Working with Reporters
Preparing for Interviews
Media Interview Basics: A Guide for Scientists and Engineers, an AAAS-produced webinar.
Once you recognize the importance of working with the reporters, translating that goal into a successful interview can be a challenge.
Don't panic when a media opportunity comes your way. When you are contacted, take a moment to prepare.
Set-Up an Interview Time: The time-sensitive nature of reporting can lead to calls from journalists requesting information in a hurry. It is completely acceptable to ask a reporter for time to prepare for an interview. Ask about the deadline and, with that in mind, arrange for a mutually agreeable time to talk.
Ask Questions: In order to obtain the right information and use prep time most effectively, it's useful to both you and the reporter if key questions are addressed. If the information is not provided up front, ask:
- What is the story about?
- What is the deadline?
- What level of detail are you seeking?
- In what outlet(s) will the story appear?
- Who is the intended audience?
Consider your Audience: Be sure to prepare your message in the way most appropriate for the intended audience. A journalist writing for children will appreciate a different delivery than a writer targeting adult readers.
Keep it Short, but Sweet: Keep your answers brief, but long enough to provide quotes. Tell anecdotes and give examples to illustrate your point while avoiding jargon. Remember that for radio or television, your information will be delivered as a sound bite. The longer your answers, the better the chances that most of your interview will end up on the cutting room floor.
Practice Makes Perfect! It helps to practice your messages before arranging an interview with a member of the news media. Public information officers at your institution or agency can be helpful in defining key messages and finding opportunities for media outreach.