This training is to help prepare faculty and staff to develop some of the skills needed to work with the media and to serve as the university contact for interviews.
There are two primary reasons for the media to want to talk to you.
1. There may be a problem and they want somebody to provide an insight into that problem.
2. They want an expert that they can use as an asset.
And the other thing to keep in mind is that when you serve as contact, as university spokesmen you are helping the university establish relationships with the media, you are speaking on behalf of the university in either instants.
Public Relations Essentials
Something to keep in mind is that we are talking about communication and information transfer which typically people think of as information the university or department of college provides to the media, this is a one way transfer of communication.
True communication is two way and it involves give and take from the university stand point as well as from the media stand point so we try to accommodate what the media wants in addition to what information we want to provide.
People don’t respond to data, they respond to relationship. We are developing relationships between the university, colleges, departments, programs with the media and be willing to serve in this capacity and help the media with the need that they have is a good way to build and develop relationships.
In order to build relationships face time is required. You can improve or increase the quality of a relationship through telephone contacts but the best way to get it started is face to face.
Media relationships are built on trust. In a personal relationship when you trust some one you are willing to believe what they say, to value what they say, to pass along what they say and you are willing to build relationships if the trust factor is there.
Trust is developed with honesty. You have to believe what somebody says, you have to be credible in what you say and when you are conducting an interview you always want to be truthful and forthcoming; you don’t want to intentionally miss lead or lie to the media.
Consistent messaging is important; you always want to say the same thing to different media if you are interviewed at a later time you want to be consistent in what you said earlier. This again relates back to developing trust, honesty and consistency.
Finally trust allows you to motivate, persuade and reinforce behavior. The primary reason that you are talking to the media is to effect some sort of behavior change, in many cases you want someone to attend a lecture, to be interested in a particular event, and so in order to get this sort of activity you are much more likely to achieve that if you have built relationship that is built on trust.
Working with the Media
All media are not alike and local media has certain qualities that you need to be aware of. In the Springfield area we have a media that we work with pretty closely and who generally speaking do a very good job of covering Missouri State University. If you are working with media in other areas there may be different qualities that you need to understand. If there is question or problem with this at anytime feel free to contact University Communications and discuss.
Good public relations begins and ends with good policies. And this is particularly true if you are working in a crisis situation. Hopefully the university has that kinds of policies that are going to result in a positive story or with minimal impact done to the image of a department or a college or the university as a whole but there’s no making up for bad policies or bad procedures in an interview or contact with a media setting.
If you are working with a media in a problem or crisis situation see it as an opportunity and not as a problem, this allows you to talk about the policies and procedures, to talk about some other things that happened that are right, true, some thing may have happened that is or could be construed as a negative reflection but rather than dwelling on that use the opportunity as the voice for the university to bring out some of the things that are positive.
Communication is a two way street working with media is a two way relationship and it not only involves trying to establish what it is you are trying to do but understanding what media needs. And this involves a number of aspects and sometimes frustrations in that you may agree to do an half an hour interview and find that only a sentence or two is used, understand the needs of the media the need to be precise and the use of space and the use of time. If you are talking about television interview and so again it’s something that people have to try to understand what the need is on both ends in order for the relationship to work.
Being prepared in either ends whether you are being used as an experts source or as someone who could communicate in a crisis situation the better you are prepared the better are your chances of being effective and not being caught off guard and this is not always something you can manage to do in the case of something that pops up but the better you are prepared the better off you are going to feel.
When possible identify the potential issues early and develop strategies to resolve them. Try to anticipate what some of the questions would be, try to anticipate what your responses will be and if you don’t know the answer say so but never say that you “can’t comment on” or “won’t comment on”.
In an Emergency Situation
In a crisis or emergency situation try to select the spokesman who is in charge of or most knowledgeable about the incident. This is going to present the best face to the media in terms of being able to answer the questions authoritatively. If that person is not available differ the time until which they are but never say you “can’t comment” or “won’t comment” but say “I don’t know enough to comment” or “I will find somebody who can”.
Anticipate what the questions may be and if possible prepare response and talking points. This will help you to stay on message, to make important points, to not get flustered if there are unanticipated questions that are asked. And depending on situation you may or may not feel very comfortable in just talking off the cuff so if it is possible to work these things out ahead of time then do so.
An important consideration is to keep in mind that the reporter is a conduit. You are speaking to the public and not to the reporter you are speaking to the public through the reporter. And the things you want to talk about should be things that the public needs to know or wants to know.
Crisis or Emergency Situation
You need to have a central message, you have to repeat the message, you don’t want a repeated agnostic or at the point of being absurd but you want the people to understand what the message is what the organization or the university is trying to get across. And this needs to be emphasized as much as you possible can.
Because of the length of the interviews the nature of sound bytes and the nature of the way things get used in the media, make sure that you state the important facts first and that has a much more likely chance of being used.
