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Conducting media interviews

Informing media coverage of an issue is a powerful public communications technique.

The best way to influence coverage is to inform the reporting process through interviews. If you are contacted by a news reporter or producer, follow these steps as you prepare for the interview:

Ask questions before the interview:

  • What outlet is the reporter calling from?
  • What do you know about the outlet?
  • What information does the reporter hope to get from interviewing you? Is this information you have?
  • In the case of radio or television, will the interview be live or taped? How long will the interview be?
  • How well does the reporter understand the subject matter? How much “educating” of the reporter will you need to do?

Never do the interview cold:

  • Arrange a time to call the report back for the actual interview. That gives you time to collect any information you may need during the interview and to gather your thoughts.
  • Call back as soon as possible. All reporters have deadlines.
  • Think about what you want to accomplish during this interview. What do you want people to remember as the take-away message after reading or hearing the resulting news piece?
  • Create an outline of talking points for use during your interview. Your outline should include the 2-4 major message points you want to be included in the reporting. Make sure they are brief: The average quote used in news reporting is eight to ten words!

Be brief and succinct:

  • Media reports are short summaries of current events. To be an effective part of the news collection process, you also need to summarize.

Speak in language your neighbor would understand:

  • Remember that when you're doing news media interviews, you are speaking to the general public--not your colleagues. Speak in plain English and avoid too much psychology jargon.
  • Be accurate about the science, but do so in language that your neighbor would understand.