Queen's University

Media Tips

General Media Tips

  • Be aware of short deadlines.
    Newspaper reporters work to daily deadlines.
    Radio and TV reporters work to hourly deadlines.
    Ask reporters about their deadlines. When you can't meet them, let them know.
  • Anticpate questions. Practice your responses.
    When a reporter calls, don't hesitate to ask the subject of the interview and for some sample questions.
    If you need time to collect your thoughts, or gather facts, figures and anecdotes, offer to call back later at a specific time.
    News & Media Services can also advise you about the kinds of questions you will likely be asked.
  • Speak simply.
    Avoid academic or technical jargon, and try to present complex concepts in plain language.
    Use metaphors that help to convey complex ideas in everyday terms.
    Explain technical terms if you must use them.
  • Keep the focus on your work.
    If the reporter's questions don't relate directly to your research, ensure you get an opportunity to effectively convey your points by saying, "I think the important aspect of my work is..... " or "The main point here is ...."
  • Stick to the major points.
    Don't expect every word, fact and figure to be reported.
    A reporter will be looking for one to three major points about your research.
  • Show your passion.
    Don't hesitate to express excitement about your research.
    TV and radio reporters look for experts who can connect with audiences by conveying their commitment to their work and their joy over eureka moments.
  • Start over.
    When you give a less-than-perfect answer, or one that's factually incorrect, tell the reporter you would like to rephrase your response.
    After an interview, if you discover that a fact you gave is incorrect, call the reporter back.
  • Provide support materials.
    Provide printed information, whenever possible, to help the reporter minimize errors.
    If time allows, offer to e-mail information in advance of the interview.
  • Getting bumped.
    Reporters' schedules are determined by the breaking news of the day.
    Do not be offended if an interview gets canceled or rescheduled.
  • Expect a call.
    If you are quoted in an official news release, journalists will want to contact you for further comments.
  • Teach.
    Don't over-estimate a reporter's knowledge of your subject.
    When a reporter bases a question on information you believe is incorrect, do not hesitate to set the record straight.
    Offer background information when necessary.
  • Be straight.
    If you do not understand a question, ask for clarification rather than talking around it.
    If you do not have the answer, say so.
    Tell the reporter where to find the information, if possible.
  • Provide context when you can't answer.
    Never say "No comment."
    If you cannot or do not choose to answer, explain why, e.g. "Our privacy policy prevents us from providing that information" or "I can't answer that because I have not seen the research you are referring to."
  • Give feedback
    If merited, give positive feedback to reporters after a story appears; like the rest of us, they usually hear only complaints.
  • How to relay statistics
    Use natural frequencies to communicate your findings.
    Most people find it easier to understand statistical information as natural frequencies (one-in-four) rather than as probabilities (25-percent chance).

Television and Radio Tips

  • Be brief!
    Television and radio stories may use only a 10-30 second cut.
    The shorter your comments, the less likely they are to be edited.
    Even print reporters are looking for interviewees who know how to get to the point.
  • Speak with conviction.
    Be confident. Speak in a conversational tone while retaining your composure.
    Remember that you are the expert.
  • Be colorful.
    Tell stories and anecdotes that illustrate your point. Give examples.
  • Stick to your main points.
    Do not allow yourself to get drawn off on tangents.
    Repeat your points if necessary to get back on track.
  • Speak in complete sentences.
    The reporter's question may be edited out; your response should stand on its own.
  • Wear solid-colour clothing.
    Sstripes, plaids or other designs can cause problems with colour TV pictures.
  • Look in a mirror.
    Prior to going on camera, take another look at yourself.
    The reporter may not tell you that your hair is out of place or your collar is folded over.
  • Do not answer too quickly.
    In a taped interview, pause briefly before answering each question to helps the journalist get a "clean" sound bite.
    It's okay to stop and start over again if you don't like the way you worded your answer.
  • Look at the reporter, not the camera.
    The only exception is in a satellite interview, when the reporter or anchor may not be on location. If you're uncertain where to look, ask.
  • Stay still.
    Avoid sitting in a chair that rocks or spins.
    Wandering around or rocking in your chair can cause the recorded volume to rise and fall. 
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Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000
Last updated at 4:14 pm EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
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