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Media Interview Prep

Marketing and Communications


Sharing your expertise with the media is an important way to help the general public, government agencies, donors, and funders understand the impact of your research and the importance of investing in current and future projects.  

Journalists may contact you for your expert opinion on current affairs, or to profile your research or community outreach activities. Brief, conversational, and non-technical responses make it easier for a non-academic audience to understand and care about the subject being reported.  

We know that media interviews can sometimes feel intimidating, especially if you are doing it for the first time, or don't speak with media often. The following guidelines will help you prepare. 

Before the interview

Make note of your key points (no more than three) before the interview and emphasize those points throughout. Your quote or sound bite will be very brief compared to the length of the interview. Emphasizing key points during the interview increases the chance they will be being included in the story.

Be prepared. It's okay to ask the reporter ahead of time what kinds of questions they would like to ask. They may not always provide you with this, but they often will, and it doesn't hurt to ask.

Gather facts, figures and anecdotes to support your points. Anticipate questions the reporter might ask and have responses ready.

Communications staff are available for one-on-one media coaching at any time. If you have been working with a specific communications officer, contact them directly. Otherwise, email communications@uwinnipeg.ca with your questions, or to arrange a meeting by phone or via Zoom.

Some key things you should know going into the interview are:

  • What is the reporters deadline?
  • Is the interview for radio, TV, print, a podcast, or a blog?
  • What is the subject being reported on? What is the angle of the story?
  • Who else are they talking to for their story?
  • What information is the reporter looking for from you?
  • Who will be interviewing you? Will there be a pre-interview?
  • When and where will the interview take place?
  • Is the interview taking place live or is it recorded?

Please ask the journalist to identify you in the story as being from The University of Winnipeg. This allows the communications department to track coverage, and it increases the reputation of our university.

During the interview

Your audience are likely not experts in your field, so remember to use short sentences in plain English, avoiding jargon or technical terms. This will also help reduce your chances of being misunderstood or misquoted.

Talk about your research in terms of how your work impacts the audience, why is it important to them?

Provide a high-level perspective on the trend and its impact and then share a local or personal experience to connect the audience to the story.

Although it is recommended to write down key points ahead of time (and even have them nearby to glance at as a reminder), don't try to read your answers. Trust your expertise, and speak conversationally and confidently.

Speak in complete thoughts. The reporter’s question may be edited out and your response should stand on its own.

If the interview is not live, it is okay to ask to restate your answer if you are not satisfied with your initial response.

If a question is off topic, acknowledge the interviewer’s question then move back to your key points.

If there is a factual error in the question, correct it and then proceed with answering the question.

If you don't know the answer to a question it is better to say, "I can’t answer that question because [reason why you can’t answer]” and return to your main points, rather than saying, “no comment.”

To avoid any miscommunication, summarize key points at the end of the interview.

Never say anything you do not want to be used by the reporter - this includes your comments before and after the formal interview takes place. Don't answer questions you feel unqualified to answer. It's okay to say, "that's not my area of expertise".

If you are not prepared to answer questions on the spot, ask for more information and offer to call back later. Even 15-30 minutes can help you to focus your thoughts and jot down the key points of the message you will deliver.

Bridging

If you are asked a question that makes you uncomfortable or if you want to bring the interview back to your main point, bridging is a helpful technique to refocus your messaging. Bridging uses simple phrases to move from an answer to a message. For example:

However, it's important to look at...

Here's the real issue...

It's important to remember that...

Let me put this in perspective by saying...

People are saying that, but actually...

Advice for TV and radio interviews

If you are in a TV studio with the interviewer, look at your interviewer and not the camera.

Speak and gesture naturally, and keep an interested expression on your face even when you are not speaking. Avoid distracting movements.

For television interviews, wear solid-color clothing. Avoid stripes, plaids, and other designs. Do not wear large, jangling, or reflective jewelry.

If you are being interviewed for radio, you are communicating with your voice, so you will need to use it as expressively as possible. Record and listen to yourself and adjust your delivery as needed to emphasize the most compelling aspects of your work.

If the interview is not live, you can ask to restate your answer if you are not satisfied with your initial response.

If your interview is being conducted remotely, check your technology and WiFi connection to ensure everything is working properly before the interview begins.

Silence between questions is okay. If the interviewer pauses, you don’t need to fill the silence, just focus on what you want to say in short, understandable chunks. 

After the interview

Provide the reporter with the best way to contact you, in case they have follow-up questions.

If you have more information, you can send the reporter data, reports, statistics, and links to background information to provide perspective on the issue. Journalists are often working on tight deadlines, so you would need to send this soon after the interview.

If an error appears, let the reporter know right away. Sometimes a correction can be printed or aired. You also will want to prevent the incorrect information from being used as background for future stories.

Find out when and where the story will be published, and advise a communications department so that they can follow-up as neccessary and to ensure it is included in media analytics.

Still have questions?

Return to the Faculty Media Resources page, or contact communications@uwinnipeg.ca. University of Winnipeg communications staff can help connect you with faculty who have conducted successful interviews, as well as providing advice to help you successfully share your story.