What to do when the media calls
- Get the reporter's name, phone number, email and media outlet.
- Ask what the story is about, and what the reporter hopes to learn from you. It's fine to ask about the types of questions the reporter has in mind, who else is being interviewed for the story, and when it will air or be published.
- Find out the deadline.
- Ask how long the interview will take, and whether it will be on the phone or in person.
- If it's a radio or TV interview, will it be live or taped? If it's a live interview, we urge you to call the Office of Communications to set up a quick prep session.
- Buy yourself at least 15 minutes to think. Once you know the answers to the basic questions above, we recommend that you tell the reporter you'll get right back to him or her. Use that time to think about whether you want to do the interview, what you want to say, and perhaps to get more information about the reporter or media outlet. The Office of Communications can help. Just give us a call.
- Decide what you want to say. Every interview is an opportunity to tell your story. We recommend jotting down three key things you'd like to get across in the interview if you can. Keep these simple and jargon-free. Metaphors, analogies, anecdotes, and specific facts can make your messages more interesting.
- Don't be afraid to say "I don't know."
- Remember that an interview can be a two-way street. You'll be answering questions the reporter asks. But you can also offer the reporter information that you think is relevant -- your key messages. Just remember that you can't tell a reporter what story to write.
- Consider everything "on the record." Even journalists don't agree what "off the record" means exactly. Your best policy is not to offer any information that you wouldn't want to see in print or on the evening news.
- Never say "no comment." There are better ways to put it.
- Don't ask to see the story before it is printed or aired. Major media outlets do not allow reporters to show interview subjects a story before it is published or aired. It can be grounds for firing, in fact. But most reporters, if they have time, will agree to read direct quotes back to you and fact-check numbers with you before filing their story.
- Do invite the reporter to call you back if they need any points clarified. Give them a number where you can easily be reached. Extending this courtesy is the best way to ensure accuracy.
- It's okay to ask when a story will run. And please let the Office of Communications know so that we can look out for it!
University Communications offers half-day media training workshops throughout the year. In a small-group setting, you'll get opportunities to practice on-camera interviews, learn strategies for developing messages that reporters will use, and gain confidence talking with reporters. For more information please visit the Media Training page.