Media Interview Prep
Why work with the news media?
Working with reporters can be painless and fun. Proper preparation helps, and the benefits for TMCC are valuable.
- Reach out to a classroom of thousands, maybe even millions, through newspapers, radio and television, as well as supporting TMCC's goals of academic excellence and a welcoming and supportive atmosphere.
- Make an extra effort to inform people about TMCC's programs and accomplishments. Good news coverage fosters understanding of and support for the college.
- Increasing TMCC's news coverage enhances the public's perception of TMCC's integrity and credibility. Faculty, administrators and staff can announce news through the public information office and respond to reporters' inquiries, which affects the amount of coverage TMCC receives.
When a reporter calls, what should you do?
- Do ask questions. Always ask the reporter's name and publication or broadcast station and ask exactly how you can help. Request information about the focus of the story. With this information, PIO can often pitch additional TMCC story ideas.
- Do contact PIO. PIO is responsible for TMCC's media relations and coordinates with reporters and editors. PIO's follow up ensures that the media has all questions answered and that TMCC will receive the maximum coverage possible. Contact PIO Now!
- Do go face-to-face. If you are asked for an interview, see whether the reporter will meet in person instead of talking over the phone. While distance and deadlines frequently make this impossible, face-to-face communication is best, especially when explaining complex information.
- Do respect deadlines. Reporters and editors are always on deadline. Please return telephone calls or emails immediately. In most cases reporters need a response in minutes, not hours or days. If you are unable to respond by deadline, please call PIO immediately and help us reroute the interview.
- Do prepare a message. Decide on a single message and two or three secondary points that you want to make, and then make them, regardless of the questions asked. (Again, PIO offers impromptu support and media interview training.)
If a reporter calls and asks for general information about the engineering drafting program, start with your main communication objective, "high skill, high wage, hot job market." From that main point, as a faculty member in the engineering drafting program, you can proceed to your secondary points, such as TMCC's business-education partnerships and how a TMCC degree or certificate can open doors to a variety of jobs.
"There is so much demand in northern Nevada for trained workers, that many employers work with TMCC to hire now and pay later for students to finish their engineering drafting program."
"In addition, there are a wide variety of jobs available in this area, from draftsman or detailer to blueprint checker or inspector, and in a variety of fields, such as civil, chemical, electrical, geology, mechanical or mining."
- Do anticipate. Think of any tough questions that you may be asked and rehearse your answers. (PIO can help with this, too.) If you are asked questions that you prefer to not answer, address them briefly, and then segue into your main points.
- Do call back. If you are not prepared, tell the reporter you will call back in 15 minutes or so. Collect your thoughts, call PIO to go over the information and then follow through on your promise to provide the interview.
- Do lose the jargon. Use simple language instead of technical terms, and please speak in short sentences.
- Do think sound bites. Eight seconds is the average length of a TV sound bite, so be brief. Newspaper reporters can take more time in their interviews and present more information than TV or radio reporters can.
- Do smile (if appropriate). Audiences, especially television viewers, are won as much by attitudes as words, so along with being knowledgeable, be sincere, energetic and even passionate about TMCC.
- Do be honest, above all. In some cases, the truth may hurt, but lies are deadly. If you don't know the answer to a question, say so and offer to find the answer and get back to the reporter as soon as possible.
When a reporter calls, what shouldn't you do?
- Don't fan controversy. Conflict is news, while routine successes do not make headlines. Watch for questions that are deliberately designed to bring out the conflict in a story. When a reporter hands you a leading question, state your position in positive terms and never repeat any negative words from the reporter's question.
If a reporter asks, "Why is your enrollment flat?" Ask the reporter to clarify his or her perceptions. You might ask, "Where did you hear that our enrollment is not increasing?" Depending on the answer, direct the reporter to the best person to answer the question. For example, you might say, "The very best person to answer enrollment questions is Nicole Striegel. May I have Nicole call you right back?" This gives you an opportunity to tell Nicole what the question is so that she can prepare before talking to the reporter.
If a reporter asks, "What about the legislature's plan to take away your money for higher education at TMCC?"
Again, ask, "Where did you hear that legislators are planning to decrease funding for TMCC." Depending on the answer, you might reply, "I have not heard about those plans. May I research this and call you back?" Or if it were true, you might say, "I am disheartened by the news of decreased funding, but at TMCC, we work hard to help our students with whatever resources are allocated."
- Don't say "no comment." That answer suggests you are hiding something or evading the question. Try to explain why you cannot answer the question. For example, TMCC does not comment on personnel matters because they are private and confidential.
- Don't say "off the record." There is no such thing as off the record with a reporter, even one you consider to be a friend or in a social situation. Do be friendly, but don't be lulled into flippancy or negative comments. They may appear in print.
- Don't call and criticize. If you are misquoted, call PIO. Our staff will contact the reporter, and if necessary, the editor. It is important to not overreact, especially if the error is minor or not quite the choice of words you used.
- Don't even ask. Don't ask a reporter to show you a story before it is published--journalistic ethics and professionalism won't allow it. If you feel a point may have been misunderstood, ask the reporter to tell you what he or she understood and encourage them to call with any questions. If you are still concerned, ask the reporter to read only your quotes to you.
What do you need to remember?
- Remember FERPA. TMCC must follow FERPA guidelines regarding student privacy. Students can decline to be interviewed or photographed. Contact public information office or admissions and records for details.
- Remember — call PIO every time you are contacted directly by the media. We follow up with reporters and editors on TMCC news coverage.