points you want to make during the interview. Rephrase these points and repeat them often during the interview. Be sure the reporter understands your main message before you conclude the interview.
Give reporters additional information when possible…but not too much. Reporters appreciate having background information, especially if the topic is technical or complex. Ask them if they would like to review the information before the interview, but don’t expect them to know it.
Know what your hard questions are. Make a list of the questions you don’t want the reporter to ask. Then formulate an answer for them. Consider how you might transition from the tough question to a point you want to make.
During an Interview
Stay focused on the topic. Be sure to stick closely to your main points. Don’t let a reporter, or your desire to be helpful, pull the conversation off course. Be sure to speak clearly, using full sentences. Sometimes this feels stilted, but it makes you much more quotable.
Keep it simple. Be sure to avoid using jargon that the reporter and readers may not understand. Keep explanations simple and brief. If you must use specialized terms, offer to spell and define them.
Always tell the truth. You are a news source. If you do not know the answer to a question, say so. If you have negative or damaging information, be forthright. Your credibility and that of the institution is at stake.
Never go off the record. If you don’t want to hear it on the news or read it in the paper, don’t say it. Assume the microphone/tape recorder is always on.
Correct your own mistakes and clarify confusing statements. If you find you’ve erred, simply say so and provide an accurate answer. If you’ve strayed into jargon, simply stop and rephrase.
Be aware of your surroundings. In TV and radio, avoid noisy, busy locations. Ensure quiet in your appearance and surroundings.
After an Interview
Ask questions. Make sure the reporter understands what you’ve said. If you’ve said something very complex or controversial, you may ask the reporter to review your quotes for accuracy. It is not appropriate to ask to review the full story. A reporter will rarely grant such a request.
Ask when the story will run. It’s okay to ask, but reporters don’t always know, since the decision is made by their editors.
Give feedback. Despite your best efforts, mistakes will happen. It’s best to let little ones go. Major errors of fact should be politely brought to a reporter’s attention. Remember, reporters have feelings too. Compliments are always welcome when a story is well done.
"What to Do When Speaking to the Media" from the Chronicle of Higher Education