tips for working with the media
Preparing for an interview
- Deadlines. Please understand that reporters are
usually working on a deadline, especially television reporters. When
a reporter calls you, always find out what kind of deadline he or
she is facing. They have a story to get out and a timetable, which
we must try to honor. Always remember that this story – especially
if it’s negative – will be reported with or without your
input. Usually, it is better to have your input.
- Audience. Ask for the reporter's name and the
media organization for which he or she is reporting. If you are not
familiar with the organization, ask for more information. If it’s
not a media organization, think twice about answering any questions
before contacting the University attorney. Know your audience and
craft your message appropriately. The message you give may be different
for the Pine Needle, which is targeted to students than
for The Fayetteville Observer, which is for general audiences.
- Topic. When a reporter calls requesting an interview,
you have a right to ask the subject of the interview and some sample
questions. If you need time to collect your thoughts and the reporter's
deadline allows, offer to call back later at a specific time and
- Ambush. Don't let yourself be ambushed by the
media. If a reporter shows up in your office or calls at a time when
you are unprepared, reschedule the interview for a time when you
feel comfortable. Having time to prepare and research is critical
to giving a good interview. This is fair to you and fair to the reporter.
Don’t be rushed into an interview, while remembering that reporters
- Stay on target. Think of two to three main points
you would like to make about your subject. Gather facts, figures
and anecdotes to support your points. Anticipate questions the reporter
might ask and have responses ready. Write out your responses if necessary.
Have printed materials to support your information whenever possible
in order to help the reporter minimize errors. If time allows, offer
to fax or mail the reporter printed information in advance of the
- Nothing is Off-The-Record. Reporters may or may
not honor your off-the-record request. If you’d rather not
answer a question, restate one of your key messages; never respond
with “no comment.”
- Very Difficult Interviews. If the answer to an
interviewer’s question is not confidential, but you don’t
necessarily want it aired on the 6 o’clock news: Give an answer
or offer a sound bite that you do want on the evening news, even
if it is not the exact answer to the question.
- Help. University Communications and Marketing may help
you with facts or crafting your statement. The University attorney
may help you with legal questions, such as what information about
students, personnel, legal actions, crimes, property negotiations
or other information is confidential.
After the Interview
- Ask the reporter to identify you as being affiliated
with the UNCP.
- Errors you make. If you feel after reflecting
on an interview that you misspoke or gave incorrect information,
call the reporter as soon as possible and let him or her know.
- Feedback. Give positive feedback to reporters,
if merited, after a story appears.
- Errors they make. If an error appears, let the
reporter know right away. Sometimes a correction can be printed or
aired. You also will want to prevent the incorrect information from
being used as background for future stories. Make sure your correction
is important and if it is very important, make sure you have a commitment
to running a correction.
For more information, contact Scott Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
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