Introduction to media relations

If you have research to be published you think might be of interest to the public, please contact Michelle Klampe and cc Kathryn Stroppel. They are here to help you navigate working with the media and can also provide media training. This is a skill that must be learned; please don't hesitate to ask for guidance.

The news media world is changing, and we are in a 24-hour news cycle where anyone with a computer, cell phone or camera is a news provider.

  • A recent survey found that regular readership of daily newspapers has dropped 50 percent in the last 20 years.
  • More people are getting their news online, where news “aggregators” like Google, Yahoo, AOL, Huffington Post and others are go-to sites.
  • Sharing of news through social media also has gone through the roof, and many of those stories originate in mainstream media.

There has been a convergence between print, broadcast and online media sources.

  • Visually illustrating a story today is almost as important for traditional print media as it is for broadcast media.
  • Likewise, TV stations and even major radio outlets – including National Public Radio – maintain websites with print versions of many stories.
  • Web-based media outlets crave video, photos, graphics, etc.

What makes something newsworthy today?

  • Impact – How many people does it affect, and how deeply?
  • Proximity – Do you care more about a flood in Florida or Oregon?
  • Timeliness – Breaking news is more likely to get attention than a rehash.
  • Prominence – Name familiarity bumps up media interest.
  • Novelty – Two-headed snakes and dogs on surfboards = You-Tube.
  • Conflict – Politics, policy decisions, he said/she said. It’s all about conflict.

Why work with the news media?

  • The public, for the most part, doesn’t access scholarly journals.
  • Tax dollars may be funding the research, or agency, thus a right to know.
  • Building institutional image and your personal brand.
  • Educational value: The greater the understanding, the better decisions.

Tips for working with reporters

When reporters call out of the blue and ask for an interview

  • It is OK to ask them the nature of their story and where you fit in.
  • Be mindful of deadlines, but you can ask to call them back in 15 minutes.
  • Avoid hypothetical situations and off-the-record comments if possible.
  • Call your communications/marketing/pr director for guidance/heads-up.

How to prepare for potential interviews when you’re point person on a project

  • Write down 3-4 key messages you want to convey in an interview.
  • Emphasize those key points – especially at the end of an interview.
  • Update your website to include most recent information.
  • Practice the “hardball” questions you don’t really want to face.

Ways to increase your chance of an accurate story resulting from the interview

  • A background news release can provide a blueprint for reporters.
  • Provide links to other resources that may help explain complicated points.
  • Don’t ask to see a story before publication, but it may be OK to ask a reporter to read back your quote.
  • Consider fact sheets, photos or graphics that convey your messages clearly.
  • You may want to follow up with an email to the reporter offering further assistance – and emphasizing key points.

The interview itself

  • Most interviews are by phone – when possible, use a landline for clarity especially if it is for radio.
  • In person, pick out a good location where it isn’t too hectic, but may provide some additional perspective for the reporter.
  • If you’re being photographed, wear clothing appropriate to the story.
  • Be concise. Don’t ramble. Be conversational. Use lay language and picture words. Stay somewhat within your area of expertise, but be reasonable.

Final tips…

  • Return calls as promptly as possible. If they don't hear from you quickly, they will move on to the next source.
  • Begin keeping a log of calls by reporters, including their name/contact info.
  • Don’t berate reporters for a bad story, but it’s OK to point out factual errors.
  • You can take control of an interview. Don’t just answer questions – steer the reporter toward your messages.
  • Don't expect the reporter to share the story with you ahead of publication. You can, however, ask to review your quotes.

Additional tips for working with television reporters

The TV reporter calls

  • After the reporter calls break down your story so you can make short concise statements.
  • Always expect the reporter to ask at the end of the interview if there is anything you’d like to add. That’s a good time to stress a very important element to the story or clarify a statement.
  • Call your communications/marketing/pr director for guidance/heads-up.

The TV crew arrives

  • Recommend a location to conduct the interview. The quieter the better.
  • Feel comfortable talking to the reporter/camera operator. Be yourself.
  • It’s all right to stop a recorded interview and correct yourself if you make a mistake. The reporter will appreciate it.
  • Television is a visual and moving medium. Facial expressions of humor, dismay, concern or excitement are powerful forms of non-verbal communications.
  • Always keep eye contact with the reporter, and don’t look at the camera.
  • Do not step on top of the reporter’s last word in their question. Pause for a moment then respond. That way it will make it easier to use that statement.
  • It’s always good to paraphrase and restate the question in your response. Generally the reporter’s questions will not be heard.
  • Dress for the topic. Wear a button down shirt, blouse or jacket that allows a lapel microphone to be attached.

Integrating media

  • Before or after the interview the camera operator will gather additional footage on the topic.
  • If you have other visuals such as photos, video, animation, objects, brochures to support your topic, share them with the reporter.

Closure and follow-up

  • Present your business card and simplify your title for the limited TV space on the screen where they will put your name.
  • Ask the reporter when the story will air and follow through and view it – either during the newscast or online.