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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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
When in doubt, call the Division of University Public Relations at ext. 6-3257.