10 Tips for Handling a request from the media
Who’s reaching out?
Collect information from the caller/texter/emailer/direct messenger so that the inquiry can be handled quickly and effectively. Get the person’s name, name of media outlet, telephone number, email, nature of the story, requests for specific data or information, and deadline. Will this interview be over the phone? On Zoom? In person? An emailed statement? Will it be taped or live?
May I call you back?
If a reporter calls unexpectedly, do not feel compelled to answer questions on the spot. It is always best to take a few minutes to collect your thoughts before responding to a media inquiry. Simply suggest that you return the message.
Ask for help!
When an official university response is requested, the Communications Office will ensure that an official spokesperson provides an authorized position on behalf of the university. Reporters often seek comments from experts on a variety of topics. When you let us know that you have received an inquiry, we can help you respond. We can also follow up with the reporter if needed, and we can track the story to provide you with a clip when it’s published.
Please let us know as soon as you receive a call from the media. Call 860-832-1177 or 860-832- 1798.
Be mindful of deadlines.
Reporters work on very tight deadlines — often getting an assignment only hours before it’s due. Ask what their deadline is to ensure a response can be provided in a timely manner.
Be positive and prepared.
Prior to a scheduled interview, prepare two to three “message points” that you wish to convey. Our office can help if you are unsure. At the end of an interview, reporters usually ask if you have anything else to add. If you haven’t had the chance to convey your three points, that’s a great time to share them.
Know your stuff.
It’s OK to not have all the answers. If you are asked a question about facts and figures that you don’t have or don’t know, offer to get back to the reporter with the information. Or, simply say that you don’t know. Remember that the Communications Office is here to help research information that you may not have.
Establish the ground rules: “Off the record” vs “on the record” vs “on background”
A good practice when talking to a reporter is to establish the ground rules. If you don’t want to see something in print, don’t say it. Offer it as “on background,” or “off the record.” If you are okay being quoted, then say “this is on the record.”
Be conversational yet brief in your responses. Think about the audience: Speak in terms that can be understood by the masses. Academic jargon and verbose explanations will not make it into a story unless you are dealing with a specialized publication.
Tell the truth.
Sometimes reporters ask tough questions. A dishonest response is never an appropriate response. However, remember that legal matters and privacy issues are sensitive areas. If you aren’t sure that you should be answering a question, please contact the Office of Communications and Media. (can we link to our page)
“No comment” is not wise.
Avoiding comment in a news story suggests lack of cooperation or even guilt. If you do not know the answer, be honest. And if you are uncertain of how or whether you should respond, contact Office of Communication and Media for assistance.