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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.