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Media Relations

Interviewing Tips for Faculty and Staff

Prepare for the Interview in Advance

  • work with your communication/PR people;

  • find out who will be conducting the interview.Do not request a specific reporter;

  • know why you were asked for the interview;

  • establish ground rules (i.e. length, location, subjects, are they bringing a photographer, etc?);

  • know the interview format and themes (news, feature, TV, print);

  • do not ask for questions in advance. Find out who else they are talking to;

  • be aware of the reporter's deadline. Indicate if information cannot be released or revealed until a certain time;

  • review issues you cannot discuss with reporters (for example, issues that AU is in litigation over);

  • do your homework. Prepare, even in your area of expertise;

  • know your audience and develop your answers from their point of view;

  • know your message. Decide on two or three key points you want to make and then use them whenever possible. Do not let the interviewer lose sight of those key points;

  • anticipate likely questions. Think through your answers in advance. Practice and improve;

  • Review worst-case scenarios and appropriate responses;

  • have the communication/PR staff brief you on the "news of the day" before the interview. This avoids being surprised by any relevant news story just breaking;

  • there is no safety in going "off the record." Do not say ANYTHING to the reporter that you do not want to see in print.

Honesty is the Best Policy

  • always be completely honest. Never lie or try to fool a reporter or the public;

  • if you are not sure of an answer to a question, then offer to get the information. Do not guess.

Control the Interview

  • keep coming back to your message;

  • answer questions to your advantage by rephrasing whenever possible (I think what you are asking is);

  • use bland language when answering questions to avoid unnecessary media coverage. Use few adjectives and avoid the use of emotive "news catching" language;

  • answer the question and stop talking. A pause by the reporter is not your cue to continue talking;

  • be aware of the reporter attacking from different  angles and asking the same question in different ways;

  • know your subject; be prepared; be concise and precise in terminology.

  • avoid professional or technical jargon. Use simple language to explain technical matter;

  • control the subject areas. Be assertive. Project yourself in an authoritative way;

  • do not let your message get lost in too much detail. State your conclusions first and then back them up with facts. Emphasize your key points;

  • do not say "no comment." Explain why you cannot answer;

  • do not repeat an offensive question or phrase. Answer with a positive statement;

  • do not accept a reporter's facts or misinformation. Correct the record;

  • avoid personal/judgmental opinions;

  • do not be evasive;

  • keep your cool under fire. Do not argue;

  • avoid answering hypothetical questions. Do not speculate. Instead, validate concerns and feelings;

  • do try to be as open with the media as possible.

Telephone/Radio Interviews

  • most radio interviews are taped over the telephone. For technical reasons, the interviewer's voice may seem distant at times. Resist the impulse to speak loudly in response;

  • make sure you can hear questions clearly. If you are even slightly uncomfortable with the volume or connection, say so;

  • always be sure you have noted the reporter's name correctly;

  • get your point across quickly;

  • use note cards so that you have facts readily available;

  • take care not to overlap the interviewer's question. Begin your answer only when you are sure the question has been fully asked;

  • do not provide any new information when asked at the end of an interview, "Do you have any additional thoughts?" If necessary, repeat your message.

Face-to-Face Interview/Off Camera

  • you have greater control over the interview. You can direct the time and place and significantly manage the course of the interview;

  • if appropriate, you can have printed materials ready for the reporter to verify facts and figures. Do not have material visible that you would not want revealed to the interviewer;

  • do not feel compelled to continue speaking if there is a pause;

  • when doing a site tour, assume that the reporter is recording your conversation. Ensure that other members of your company on site (including contractors) only speak when so authorized.

On Camera

  • men - sit on the tail of your coat to keep it from wrinkling at the collar. Wear an off-white or colored dress shirt and avoid wild ties.

  • women - consider wearing a conservative dress or suit;

  • Avoid wearing a top that is all or a majority red, white or black;

  • Wear flesh colored or sheer hose. Avoid opaque hose and never wear white hose;

  • Remove loose jewelry or exceptionally heavy rings;

  • avoid wearing busy necklaces or bracelets, diamonds or rhinestones, especially earrings or large pins;

  • remove name tags, lapel pins and all extraneous items from your jacket pockets;

  • do not wear sunglasses or glasses with polarizing lenses;

  • use light studio makeup. Ask for makeup.

At the End of An Interview

  • offer to obtain additional information for the reporter so you can determine his/her interests;

  • do not assume the interview is over and the camera/microphones are off. Be careful about what you say until you are out of the building in your car;

  • remember, it is ALL on the record;

  • do not insist that some comment now be "put off the record;"

  • do not ask to see a copy of the story in advance of the broadcast so you can correct it;

  • call reporters if stories appear that are factually inaccurate and politely provide corrections;

  • do not complain to the reporter's supervisor without first speaking to the reporter.