Preparing for an Interview with a Reporter
Before the interview
- Ask what the reporter wants to talk about; make sure you’re the best source.
- Decide on YOUR KEY MESSAGE — one or two key points you want to get across. This is the most critical part of the interview. Don’t “wing it.”
- Keep those key messages short.
- Do your homework:
- Consult with Media Relations
- Gather any printed materials in advance; create a fact sheet
- Think of examples, analogies and (for TV) visuals
- Anticipate questions (especially negative one) — Media Relations can help.
During the interview:
- Keep focusing on your key messages.
- Give yourself time to think before you answer a question.
- Don’t hesitate to say “I don’t know.”
- Listen and seek feedback to make sure the reporter understands. Reporters will often paraphrase or summarize while talking to you. Listen carefully – the reporter is telling you how he/she will write the story. Correct any misperceptions or errors.
- Flag your key points (“I’m glad you asked that,” or “That’s really the key point.”)
- Speak slowly in short sentences; avoid acronyms, academic or scientific jargon.
- Don’t say “no comment.”
- Don’t go off the record and don’t make off-the-cuff remarks. If you don’t want to see it in print, don’t say it.
- Stop talking when you’ve answered the question.
- Don’t repeat negative words that the reporter uses in a question.
- End the interview with a key point.
- Don’t ever lie.
After the interview
- If you need to clarify or correct a point, call immediately (the story may be on the web within minutes).
- If an error appears in the story, call the reporter directly (Media Relations will handle this if desired).
- Let the reporter know if he/she did a good job.