Media Relations Tips
Preparation is the key to being comfortable with media interviews. Try following these tips next time a reporter calls you.
- Respect deadlines. Reporters live by inflexible deadlines. If a reporter calls for immediate comment, try to help them or point them to someone who can. But beware of giving a "quickie" response if you have insufficient or incomplete information.
- Respond promptly. Return media calls promptly. If a reporter catches you unprepared, find out what s/he is looking for and offer to call back in a few minutes. Then gather your thoughts, anticipate questions, plan your response, and call back quickly. If you have an appointment for an interview, be there. Dodging a reporter won’t make a story disappear; it’ll just be reported without your—or your employer's—perspective.
- Know who’s calling. When a reporter who you don’t know calls, make sure to clarify what information s/he is seeking from you before agreeing to an interview. Ask for a name, a phone number, employer, and deadline.
- Identify yourself. Just because a reporter has called you doesn’t mean s/he knows who you are or what you do. Provide your name, title, and your office or department at the beginning of the conversation.
- Be prepared. You’ll be a better source and less nervous if you’ve done your homework. Before an interview, anticipate possible questions and think through your corresponding answers.
- Lead with the bottom line. Provide key facts or points first. Add details only if time allows. Your key message can get lost in too much detail and technical information.
- Don't expect any favors. The media's job is to objectively tell all sides of a story, even if some of the sides are unpopular. Don't expect reporters to present only your perspective and never tell a reporter how to tell a story. Don't expect a reporter to make you look good—make yourself look good by providing clear, concise, accurate information.
- Stick to three key points. Before interviews, identify three main concepts you want to get across. For each point, develop three responses that support or help communicate that point. Practice making key points in twenty seconds or less.
- Keep it brief. Your main message gets lost unless you discipline yourself to provide concise answers. Answer the question and stop talking. Don't keep talking just to fill the silence.
- Don't babble. Listen to questions and think about your answers before you start talking. It's ok to pause briefly to gather your thoughts before answering.
- Tell the truth. If you don't know or aren't sure, say so—don't guess. Your credibility is at stake, and so is that of UF/IFAS. Being truthful doesn't mean you have to say everything you know. Use good judgment in deciding how much to tell them.
- If you don't want it reported, don't say it. Don't ask a reporter to "go off the record." Don't ask them not to print something after you say it.
- Dump the jargon. Technical terms and acronyms are confusing or meaningless to the public. Instead, use everyday language and examples. Relate your information in ways everyday folks can appreciate.
- Talk slowly. Many reporters take notes during interviews. Some will use tape recorders. Talk slowly and be clear. Leave nothing to chance.