Tips for dealing with the media

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Tips for dealing with the media

Postby CES » Sat Feb 20, 2010 11:25 am

I’m on the board of and a designated media contact for a non-profit association. I’m posting these (adapted) guidelines for dealing with the media because I hope that people that read the forum are sometimes contacted- or are willing to contact the media. I thought they might be helpful, especially in light of the recently released study from VCU and the resulting news releases. While no one has total control of a news story, there are tips to help in being effective in communicating, and decrease the probability of being misrepresented.

Mods- please feel free to move this if it’s not posted in the right place- ces

You should use phone and email to document your
attempts to respond if a reporter contacts you.

Find out the deadline for the story. When is the writer turning in the story? When is it
expected to run?

Ask for the questions the reporter is seeking answers to and the general overall
scope of the story. Write them down and ask if you can get back to him/her within a
reasonable time with the answers/statements.

Ask if other people are being interviewed; who are they? Try to discover if the story
will be straightforward or potentially controversial. See the tips below for how to
handle a controversial topic.

Use any time that you have to formulate your response. It’s always better to see the
words you are going to say on paper before you say them. Stick to your script.

Be sure to mention the all of the key talking points below, even if the reporter did not
request them.

Offer to send follow-up research or information.

Let the reporter know you would be pleased to be a reference point in the future for
similar stories.

Ask for a copy of the final version and keep it for your files.

Thank the reporter for his/her insight

Tips To Remember

1. Ask the about the overall goal of the story.
Try to understand the writer’s motives. Is the writer interested in a positive story or is
he/she searching for a problem to report? If you sense that the writer is researching a
problem area stick to the facts. Offer to take their questions and get back to them at a
more convenient time. Once you have the questions formulate your answers and
determine if you response will be factual rather than emotional.

2. You are not having a conversation with a reporter you are being interviewed.

Sometimes a reporter is looking for a twist, or a catch phrase, and maybe a
controversial remark. Your job is to report the facts.Ask for a copy of the article before it’s released so you can make changes if necessary. Some reporters will do that but many more will not.

Despite the best preparation, however, sometimes the reporter will write the story that
they intended and you may not recognize the statements that have been attributed to
you. If the statements are way off mark you can send a letter to the editor with your

Be sure not to fall into the trap of thinking that you are making a new best friend and
chatting about various topics. The interview is a serious discussion of the facts. Be sure
to maintain a professional relationship throughout the interview. You should maintain
your expert posture in the process.

3. Convey the key messages and repeat them.
Before you start an interview, know exactly what you want to say. Prepare three to five
talking points you want to make and integrate them into your answers during the
interview. Write them down and practice a few comfortable ways of saying them.
Be sure to review the key messages listed in this packet; repeat as many as possible.
It is particularly helpful to use stories or case studies to make a point. Be sure to keep
them short and remember to state your conclusions before you use your supporting
evidence. Most often, producers and editors are looking for that sound bite, that quick
thought that summarizes your points.

4. Nothing you say is “off the record.”
It’s important to realize that even if a reporter says it’s "off the record" anything you say
may be repeated . . . and in print.
Don’t speculate. Report only what you know is fact. Be sure not to comment in a
negative way about someone else or another organization. Don’t gossip or say that you
heard something negative or rumors. That will only fuel a story that will reflect poorly on
your and the profession. If the reporter asks what you think of someone’s behavior or
another organization say, “no comment” or "I have no comment about that."

5. Be enthusiastic and respectful of others.
Take the opportunity to voice your pride in your profession, as well as a chance to
promote your own work or research. Provide links to your website. A good story can
increase public awareness and understanding of your specialty area and a particular
issue relevant to your work. Speak with energy and warmth.

6. Remember, you are the expert.
The most important thing to remember about a media interview is that you know the
subject matter better than the interviewer. The reporter has a role in gathering and
reporting information but you actually make the story by your remarks. They are looking
to you as a source of information and as an expert to add to their story. Be sure to
provide you full credentials and explain what they mean.

7. Stay in your comfort zone.
The journalist needs to write a compelling story that will illustrate a balanced look at the
issue. Your job is to articulate the information in an interesting and factual way and help
the audience understand.
In some cases you may be asked to comment on areas that you may not be familiar
with such as legislation affecting the field. Remember don’t guess or speculate. It will
show up in print.

8. You’ll improve over time so keep trying.

Each interview will be a different experience from which you can learn

Finally, as you are preparing your messages for the interview, it is also a good idea to
consider potentially challenging questions that might get asked and how you would
handle the response. If a challenging question is posed that you think you have
prepared for and can answer, by all means do so. However, if you feel there is a
question that you cannot answer, make a note of the question and tell the reporter that
you will get back to them. You can head off these kinds of uncomfortable exchanges if
you are able to anticipate hot button questions and craft a response.
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