Plan what to say to reporters

Maybe you’ve just completed a project for the OSU Extension Catalog, had a research paper published, or have recently given a presentation on a hot topic at a public meeting. You may be getting some attention from a reporter or two, wanting to know more.

A call from the media can be a good experience—if you are prepared. Here are some tips for giving a clear, effective interview:

Put together some key points ahead of time. Just like writing a paper or giving a speech, it will be easier to talk to a reporter if you have some ideas about what you want to say.

Explain things to a reporter as you would to friends and family. Respect their intelligence, but be basic. Remember, reporters aren’t in your discipline.

Make it short and simple. Try to boil the scope and significance of your work into a few clear sentences, then elaborate from there. Reporters have very little space (a few column inches or 30 seconds on the radio or TV) to transmit a lot of information.

Use analogies and images when talking about your work and its relevance. Vivid language will give the reporter something to quote and readers a way of grasping a new concept.

Share good photos and graphics. A good picture will help a reporter understand your work and draw readers into an article.

Respond to a reporter’s call as soon as you can. Reporters have short deadlines. If they call you in the morning, their deadline might be that afternoon.

Put yourself in a reporter’s shoes. Be kind if a reporter makes a mistake. A good reporter wants to be as accurate as possible. Encourage him or her to call you back for clarification. You might try asking the reporter to reiterate what you have said, before your interview has ended. Offer to review anything he or she might be unsure of, via e-mail or phone.

Avoid going on vacation the week after you publish an important paper or give a newsworthy presentation. Reporters may lose interest quickly if you aren’t available.

Sign up for an EESC media training. EESC offers trainings each year on how to talk to reporters and gives you the chance to practice mock interviews. Contact us if you are interested in a one-on-one training or if you would like to plan a training for your county office or department.

Have questions?

Contact: Gail Wells, Public Issues Education Leader

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