How To Work With The Media More Effectively
Working with the media is not always easy. But with the right information and practice, administrators, researchers, and Extension educators and specialists can expect valuable exposure from their efforts to work with reporters.
Your program and the university benefit from positive media exposure. The news media extends the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences’ research results and recommendations to a large audience. This publicity informs taxpayers and decision-makers about accomplishments they make possible by investing in us.
The following tips will help you make your encounters with reporters positive and productive.
- Allow time in your schedule to work with the news media.
- Respond to phone messages as soon as you can. Many reporters, especially those with daily deadlines, need sources quickly. Tomorrow is almost always too late.
- Help reporters find written background information, including research reports, newsletters and journal articles, World Wide Web sites, and other story sources.
When a reporter calls
- Ask a few questions before the interview begins. What is the reporter’s name and affiliation? What is the story about? Who is the audience?
- If you are not the best source, direct the reporter to another academic or to a public information representative.
- Find out the reporter’s deadline.
- Tell the reporter you will call back. Use the time to form your key messages.
- Prepare three key messages in simple language, not jargon. Condense each key message into two or three sentences.
- Anticipate tough questions and rehearse your answers.
- Compile background information about the subject for the reporter. Include your name, title, organization, phone and fax numbers, and e-mail address.
- For in-person interviews, gather visuals. Meet the reporter at a research site or in a laboratory. Set up demonstrations, prepare examples or analogies. Offer simple, clear graphics and photos.
During the interview
- State your key messages early and often. You never know when the interview will end.
- Answer the reporter’s questions and add the specific points you want to make.
- Be honest. If you don’t know an answer, say so.
- Never say “no comment.” It raises suspicion and sets up barriers. Instead, explain why you prefer not to answer the question.
- Be aware of questions that may evoke conflict in a story. Tell your story with positive words and don’t repeat a negative statement in a reporter’s question.
- For radio and TV interviews, be precise and to the point. The sound bites reporters use are only a few seconds long.
- Close the interview by restating your main messages.
- Invite the reporter to call back for more information or to clarify points.