Tips for talking with reporters
If you are successful in creating relationships with the
and become a
"source" on your issue, you will get calls for interviews.
- Call them back promptly. Ask when their deadline is.
- It is best if you already know what kind of story the reporter
tends to do, what kind of questions they ask. If you have time, look
up some of their work.
- Prepare as much as you can. If you know what they are calling
about, get some background information. I recently got a call on a
new program for the uninsured in New Haven. Before I called back, I
had looked up the number of uninsured in CT and similar successful
programs in other states.
- Be helpful. Ask what kind of story they are doing, how much
information they need, if they would like to speak to a person
directly affected by the story (unless that is you).
- If you are setting up another interview, e.g. with another
consumer or a provider, get all the details straight. When will they
call or visit? Do they need a translator available? You can
role-play with the consumer first, if that will make them more
comfortable. Be sure any confidentiality issues are settled before
the call or visit.
- Relax. If you are nervous or this is your first time talking to a
reporter, it is OK to say so (off camera or off the air). A good
reporter wants to get it right, not to embarrass you.
- Listen carefully to the question. Take a few seconds to frame your
- Speak slowly and avoid jargon. Speak with confidence and
- Smile when you speak. Even if they can't see you, it comes
- Don't be thrown off but you may hear them typing while you talk.
There may also be pauses after you answer a question - it doesn't
necessarily mean they are looking for more, they may just still be
writing what you said.
- Be brief. Keep to major points and broader issues. Don't spend ten
seconds on the point and two minutes on the exceptions.
- If you don't know an answer, say so. Ask if they would like you to
look into it and get back to them. Ask how much time you have.
- If it seems that you have been misunderstood, fix it immediately.
Be gentle, but fix it.
- Be clear about your position and/or that of the organization you
represent. Provide materials if possible.
- Nothing is ever off the record. Assume that anything you say or
give them could end up in the story. Be careful making jokes.
- If you are quoted in an article, clip and save it.
- If you aren't quoted, don't take it personally. If you were
helpful, they may call again.
For television and radio appearances:
- Learn as much as you can about the show - Will it be live or
taped? Will there be call-in questions? Will there be an audience?
Will there be other guests, if so who? How long is the show, and how
long will you be on?
- Check the style of the show beforehand. Is it confrontational or
conversational? Are personal stories or statistics more common? Is
there a specific audience or issue targeted?
- Dress conservatively for television. Avoid bright white, loud
colors or oversize prints. Avoid flashy jewelry. Consider a place
for a microphone to be clipped, e.g. jacket lapel.
- Be on time.
- Get a tape if you can. Other outlets may replay it.
How to Create Fact Sheets and
Changing Public Opinion
Research - Finding and Using Data
How to work with campaigns
How to work with a lobbyist
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