Public Affairs

Preparing for an Interview with a Reporter

Before the interview

  1. Ask what the reporter wants to talk about; make sure you’re the best source.
  2. 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.”
  3. Keep those key messages short.
  4. 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:

  1. Keep focusing on your key messages.
  2. Give yourself time to think before you answer a question.
  3. Don’t hesitate to say “I don’t know.”
  4. 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.
  5. Flag your key points (“I’m glad you asked that,” or “That’s really the key point.”)
  6. Speak slowly in short sentences; avoid acronyms, academic or scientific jargon.
  7. Don’t say “no comment.”
  8. 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.
  9. Stop talking when you’ve answered the question.
  10. Don’t repeat negative words that the reporter uses in a question.
  11. End the interview with a key point.
  12. Don’t ever lie.

After the interview

  1. If you need to clarify or correct a point, call immediately (the story may be on the web within minutes).
  2. If an error appears in the story, call the reporter directly (Media Relations will handle this if desired).
  3. Let the reporter know if he/she did a good job.

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