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Institutional Communications

Contact Us

University Public Relations
1000 E University Ave
Dept 3226, Bureau of Mines
Laramie , WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-3257
Fax: (307) 766-6729
Email: uwmktg@uwyo.edu

Guidelines for Working with the Media

Know what the interview is about

• Ask what the story is about, and how you fit in.
• Decide if you want to be interviewed. Are you qualified to be interviewed on the topic?
• If not, call the Division of University Public Relations. With your help, we can answer the reporter's questions for you. Call the reporter back and ask him or her to contact the Division of University Public Relations.

Prepare your "commercials"

• Well before the interview is scheduled, develop three main points you want to make. No matter what the reporter asks, these are themes you want to appear as a result of the interview. Don't avoid the reporter's questions. Answer them, but steer the subject around to your "commercials."
• Know your subject matter. Usually you will know more about the subject than the reporter does. If you don't, you're not the right source.
• Anticipate the reporter's questions and have responses ready - but don't read from a script.
• Rehearse
• Be positive

Understand the rules of the game

• An interview is not a conversation. Anything you say may be used. Never go off the record. If a reporter has a tape recorder or video camera, always assume it's on.
• Although you're speaking to the reporter, keep in mind that your message is intended for the public. Your goal is to present your informed point of view.
• Faculty members have no obligation to allow media into classrooms when they are teaching. You may ask them to leave and expect them to cooperate. Suggest members of the media make arrangements in advance.


Keep it simple

• Keep explanations simple. Even though you have a complex understanding of the subject matter that's why you're the expert many reporters and media consumers do not.
• While you may use technical jargon and acronyms every day, reporters don't and their audiences certainly don't.

Remain calm

• You know more about your subject than the reporter does. Take enough time to make sure the reporter understands what you're trying to say. You can tell when a reporter doesn't get the point. Offer to explain it a different way.
• Try to establish rapport with the reporter, but keep on your guard. You're not friends; this is a business relationship.
• Don't be defensive. Don't lose your temper. Don't get into an argument. Be calm and polite. Stick to the facts.
• If you don't like or understand a question, ask for it to be restated. Avoid answering hypothetical questions. Don't speculate. Stick to the situation as you know it.
• Avoid loaded questions. While a reporter's facts may be correct, his or her assumptions about those facts may be ill-founded. Make sure you correct mistaken assumptions.
• If the reporter summarizes your statement incorrectly, correct him or her.
• Don't comment on other people's comments. You may be commenting on a misquote or misrepresentation; you may also wind up in a situation where you're being pitted against a university official or a colleague.
• If a reporter asks a series of questions, answer the one that best supports your case. If the reporter then wants to restate the other questions, ask him or her to do so one at a time.
• When asked a difficult question, don't buy time with statements such as, "That's a good question." Simply pause and think out your response. You'll look like you're giving a thoughtful response.


Tell the truth

• Never lie and don't guess. If you don't know the answer, tell the reporter you don't know. Ask if you can find out and call back; if you do, make sure you call back promptly.
• If the question is not in your area of expertise or responsibility, refer the reporter to someone who has that expertise or responsibility. A call to that person is advised.

Whom do you represent?

If you're being interviewed on the basis of your status as a university employee (faculty, staff, administration) you will be perceived as a university representative. If there is a policy issue involved, make sure you understand the university's policy or position and whether you are the appropriate person to talk about it. Offer the facts, not your personal opinion.


Closings

• Thank the reporter for his or her time and attention.
• Invite the reporter to call you for additional details or clarification. It's all right to limit that time, but please be available when you say you will be.
• Never ask to preview the story before it's run. You don't have that right.
• You may ask to have your quotes read back to you. Many reporters are willing to do that.


Aftermath

• The story may not run, or it may be delayed. Try not to be disappointed. Decisions on which stories run, and when they run, are dictated by space, time, and relative importance. Those decisions usually are made by editors and not reporters.
• The headline may not jibe with the story. That's not the reporter's fault. Headlines are written by editors who often have only limited time to gain an understanding of the story and make the headline fit in a limited space.
• If you're happy with a reporter's story it's all right to thank him or her, but don't be too effusive; the reporter may think he or she has not written a balanced story. Reporters don't like to feel they're publicists.
• If the reporter has made a significant mistake you have two routes to correct the mistake. First, call the reporter. Usually, a responsible reporter will write a correction. If the reporter is unresponsive call the editor -- or you can simply write a letter to the editor. If you write a letter, be brief and to the point; don't lambaste the reporter or the publication. Expect that letter will be published with your name.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PRINT AND ELECTRONIC MEDIA

Print Media

• Newspapers and magazines usually have longer deadlines than electronic media. That gives you more opportunity to explain your subject in depth. It also gives the reporter more time to gather opposing viewpoints and to investigate whether what you say is correct.
• Print media can usually give more space to a particular story than electronic media can give time. You can provide more information; you can also provide charts, graphs, and photographs.
• Usually a reporter will ask you for permission to tape your interview. You have the right to ask the reporter not to tape the interview; even if the reporter agrees not to tape, assume that he or she is taping you and temper your remarks appropriately. If you give the reporter permission to tape you, you have the same right to tape the interview.


Electronic Media - Radio

• Find out if the interview will be taped or live. If it's live, what you say will be immediately heard by the listeners -- there is no opportunity for editing or correcting your mistakes. Unless you are very confident in your position and ability, avoid live reports. In a taped interview, if you make a mistake, you can ask the reporter to start over. Most will comply.
• Answer in 10-20 second responses, commonly known as sound bites. Start with your summary statement or conclusions; then follow with your supporting information.
• Assume that the tape is always running. Don't say anything you'd be embarrassed to hear later.
• Don't feed the microphone. After you've made your points, be quiet. It's the reporter's job to fill time or edit blank spaces.
• Give a full answer; don't let the reporter interrupt you. Insist, gently, that you be allowed to finish.

Electronic Media - Television

In addition to all previous guidelines

• Avoid ambush interviews. Most people look like a deer caught in a car's headlights. Be calm. Ask the reporter to call for an interview. Excuse yourself. Don't talk over your shoulder as you walk away.
• When possible, develop a rapport with the reporter and discuss the subject background. Always assume, however, that the tape is rolling and the microphones are recording you.
• When possible, select a background which you feel best illustrates your story. Reporters will usually be receptive to suggestions.
• Look at the reporter, not at the camera. Usually, after the interview, the camera operator will tape cutaways that show the reporter talking with you. These will be edited together for broadcast.
• Normally, smiling helps put you, the reporter, and the television audience at ease. BUT, if you're discussing a serious subject, don't smile; you'll look insincere and uncaring.
• Wear conservative clothing. A dark suit or jacket will work well for both men and women. Avoid bright-white clothing, stripes or checks, or fancy neckwear. Men should wear a light blue, solid-colored shirt; women a light-colored blouse. Women should avoid fancy clothing, plunging necklines and large, sparkling jewelry.
• If you wear glasses, don't wear sun sensitive glasses which turn color in bright lights.
• Keep your gestures to a minimum and, when you do gesture, keep your hands high.
• Pull your suit jacket down and sit on it to minimize a bulging, gaping collar.
• Cross your legs at the knee with the upper foot facing away from the camera.
• Avoid nervous habits such as drumming your fingers on the arms of the chair or playing with a pen.

When in doubt, call the Division of University Public Relations at ext. 2379.

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