Communicating with the Media
The Director of University Relations serves as university media spokesperson and will handle all inquiries that come in from the media.
If a student, faculty or staff member is contacted by a newspaper, television, online or radio reporter, please contact the director of university relations. Please also review the following guidelines on speaking with the media if you are asked to participate in an interview.
You’ve Landed a Media Interview
Whatever the situation, positive or negative, it’s important to remember that the press is a significant vehicle for ESU to communicate with its external audiences, enabling us to tell our story and announce our priorities. Successful relationships with the press are no longer a luxury - they are a necessity.
Dealing with the media can be intimidating. It’s not easy to answer questions with a microphone or a notebook in your face. To get the best message out requires foresight and thought.
So, when you are asked to participate in a media interview, knowing a few basic tips might help you in your response.
We hope these tips will also increase your level of comfort and have you looking forward to opening your morning paper or turning on the television to catch the news. The Office of University Relations will assist you through the media process.
Basic Rules for Success
- Tell The Truth. Never be afraid to say "I don’t know." Don’t guess at answers and don’t make them up. Offer to follow up with an answer after the interview if you think you can find the answer.
- Return Calls Promptly. Reporters are on daily deadlines. Today’s news won’t wait for tomorrow. If University Relations reaches out to you for a media interview, please respond quickly.
- Don’t Fill Space. Don’t feel like it’s your obligation to keep the interview moving - it’s not. You only have to answer the questions asked.
- Be Prepared. Don’t think you can just ad lib through tough interviews. Determine three to five points you want the reporter to know and weave them into your answers, no matter the question. Think of the ten worst questions you could be asked and prepare answers for them.
- Use Examples or Anecdotes. Often it’s easier to understand a complicated point with examples.
- Don’t Lose Your Temper. Don’t take the interview personally. Remember, you’re providing your expertise on a subject that is relevant to the current news cycle. Don’t let the focus of the story shift to you, keep it the subject matter.
- Don’t Speculate. Deal in facts.
- Don’t Give Your Personal Opinion. You represent ESU and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education each time you grant an interview, your expert opinion is needed, not your personal opinion.
- Don’t Be Intimidated. You are the expert, not the reporter. State your points with authority.
- Don’t Go Off The Record. Stay on the record. Everything you say is for attribution to you.
- Avoid "No Comment." If you really can’t or don’t want to talk about a subject, it’s better to say something like, "This matter is the subject of litigation and we can’t talk about it." Never say "No comment."
- Avoid Jargon. Get rid of the alphabet soup and speak plainly so the reporter can understand your message clearly. Remember, the audience reading or watching this news story won’t understand technical terms or acronyms. Explain your answers in layman’s terms.
- Be Positive. Make your own points rather than defend against negative comments.
- Be Brief. Nothing is more frustrating to a reporter than interviewing someone who takes five minutes to give a 20-second answer. Think about headlines and soundbites.
- Rely On Our Office. We’re the professionals who are here to assist you. Call us at (570) 422-3532 if we can help.
Delivering Your Message
- Project your voice. If you’re at a stationary microphone, don’t lean in and out.
- Smile when appropriate and maintain eye contact with the reporter. Remove transition lens glasses which may make you look like you’re wearing sunglasses.
- Sit still. Don’t swivel or rock in a chair (it can be distracting). Lean forward a bit in your chair to show interest.
- Keep your hands away from your face.
- Use gestures only if you do naturally.
- If standing, keep your hands at your side, not in your pocket or in front of you. Don’t cross your arms over your chest.
- Relax. If you’re nervous, take a few deep breaths or try other exercises to help you relax.
- Try to keep the "ahs," "uhs," and "you knows" out of your conversation. Pausing between sentences can help.
It may be the reporter’s story, but you have rights, too.
- To make your own recording. Just as many reporters tape conversations for accuracy, you also have the right to do so to be sure you are quoted correctly and not out of context.
- To have a University Relations representative with you.
- To protect the privacy of individuals. You can withhold information that is not public, and you must do so in some cases. Don’t be intimidated into discussing private or personnel matters.
- To establish ground rules. University Relations will help determine the time, place and location; it’s not just the reporter’s choice.
- To be quoted accurately. The best way to do this is to speak slowly and clearly and communicate your message. Don’t overload the reporter with information.
After the Interview
You’ve spent a considerable amount of time preparing for the interview and only 15 seconds appeared on the evening news. Or, worse yet, nothing appeared because the story was preempted. Feeling disappointed? Angry? Let down? Don’t be! Consider that 15 seconds to be a positive boost for ESU and the work you do. Even if you weren’t quoted, if the story was accurate, consider yourself a winner! Furthermore, your interaction may lead to addition calls from other media outlets.