If the reporter asks a question or repeats information that is not correct you are certainly free to correct the reporter. You don’t have to go along with the premise that you believe is fault to begin with. Remember you have as much authority in this interview as the reporter so don’t feel that you are subjected to the control of the reporter.
Answer only the questions asked and do it as distinctly and clearly as possible. Don’t bounce here, don’t afford, don’t expand, and don’t expend just answer the question.
The following are few of the basic tips about doing an interview and this applies whether you are being interviewed as an expert source or as a spokesman during an emergency situation. First of all, it’s normal and ok to be nervous and if you are don’t worry about it. One other thing that would help is that when you think about the fact that the reporter is talking to you because you are the expert and otherwise they wouldn’t be talking to you. And this gives you some element of control during the interview and so that should also help with point number one makes you less nervous because you are the authority.
Be yourself as much as you possibly can, but be professional don't be chummy or too friendly, on the other hand you don’t want to be standoffish but just be yourself. Again you are the expert they are talking to you, you have something you have to say, something that is note worthy to say and delivered in the professional manner. When you have to communicate plan ahead, have the facts to backup your comment, and this of course benefits you because you are an authority that has something to say.
In terms of building credibility, in terms of building trust and honesty you never want to lie or mislead a reporter.
Offer your conclusion first, speak briefly and back it up with facts, this again reiterates the fact that you are being honest and forthright and have some validity to what you are talking about. You want to make sure it’s on the front end and they are much more likely to use something that’s upfront.
It’s because it your neighbor not your colleague and you don’t want to be professional to make the regular audience and normal person on the street not understand what you are talking about. So avoid jargon acronyms, this also has the added negative effect or possible negative effect of making you seem like you are trying to hide something.
Be realistic and positive in your conversations particularly if you are dealing an emergency or crisis situation, you don’t want to seem as if you are frazzled or panicked. Speak plainly short answers are better than long useful sentences. And this goes back to being succinct having everything upfront, don’t ramble.
Be honest factual don’t talk too much.
If your are asked a question or posed a hypothetical situation you need to be careful. Don’t accept the reporters facts and figures as true if you need to correct it then correct it. Don’t respond to a hypothetical situation because there too many traps that are inherent in a situation like that. Don’t respond to negative leading questions with positive statements. So again you are in control, there is a two way communication flow here and don’t feel like you have to respond to a set of conditions and parameters that you are not comfortable with but make sure that you change that.
Keep cool of course one of the ploys is to get you excited, to make you angry don’t fall for that; don’t allow yourself to be provoked.
There is no formal beginning or end to an interview. Everything a reporter can hear whether it’s a part of the interview or not is fair game. And anybody who has ever watched any footage or sixty minutes understands that if you get mad or stomp up or say something later that’s what they are going to use.
Reporters sometimes ask if you can comment or reveal information off the record. General rule of thumb is there is no such thing as off the record regardless of what you relationship is with the media or reporter is this is not a good policy to adhere to in giving information off the record just remember no such thing.
Be prepared to state everything that you want to say in the first question. And this is a more a succinct way to deliver content so if possible try to get everything in the first question.
State as the matter of fact if you cannot release information why you are not able to deliver information at this particular point of time again you don't want to couch this in “no comment” or “cant comment” but say “I cant comment for this reason but I will get information by such and such time”.
If you don’t know the answer say so and offer to find out people will respect the fact that you didn’t have information at your disposal but more when you are able to deliver them fashions in a timely fashion.
Feel free to answer any part of a long question if you have a two or three part question don’t worry about going through everything all at once but make sure you get it right make sure you say what you want to say and have a message stick to the message and part of the question you can always come back and ask for the other parts of it later.
Things to Remember
Theses are all things to remember about in an interview. In terms of what a reporter has to do and what a reporter can use and there are certain limitations that we need to understand. They will use sound bytes or they will use specific quotes in a written piece. They can’t possibly use other things that’s why you need to be concise and that’s why you try to need understand how they work and the environment in which they work and you can’t expect everything to be used and so try not to be upset if the part you expected isn’t used.
But if you feel you have been misrepresented and misquoted you need to let the reporter know or let the university communications know so that we can communicate this to the reporter. This is a part of the two ways street relationship which we need to establish and although you can’t be complete in coverage you can be accurate in our expectations or that they are accurate with the reporting. And this bears mentioning once again in a crisis communication context in particular never say “no comment” and leave it at that don’t say it.
This online media training seminar was intended to provide some basic background material that might be useful to you if you are not used to doing interviews with the media. Its not intended to tell you everything you need to know and certainly a lot of this you develop with practice and opportunity but hopefully it will help you feel you are little more comfortable in working with the media which is an important part of what the university does and its an important part of helping public the understand what we do here some of our activities the expertise of our faculty and so forth.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact University Communications at 66397 or by email, any of us here are happy to work with you in any context. At some future point we do anticipate a more rigorous training program being conducted in workshop format on campus but this is always a good resource to be able to refer to. Thank you.