Media Relations - Media Inquiries
Inquiries From the Media: The Process
When reporters are assigned a story,
they need to find reliable sources or “experts” who they can
rely upon to explain a complex issue, provide a new perspective, offer commentary
to support their facts,
or lend credibility to their article.
Reporters may call you directly, particularly if they have worked with you
in the past and have found you to be open to the process. If you are
accustomed to talking to the media, feel free to call them back directly.
also call the Office of Marketing and Communications
to share that
this interview has taken place.
If you have had little experience talking to reporters or are unsure as
to how to respond to a reporter’s request for information, please call
the Office of Marketing and Communications
at Ext. 5291. This will allow you to talk through some possible questions/answers
and to receive some direction before
returning the reporter’s call. We can
also assist by calling the reporter on your behalf to gather further
information as to the inquiry.
Either way, it is important that a reporter’s phone call is returned
promptly since members of the media often work on very tight deadlines. How
we approach these inquiries is critical to building an ongoing relationship
with the media.
Should you answer a call directly from a reporter and find that you are
now faced with an interview request that you did not expect, know that you
do not have to submit to the interview that very moment. Treat this initial
call as an information-gathering opportunity for you. Ask the reporter what
the article will cover, when it is due and how you may be of help. Then,
if you feel you are ready for the interview, let the reporter know that he
or she may begin to ask some questions.
If you would like some time to think about the topic, ask the reporter if
you may call them back later in the day or by the next day if the story deadline
allows. Ultimately, very few journalists are going to mind if you ask to
call back as long as you then follow through with them at the agreed-upon
time. Reporters understand that you are assisting them in their work, and
are usually as flexible as they can be in working with you.
Once in an interview – one that isn’t being broadcast live – it
is perfectly okay to ask to come back to a question that you need some time
to think about. You may even ask to call the reporter back if you need to
check your facts before sharing them. There is nothing wrong with saying “That’s
a very good question. Let me give that some thought and call you back.”
In general, please remember that in agreeing to the interview that you represent
the University in all that you say. While most interviews are done over the
phone, be mindful that your comments will have widespread impact once they
are in print or broadcast over the radio.
Tips for the Interview
Do your best to cultivate a positive working relationship. Keep in mind
that reporters can help you to accomplish some of your goals as well, particularly
when it comes to getting your message out to the masses. View the interview
as an opportunity.
Place yourself in the reporter’s position when thinking about an upcoming
interview. Ask yourself “What information would you need to do your
job effectively and to write a good story?” That doesn’t mean
you do all of the work for them, but anticipating the questions they will
ask can help to facilitate the process and you in being better prepared.
In addition, being mindful of the audience the reporter is writing for might
help you to target your answers. If you aren’t sure of the audience
or would like to be able to anticipate the questions more directly,
do not be afraid to ask in advance.
Choose a quiet location to return the reporter’s phone call or to
meet in person for the interview. This will make it easier to listen to the
questions being asked and to compose your thoughts without interruption.
Whenever possible, be sure to have nearby any information that you
might need to access during the interview. This will help the interview to run
more efficiently, and show that you are prepared. Try as you might, however,
occasionally you may need to reference materials that you could not anticipate.
That’s okay. You can always offer to call the reporter back or ask
if they might want to wait if you believe you can access the material within
a short amount of time. You may also ask to skip that particular question
until the end of the interview if it is something that can wait.
Be flexible. Do not be so rigid in following a reporter’s line of
questioning that you miss the real opportunity in front of you. Listen to
each question carefully and ask yourself what message you would most like
Remember that you have the ability to guide the interview. While it is important
to answer the reporter’s questions, you also have the opportunity to
share some related information that you would like others to know. This might
also take the interview into areas that the reporter might not have considered,
providing the opportunity for a more interesting and unique story.
Savor the silence. Guiding the interview also means knowing
when you have answered the question. Be complete in what you say, but do
not let gaps in
the conversation compel you to speak further on a question that you
have already answered well. Reporters will often pause to take notes or to
their next question based on the information you have just shared.
Use the momentary silence for a break between questions.
Do not speak to an issue that you feel is out of your realm of expertise.
While you may speak in generalities about particular topics, should
an interview take a turn that leads to questions you cannot answer,
do not hesitate to
say just that. As an alternative, you may offer to connect the reporter
with a source who can more readily answer these questions or refer
them to the Office of Marketing and Communications. It is better to
refer the reporter to other sources than to later
regret something you have said. If you suggest an individual source,
please contact this person to let he or she know a reporter may be
call the Office of Marketing and Communications
also to inform or provide an
update on this matter to this office.
