UND Marketing & Communications’ Media Engagement Fellow Criteria
- BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
- Understanding the opportunity
Most journalists (including print reporters) prefer or may require talking to their subjects/experts. If you are making yourself available to a television reporter, know that the interview will be on-camera. If you are making yourself available to a radio reporter, know that your audio will be recorded.
- Understanding the topic
Before the interview, ask what the story is about and what the interviewer specifically wants to discuss. Develop a good understanding of your interview topic.
Then, if time allows, prepare several key points worth emphasizing during the interview. If the topic is controversial, think about the most difficult questions you might be asked, and prepare some responses.
- Identifying talking points
Once you know the topic, choose three key talking points that you can fall back on. Choose points that you can make in 15-20 seconds that you think are most important to the story.
- Background Materials
Have background materials (facts or statistics) available for members of the media, particularly on a complex topic. Reporters will appreciate the additional information when writing their story.
If time permits, offer to e-mail background materials in advance. If you are asked for images or video related to your topic, work with the UND Communications Office.
- Delivering Your Message
Practice delivering your message in a clear and concise manner. Short answers provide better sound bites for radio and television and better quotes for print.
Remember to emphasize your key points. Reinforce them with examples. Review your talking points just before the interview, or consider asking a colleague to discuss the topic with you to help you warm up and focus your answers.
- Questions in Advance
It is appropriate to discuss the subject matter with the reporter before the interview so that you have an understanding of the subject matter and are prepared. You may ask for questions or broad talking points they wish to discuss in advance, but not all reporters will oblige.
Most experienced reporters treat interviews like a natural conversation, so there is no concrete set of questions. Take your cues from your conversation with the reporter or from the media inquiry prior to your interview.
You may say ‘I want to be prepared; are there any specific questions or talking points you’d like me to address?’ The UND Communications Office representative can also help you anticipate questions.
- Represent UND whenever possible with appropriate attire or pin
- Wear dark and solid jackets. White jackets may make you appear washed out and may be troublesome for some studio cameras. A blue or white shirt under a dark blazer will look best. If not wearing jacket, avoid white shirts.
- Avoid busy patterns and small suit patterns (ex. tight pinstripes, herringbone, and tight plaids).
- For TV interviews, it’s helpful to have a jacket/lapel to attach your microphone and a waistband for your microphone pack.
- Jewelry should be small and discreet; avoid anything flashy, large, shiny or noisy earrings/necklaces.
- Camera lights can get VERY hot, causing some interviewees to sweat. Undershirts and blazers/lab coats can help hide any sweat that may bleed through your shirt.
- DURING THE INTERVIEW
- Control the Interview
You are in control of the interview. If a reporter asks you a difficult question, practice using bridging and flagging techniques to bring the conversation back to your key points.
- Interview strategies
- What I really want to talk about is …
- Let me answer you by saying that …
- If you look at it closely, you’ll find ….
- I don’t know. But what I do know is …
- The real issue here is …
- The bottom line is …
- The main point I want to stress is …
- What’s really critical here is …
- Be aware of “air traps” – do not feel compelled to fill any silence by blabbing on. Once you have said what you wanted to communicate, stop and wait for the next question even if the report takes time to ask it.
- Prompt and honest answers
- Prompt responses and honest answers. It is OK not to have an answer for every question.
- Do not speculate
- Do not lie
- Avoid responding with “No comment.” A reporter will assume that you are trying to hide something and probe deeper into the subject. “I don’t know, that is not my area of expertise” or “Let me see what I can find out and get back with you” is an appropriate response.
- Assume that nothing is “off the record.” If you do not want people to know about something, do not say it.
- Speak in sound bites
- Provide short, but complete answers. If the reporter needs further explanation, they will follow up.
- Keep context in mind
- Know your audience
- Do not use ‘jargon’; speak in language your audience will understand. Most often, you will be speaking to a reporter with a layman’s audience, and your language should reflect that.
