Here are some tips to help you get ready for and respond to a reporter’s questions. REMEMBER: You can always contact USC Leonard Davis Communications for immediate help.
Gather basic details
- Write down the reporter’s name, media outlet, phone number and story deadline.
- Ask what the story will be about and how the interview will be used.
- If TV or radio is calling, inquire about the interview format (live, taped, etc.).
- If you’re the appropriate expert but aren’t prepared to talk, set a later time, but respect the reporter’s deadline. Even 15 minutes will help you get ready.
If you’re not the best expert, refer the reporter to someone who is or direct them to the USC Leonard Davis Communications Office.
Prepare for the interview
- Take a few minutes to write down the brief message(s) you want to convey:
- What does the lay public need to know?
- Why should they care? Will this make a difference in people’s lives?
- Any misconceptions in the public’s mind that you need to overcome or dispel?
- What’s the ultimate goal of your research?
- Add one or two “power facts”– numbers, tidbits, examples people didn’t know to support your message.
- Anticipate tough questions you may be asked and rehearse your answers
- Avoid technical jargon, use lay terms.
- Make sure your points are clear and succinct.
- Be ready to support your message with a few examples and facts.
- Keep in mind what the public needs to know, and how the topic impacts people’s lives
- Anticipate tough questions the reporter might ask.
- Practice delivering your message(s).
Speak with authority, clarity and energy
- Offer brief background on the subject at hand if the reporter seems to need it.
- Assume everything you say is on the record, from the time you meet or talk with the reporter until he or she leaves the room or hangs up.
- Speak with authority and energy, particularly for TV or radio interviews.
- State your position in positive terms, even if a reporter’s questions turn negative or sound loaded.
- If the reporter’s questions veer off track, politely steers the interview back to your message(s).
- If you’re not sure the reporter understood your main points, ask him or her to repeat them.