Working with the Media

As APU faculty and staff, you have the potential to serve as a great source of information to the media. Keep in mind that sharing information with reporters influences the credibility and integrity of both you and the university. Additionally, keeping the community and alumni aware of faculty and staff research findings generates even more support for students and the campus. Perhaps most importantly, by speaking to the press you have the opportunity to communicate your message or findings to thousands, perhaps millions of people.

Still, the idea of speaking to a reporter can be intimidating. To help prepare you to speak to reporters, the media relations team has compiled a list of tips for working with the media. If you have further questions, have been contacted by a reporter, or anticipate talking to the media, please contact Maureen Taylor at (626) 815-4510 or Rachel White at (626) 815-4502.

If a media representative contacts you, please adhere to the following:

  • Ask the representative/reporter if they have already spoken to a media relations contact, either Executive Director of Strategic Communication Maureen Taylor (maureentaylor@apu.edu) or Assistant Director of Public Relations Rachel White (rewhite@apu.edu). If we have directed them to you, we will usually let you know first.
  • If they have not yet spoken to the media relations team, but you know you are the appropriate expert in the field, speak with them as you feel comfortable. Afterward, please contact the media relations team and let us know who you spoke to, provide an overview of the conversation, and indicate if follow-up is needed.
  • If the topic is not within your area of expertise, redirect the reporter to the media relations team. Email or phone us with the reporter’s name, number, topic, and deadline.

Tips for working with the media:

  • Remember, talking with the media is an opportunity, not a challenge.
  • Determine two to three messages you wish to convey in the interview. Write them down and insert them into your responses.
  • Know who you are interacting with by obtaining the reporter’s name and publication. Find out exactly how you can help and when the deadline falls.
  • Timely responses are critical because reporters are under constant deadlines. Reporters need a response in minutes, not hours or days.
  • Caught off guard by a call from a reporter? Tell him/her you will return the call within the hour. Use this time to collect your thoughts and prepare yourself to answer questions. Then call the reporter back.
  • Cooperation with the media is very important. A no comment response may suggest that you are trying to hide something or evade the question, so try to explain why you cannot make a comment, i.e., that speculation or conjecture is not appropriate.
  • Face-to-face interviews are preferable when material needs an in-depth explanation. This is difficult because of distance and deadlines, but is preferable if possible for clarity.
  • Reporters expect honesty, fairness, a professional attitude, background information, an institutional response, and concise, clear-cut, factual information.
  • Come prepared with an objective and two or three secondary themes you want to share, no matter what type of question a reporter may ask.
  • Anticipate tough questions. If the questions make you uneasy or you would just rather not respond, address them briefly and continue with what you want to say.
  • Reporters will not show you a story before publication; it conflicts with journalistic ethics and professionalism. However, you may have them read you only your quotes once the story has been written.
  • If you are misquoted, contact the reporter, not the editor.

What to do when a reporter shows up in your office:

  • Introduce yourself to everyone in the group.
  • Become familiar with the subject and discover the reporter’s agenda. Find out who else they talked to, what did they have to say, etc.
  • Locate the cameraperson and tell them where to set up to shoot. This is your interview, so you determine the location.
  • While the crew is setting up, contact Maureen Taylor at (626) 815-4510 or via email at maureentaylor@apu.edu, or Rachel White at (626) 815-4502 or via email at rewhite@apu.edu, and prepare your response. Have two positive themes ready relating to the subject to communicate your message to the audience. Use those themes in responding to each question.

Tips for speaking on camera:

  • When you are on camera, you are APU. Your job is to walk away having well represented APU.
  • Remember, you are only talking partly to the reporter. Talk through the reporter to the community.
  • Determine two to three messages you wish to convey. Do so in the context of the interview. Reiterate as possible.
  • Use short, simple sentences. Avoid jargon that may not be understood by someone who is not in the field.
  • Body language is important. Listen with your face. Do not affirm negatives with nodding.
  • Humanize APU. Show that you care and speak from the heart.
  • Do not answer the same question twice and do not let the interviewer change the subject. Respond with, “I believe I’ve already answered that. Do you have any other questions?” or “I believe you are here to discuss (subject). Do you have any other questions about (subject)?”
  • For additional tips, contact Maureen Taylor at (626) 815-4510 or via email at maureentaylor@apu.edu, or Rachel White at (626) 815-4502 or via email at rewhite@apu.edu.

Media interview DOs and DON’Ts:

Do:

  • Take the lead in the interview.
  • Concisely state your point or institution’s position.
  • Explain a subject and emphasize the facts (clarify facts when appropriate).
  • Correct mistakes or misunderstandings.
  • Try to be as open, honest, and friendly as possible.

Don’t:

  • Guess.
  • Hypothesize.
  • Ever say something off the record or disclose confidential items.
  • Dwell on an individual’s inadequate behavior.
  • Act passively.
  • Be rude or aggressive, even if the reporter is.

To learn more about University Relations’s media relations, please visit www.apu.edu/media/.