Communication resources: TALKING WITH THE MEDIA

Working with the media can be one of the most effective ways to make a positive impression, to communicate ideas and information, to educate the public and to correct misconceptions.

Basic Rules: Prepare for Media Interviews
  1. Begin preparing for an interview when a reporter calls. Just as the reporter has questions for you, you should have questions for him or her. Ask about the story, its angle, what he or she wants to include, with others he or she may want to talk, and what questions he or she needs answered. Schedule an interview appointment. Ask if you can call him or her back. This gives you time to prepare or time to prepare others with whom the reporter may want to talk.

  2. When meeting the reporter or returning the phone call, remember that you most likely know more about the subject than the reporter does. Teach him or her, correct his or her errors and misconceptions, but do not talk down to the reporter.

  3. Keep all answers brief, and do not offer more information than is requested. Do not use professional jargon. Speak in a positive tone. Always seek to work your key messages into every answer.

  4. Never speak "off-the-record" and remember that the interview does not end when the camera is turned off or when the reporter stops taking notes. It does not end until the reporter and camera have departed.

  5. Never use the expression "no comment" because it connotes guilt. If you do not know the answer to a question, say so and offer to get the answer. If you cannot comment for legal reasons, such as a resident’s right to privacy, state that as the reason. There is always a reason!

  6. Be prepared - develop key messages, anticipate possible questions, and practice answering.

  7. If an interview becomes tense, stay calm. Do not lose your temper. Strive to maintain control of the interview. Do that by focusing on the key messages you want to deliver. If you are honest, natural, and sincere during the interview you will come across that way to viewers and to readers.

  8. For television: Dress conservatively. Do not wear flashy clothing or jewelry.

  9. On television, ignore the cameras if the interview is with you. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer. If the interviewer is elsewhere talking to you through an earphone, then look at the camera. Talk to the camera as if it were the interviewer. Be aware of your actions and expressions.


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Lisa Foss Olson
Lisa Foss Olson
Director of Public Relations & Communications