The key rule in media communication is availability. You always have to give answers and you’re not allowed to refuse any kind of interview. The story will be published – if you give the interview or not. Consider the following list of how to deal with journalists in an interview situation.

The first key rule for media relations: Be available!

  • always be ready to give an answer to journalists
  • establish contacts with journalists, offer them interesting stories if you have them and keep in touch
  • never refuse an interview no matter what kind of journal or newspaper
  • if you need time to prepare, ask them to call back, but answer at the time agreed
  • promise to contact them as soon when you have new information
  • if you do not feel competent about a subject suggest to get the journalist in touch with somebody else who is more competent
  • remember that the story will go ahead whether you contribute or not
  • act with courtesy and professionalism
  • do not refer to the reporter by name during your answers
  • do not expect practice questions journalists want your spontaneous response
  • provide background information before the interview which is interesting for the journalist in telling a story

If you talk in to a microphone, be clear and precise

  • listen to the questions of the journalist, address them, but do not hesitate to insert additional statements which you feel are important
  • avoid complicated scientific definitions and acronyms no lab jargon
  • prepare a list of words that you would use to speak to a specialist and avoid using them in the interview (see helpful template down below)
  • if you really need to use a special scientific term, explain its meaning very simply
  • if you don’t know something, say so, define clearly your area of expertise do not use too long sentences – remember that your TV statement may be at best a 10 second sound bite, so provide useful, short statements
  • KISS: Keep It Short and Simple
  • finish with a take­‐home statement – maybe this will be good sound bite

In general, be confident

  • be clear about your knowledge and position your confidence enhances your credibility and ensures the listener about your capability of dealing with specific problems
  • speak slowly / clearly / lively – be yourself and be authentic
  • breathe / pause easily

Be calm, emotionally & authentic

  • keep calm and don’t react emotionally to provocations
  • if you feel provoked by a journalist, stay calm and think about the audience since their opinion is the most important
  • you gain credibility by showing your natural emotions and enthusiasm when discussingyour research
  • keeping calm will give people confidence in your competence
  • never read something from a document (exception: quoting numbers)
  • don’t create visual distractions with gestures, clothes or appearance
  • dress conservatively, business dress or lab suit

Be personal but don’t be too personal

  • try to be yourself so that the audience gets a feeling for you as a person
  • avoid giving your personal opinions, but if you do, make it clear that this is a personal statement, otherwise stay professional in every way (stick to the issue)
  • relating your work to a personal experience helps to communicate your motivation for your project
  • if you are the spokesperson of a company act accordingly, but otherwise make clear that you are a neutral and competent scientist with no vested interests
  • if you have vested interests (like a consultancy with a company) inform the journalist about that to prevent even the appearance of a hidden conflict of interest
  • if you expect problems it may be useful to bring some people along as moral support


Source:  gaisberg communications