What to do when a reporter calls
The following are some general guidelines to help you get ready for and respond to a reporter’s questions.
- Gather basic details.
- Write down the reporter’s name, media outlet, phone number and story deadline.
- Ask what the story will be about and how the interview will be used.
- If TV or radio reporter is calling, inquire about the interview format (live, taped, etc.).
- If you’re the appropriate expert but aren’t prepared to talk, set a later time, but respect the reporter’s deadline. Even 15 minutes will help you get ready.
- If you’re not the best expert, refer the reporter to someone who is, or contact the News & Marketing department.
- Contact the News & Marketing department at 608.785.8572 and let us know about the inquiry and the actions taken.
Prepare for the interview
- Take a few minutes to write down the brief message(s) you want to convey.
- Avoid technical jargon and acronyms; use lay terms.
- Make sure your points are clear and succinct.
- Be ready to support your message with a few examples and facts.
- Keep in mind what the public needs to know, and how the topic affects people’s lives.
- Anticipate tough questions the reporter might ask.
- Practice delivering your message(s).
- Offer brief background on the subject at hand if the reporter seems to need it.
- Assume everything you say is on the record, from the time you meet or talk with the reporter until he or she leaves the room or hangs up.
- Speak with authority and energy, particularly for TV or radio interviews.
- State your position in positive terms, even if a reporter’s questions turn negative or sound loaded.
- If the reporter’s questions veer off track, politely steer the interview back to your message(s).
- If you’re not sure the reporter understood your main points, ask them if he or she understood and rephrase your response if necessary.
- Broadcast media need prior permission to film inside buildings on campus or to film anyone who would easily be identified on TV. For more information, contact the News & Marketing department.
- If the interview will be on screen, dress in clothing without small patterns.