Offer to speak again with reporters should they need to clarify
any of your responses. This lets them know you are open to reviewing the information
you have provided, and offers you a second opportunity to clarify and expand
upon anything about which they are uncertain.
Tackling a Challenging Interview Situation
Generally, relying on the tips above as well as your own knowledge and expertise
will ensure a good interview. But on rare occasions, you may find yourself
up against a line of questioning you had not expected. The following list
provides some additional guidelines for tackling a challenging situation.
First and foremost, be polite, remain calm and do not become defensive.
Try to remind yourself that the reporter is doing a job that on occasion
requires some tough questions. However, that does not mean that you
have to respond to them. In this situation, it is best to politely
say that you
do not know the answer (if you actually do not know) and to refer them
to the Office of Marketing and Communications
for more information.
If you do know the answer to a question being
asked, but are concerned about how this might be interpreted publicly,
the best policy is to again refer
to the Office of Marketing and Communications.
Remember, your reaction to a line of questioning is very important – even
in situations that are not controversial. If you are perceived as being
defensive, the reporter might
is more to the story. If you are perceived as calm and conversational
even in a tough interview, often this response alone can diffuse
Do not attempt to avoid or shut the reporter down. This
again gives the impression that you are hiding something. Conclude
interviews in a polite
manner, always offering to connect the reporter to the Office of Marketing
and Communications for more information.
phone messages should always be returned, but you may rely on the Office
of Marketing and Communications to assist
you here. If you find yourself in a potentially
difficult/uncomfortable situation with the media or do not wish to
speak on a particular topic,
the Office of Marketing and Communications
to assist. If you are speaking with the reporter directly, you may
tell he or she that this would not be a topic
that you would choose to comment on, but the Office of Marketing and
Communications should be able to offer
some assistance. If the
topic is general in
(not related to any organization or to Lewis specifically), you may
in these instances simply tell the reporter that this is not an area
of your expertise.
Again, the Office of Marketing and Communications should then be contacted
to attempt to find another source if possible.
Keep your answers short and simple. When answering difficult questions,
it is best in most cases to give answers that are short and to the point.
This allows fewer opportunities for misinterpretation, and may actually reduce
the length of the interview since reporters often rely on your responses
to form their subsequent questions. Again, be polite. How you deliver your
response determines the difference between a brief answer and an abrupt one.
Always be honest. Dishonesty will only make matters worse.
It is always best to say that you would rather not comment than to
bend the truth. Also,
don’t speculate or make up an answer that could be incorrect. When
in doubt, refrain from comment to allow you time to verify your information,
or refer the reporter to the Office of Marketing and Communications
for further assistance.
Do not allow a question that is repeated to force you to change
In a difficult interview, reporters may ask you the same question in many
different ways in hopes that you will elaborate or answer differently. Do
not concern yourself with sounding repetitive. As long as you are courteous,
consistency is best. Once you have chosen what you want to say, stay with
Talk about issues, but never about organizations or personalities.
In difficult interviews, do not put yourself in a situation where you
are commenting about
the activities or character of other organizations or individuals.
Connect reporters who are looking for this kind of commentary to the
Office of Marketing and Communications.
Be direct. If you find that a line of questioning turns
out to be about something other than what the reporter described, politely
point this out
to the reporter. You may then explain that because this was not the
interview you had expected, you would need to refer them to another source.
the Office of Marketing and Communications to assist.
Know that this is not the norm. Do not let one challenging interview negatively
affect your willingness to talk with the media. Consider it a good exercise
for future interactions. Most interviews are not confrontational, and can
even be enjoyable.
Responding to Crisis Communications
In times of crisis affecting the University, members of the media will be
in contact hoping to talk to anyone who will respond. While there may
be a natural inclination to begin answering questions about how campus
services are being affected or how students are reacting, please refrain
these questions. Instead, refer all inquiries from the media to the
Office of Marketing and Communications . Parent and student inquiries
during a crisis should
be directed to the Office of Student Services. The University has a
crisis management plan in place, and will respond to crisis-related
the guidelines outlined in this plan.
Concerns After an Interview
Should the information you provide during an interview be misrepresented
once the story goes to print or you have other concerns related to
the interview, please contact the Office of Marketing and Communications
who will work with you to address these issues. Most members of the media
work very diligently to accurately report the information they have
gathered, but on occasion concerns do arise and the Office of Marketing
and Communications takes these concerns seriously.