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Tips for Working With Journalists

When a Reporter Calls

  • If a reporter calls unexpectedly, don’t feel you must respond immediately. Don’t hesitate to ask to call them back within the hour
  • To ensure your comfort with a reporter, ask what the interview is about; what information the reporter needs; the news affiliation of the interviewer; who else the reporter is contacting; the location, time and estimated length of the interview; the caller's phone number; and the deadline
  • Respond to reporters as quickly as possible; you can't influence a story once its deadline has passed 

Before the Interview

  • Determine your message with three to five key points -- Practice getting your key points across
  • Think about questions a reporter might ask and how to answer them
  • Gather facts, statistics or background information
  • For television interviews, check your appearance — avoid flashy jewelry and wear comfortable clothes in solid colors or soft shades
  • Contact University Communications and Marketing at 330-672-2727  if you need assistance 

During the Interview

  • Answer truthfully, even if it hurts — don't lie, guess, or exaggerate
  • State important facts first
  • Be sure to make your points
  • Avoid complex explanations
  • Don't use jargon or acronyms; speak in easy-to-understand terms
  • Be brief. Deliver responses in 20 seconds or less for print or broadcast; keep in mind that 10-second sound bites are the building blocks of television and radio news stories
  • Remember that the reporter is a conduit; speak to the public, not the reporter
  • Use examples, comparisons or statistics as back-up information for follow-up questions
  • If possible, provide illustrations, visual aids or a demonstration for photographers or videographers
  • If you don't know the answer to a question, admit it. Offer to call back or refer the reporter to University Communications and Marketing to find additional information or experts
  • Never speak off the record; if you don't want a statement quoted, don't make it
  • Correct the record if the reporter has the wrong information
  • If something is truly too controversial to discuss, explain as much as you can or why you can’t discuss it. "No comment" sounds as though you're hiding something
  • Beware of the reporter who remains silent, thus encouraging you to ramble or dilute your message; don't fill those lulls with conversation; wait for the reporter to continue asking questions
  • Keep your cool; don't argue with the reporter
  • Always maintain a positive attitude