BENEFITS OF TALKING TO A REPORTER
- Anytime the media uses UT faculty, staff, students or alumni as sources, the university and its brand are promoted and strengthened.
- When experts in the field — instead of public relations representatives — talk to the media, they lend more credibility to the story and university.
- A year’s worth of being mentioned in stories is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising.
PREPARING FOR AN INTERVIEW
- Contact University Marketing & Communication to notify them of the interview and discuss key talking points.
- Practice prepared statements out loud.
- Ask the reporter for his/her name, publication, phone number, topic and deadline.
- Respond to the reporter as soon as possible. You can set up a time to talk later if time is needed to prepare for the interview.
PARTICIPATING IN AN INTERVIEW
- Expect to have a conversation, as print and online reporters usually will want to conduct interviews over the phone and TV reporters will want to meet on campus in person.
- In sensitive situations, sources can request to answer questions over email; however, outlets will present quotes as prepared statements issued by email.
- Stick to the predetermined talking points, emphasizing the relevant facts. Make sure to get the point across in a few minutes, as interviews are very short.
- Be prepared to answer questions about mistakes.
- Reporters usually end the interview by asking, “Is there anything else you’d like to share?” Use this opportunity to reiterate your key talking points.
HOW TO TALK TO REPORTERS
- Be honest. If you do not know the answer to a question, do not try to answer. Direct the reporter to somebody who does know the answer.
- Be confident. Remain positive but realistic. Also, If you feel unable to comment, explain why. Do not say “no comment”.
- Be accurate. Do not make up facts or accept the reporter’s facts as truth. Do not answer hypothetical questions. Support your main points with facts, figures or personal experiences.
- Be respectful. You will not be able to approve a story before it is released.
- Be calm. Even when discussing sensitive issues, refrain from reacting emotionally.
- Be concise. As questions get harder, answers should be shorter.
- Be quotable. Insert your personality into your answers and respond passionately with engaging words and descriptions.
- Be focused. Keep the interview on topic. If a reporter uses an unexpected line of questioning, explain that you are prepared to only answer questions related to the agreed topic.
- Be clear. Avoid technical terms and jargon. Explain your subject matter in a way that a sixth-grader would understand. Repeat your main points at the end of the interview.
- Be professional. Nothing is truly off the record, so you should be comfortable with anything you say appearing in the story.
- Be thorough. If you are promoting an event, share all the details someone would need to know in order to attend the event, such as the time, date, location and cost.
TIPS FOR ON-CAMERA INTERVIEWS
- Be aware of your facial expressions and make sure they are appropriate. Do not chew gum.
- Speak and act naturally. Do not use hand gestures near your face.
- Make sure the setting is appropriate and well lit and that UT branding is visible. Branded items can be provided by the Office of Marketing and Communication if needed.
- Look directly at the reporter, not the camera.