- Academic perspective
You are the expert in your academic field. Speak to the statistics, facts, data, research, etc. Be careful not to place your own value judgment on a particular topic. This is especially true when you are speaking about divisive and polarizing issues. Keep your perspective academic when you are speaking as a university expert.
- Be a good listener
Pay full attention to the interview and his/her questions. Use the interviewer’s name. Never hesitate in asking the reporter to repeat or clarify a question.
- Body language
Use subtle hand gesture and body movements to emphasize your key messages. Look at the reporter while being interviewed, not the camera. Unless otherwise instructed, always pretend as though the camera is not even there.
- Do not argue
Always stay calm during an interview. Never get defensive. Once again, it is OK not to answer the question. However, avoid responding with, “No comment.” A reporter will assume you are trying to hide something and probe deeper into the subject. Try to return the conversation to positive dialogue.
- Confidence and composure
It’s normal to be nervous. Remember, an interview is really just a conversation with another individual. Act as if you’re talking to a co-worker or a friend. Practice your confidence and composure.
- The reporter or interviewer is not your friend
- CONCLUDING THE INTERVIEW
Once the interview has concluded, it is OK to ask when the story will air or be printed. Timing is usually up to the editors or news directors.
It is OK to ask the reporter to send you a link once it is published. But again, it is not appropriate to ask for advanced approval of the final product (exception: UND Today).
- FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AS UNIVERSITY REPRESENTATIVE
- We never comment on an ongoing investigation.
- We are allowed to provide the media/public with so-called “directory information” on our students (i.e. whether they are a current students, name, age, major, hometown)
- We cannot release other information about our students without their expressed written consent, to include GPAs, medical data, etc.
- We cannot release medical data about employees.
- Freedom of expression
Members of the University Community have rights protected under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to freedoms of speech and expression, however, those freedoms are not without repercussions, and the University is not obligated to condone or agree with individual expressions. Some speech can be deemed not consistent with University core values.
Speech or actions considered against the law are prohibited in the UND Code of Student Life, and are not protected by UND/NDUS HR policies.
- Academic freedom
UND faculty cannot be punished for lawful expressions of opinions related to personal thought or their academic pursuits. However, as was aforementioned, such actions are not without repercussions, and the University is not obligated to condone or agree with individual expressions. Some speech can be deemed not consistent with University core values.
- UND DIRECTORY PAGE
Update your UND directory page with your research field(s) and expertise, biography, education etc. Do not forget a professional headshop (UND photographer can help with this). This page should serve as you “homepage.” Communications representatives use the directory and faculty pages to find experts for media opportunities.
- SOCIAL MEDIA
Maintain professional LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. Identify that the views that you share with your social media audience are your own, not UND’s.
- WRITING OP-EDS
- Make a single point, and make it well
- Active voice
- Short sentences
- No jargon
- Lead with key message
- Show, don’t tell
- Memorable ending
- Answer this question: ‘So what? Who cares?’
- LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Anyone in the University Community is allowed to submit viewpoints, Op-Eds, Letters to the editor, etc. expressing their personal opinions on an issue, but such correspondences should be submitted as a concerned citizen and not as a representative of the University.
If a viewpoint, Op-Ed, Letter to the editor is directly tied to your work, expertise or research background as member of the University Community it is allowable to work with the UND Division of Marketing & Communications to make a submission as a representative of the University.
- THE CONVERSATION
To be published by The Conversation you must be currently employed as a researcher or academic with a university or research institution. PhD candidates under supervision by an academic can write for us, but we don’t currently publish articles from Masters students.
WORK WITH COMM OFFICE
- INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITIES
Comm Office regularly receives interview requests and can help put you in touch with journalists.
- MOCK INTERVIEWS
Comm Office representatives can conduct mock interviews to prepare you for talking to the media.
- OP-ED PLACEMENT
Comm Office representatives can help develop op-eds and place them in local, regional and national newspapers.