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Local, national and, international media look to the scholars and researchers at Georgetown University for expert opinion, insight, analysis, and commentary. If you are interested in sharing your research and expertise with a broad audience through media interviews, you must be responsive, prepared, and able to translate complicated research into plain English.
Media interviews can be for newspapers, news and opinion magazines, radio, television, podcasts, online news sites, blogs, or online videos. For effective engagement with the media, preparing in advance will be invaluable. This page contains the following sections:
- Georgetown University Support
- Making Yourself Available for Media Interviews
- Responding to Interview Requests
- Managing the Interview
- Tips for Television, Radio, and Print
- Examples from the Georgetown Faculty
- Read More
Georgetown University Support
Georgetown University supports both faculty wishing to share their expertise and members of the media looking for expert commentary.
- Georgetown’s Office of Strategic Communications assists and advises all members of the university community interested in working with the media. Contact the Office at 202-687-4328 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Many schools and departments have a media relations representative.
- The Marineau Media Center, housed in the Kencel Press Room on the first floor of the Hariri building, can be booked for radio or television interviews.
Making Yourself Available for Media Interviews
The first step in preparing for media interviews is to let people know that you are available. Contact the Office of Strategic Communications and your media representative to let them know your areas of expertise and availability. Reporters and producers may also come to Georgetown’s website or use web searches to locate an expert on a particular issue, so use your GUFaculty360 profile or personal web page to showcase your current research interests and publications. The more accessible you are, the more likely that you will be contacted for an interview.
To work with the media, it is critical that you respond promptly to requests for interviews. Most of the people who contact you are on tight deadlines, so even if you are declining an interview, be sure to respond promptly. If you are not available this time but can be called on in the future, return calls or emails promptly to let the reporter or producer know that.
To be sure you are ready when you get a call from the media, practice interviews with a colleague or by recording yourself and then watching the recording to see how you could improve. These rehearsals are a good time to look for ways to refine your message or delivery so you can make your media interviews powerful and effective.
Responding to Interview Requests
When you get a request for an interview, find out as much as you can about the interview opportunity.
- What is the reporter’s deadline?
- Is the interview for radio, television, print, a website, a podcast, or a blog?
- What is the subject of the interview?
- What information is the reporter looking to you to provide?
- Does the reporter have a particular angle for the story?
- Who will be interviewing you?
- For radio or television interviews, will there be pre-interview with a producer?
- When and where will the interview take place?
- How long will the interview last?
- Will the interview be live or recorded?
- Who else will be interviewed for the story?
- When the story will run?
Once you have this information, you will be able to determine whether you have the time and expertise required for the story. If not, you might be able to suggest a colleague who would be better suited for the subject matter.
Then, you can prepare for your interview, which may have to be done with only minutes or hours of preparation so reporters can meet their deadlines.
- Clearly identify what message you want to deliver in the interview.
- If you’re not familiar with the publication or show that will be interviewing you, take some time to research it to understand its mission and, audience, and how experts are interviewed or quoted.
- Anticipate what the questions will be and consider how you can answer them clearly and concisely. This is important since the average soundbite is less than 20 seconds long and may be as short as 7-8 seconds for television interviews.
- Make notes with your most important points so you will be sure to cover as much as possible in your interview. Rehearse your answers out loud to be sure you are comfortable with how you have stated your answers.
- Gather any supporting facts, research, statistics, or quotations that will enhance your answers.
Managing the Interview
You have been chosen as an interviewee due to your expertise on the topic, so speak confidently during your interview.
- For most media interviews, your quotation or sound bite will be very brief compared to the length of the interview. Have your key points ready to go before the interview and emphasize those points throughout.
- To better engage with the interviewer and audience, who are not likely to be experts in your field, use short and complete sentences in plain English, without jargon or technical terms. This will also help reduce your chances of being misunderstood or misquoted.
- If you have a relevant stories, analogies, metaphors, or visuals that illustrate your point, use them to help the audience better understand a complex issue.
During the interview, stay focused on your message and do not let the interviewer distract you from making your points.
- If the interview is not live, you can ask to restate your answer if you are not satisfied with your initial response.
- If a question is off topic, acknowledge the interviewer’s question then move back to your key points.
- If there is a factual error in the question, correct it and then proceed with answering the question.
- If you don't know the answer to a question simply say, "I can’t answer that question because [reason why you can’t answer]” and return to your main points. Do not say, “no comment.”
- To avoid any misunderstandings, summarize your main points at the end of the interview and restate your key points.
- Never say anything you do not want to be used by the reporter - this includes your comments before and after the formal interview takes place.
Tips for Television, Radio, and Print
- If you are in a studio with the interviewer, look at your interviewer and not the camera.
- If the interview is from a remote location, look directly into the camera.
- Speak and gesture naturally, and keep an interested expression on your face even when you are not speaking. Avoid distracting movements.
What to Wear
- Wear a shirt or jacket with lapels, so your microphone can attach easily.
- Wear layers so you will be comfortable if the studio is warm or cool.
- For men, a dark suit and solid colored shirt is recommended; ties should have a simple pattern. Unbutton your suit jacket while seated, and button it when standing. Read more in 3 Tips for Men for Dressing for TV Interviews.
- For women, solid colored clothing is recommended. Jewelry should be simple and should not make noise when you move or be distracting. If you are doing your own makeup, you will need to make adjustments for the bright television lights. Read more in What to Wear on TV: Our 10 Top Tips.
- In a radio interview, you are communicating solely through your voice, so you will need to use it as expressively as possible. Record and listen to yourself and adjust your delivery as needed to emphasize the most compelling aspects of your work.
- Use the pre-interview to explain your work and emphasize your main points so that the reporter will be able to ask you informed and thoughtful questions during the interview.
- If your interview is being done remotely, be sure that the technology is working properly before the interview begins.
Print and Online Media
- A reporter may ask you to answer questions during the initial call. If you are not prepared to answer questions on the spot, ask for the information in the Responding to Interview Requests section above and offer to call back later. Even 15-30 minutes can help you to focus your thoughts and jot down the key points of the message you will deliver.
- You are unlikely to have the specific questions in advance of your interview or an opportunity to review the story or your quotations before publication.
- After the interview, you can:
- Offer to send the reporter a written summary of the issue discussed during the interview to provide background information, context, statistics, data, reports, and other information to put the issue in perspective.
- Let the reporter know that you are available after the interview to answer any follow-up questions the reporter may have.
- Contact the reporter with an update if new information becomes available.
- You and the reporter should clarify how your interview may be used to avoid any misunderstandings. Below are the definitions used by the Associated Press. Note that while reporters usually respect these conditions, there are no guarantees, so if you do not know the reporter, your best bet is to say only things that you are comfortable having attributed to you.
- On the record. The information can be used with no caveats, quoting the source by name.
- Off the record. The information cannot be used for publication.
- Background. The information can be published but only under conditions negotiated with the source. Generally, the sources do not want their names published but will agree to a description of their position. AP reporters should object vigorously when a source wants to brief a group of reporters on background and try to persuade the source to put the briefing on the record. These background briefings have become routine in many venues, especially with government officials.
- Deep background. The information can be used but without attribution. The source does not want to be identified in any way, even on condition of anonymity.
- In general, information obtained under any of these circumstances can be pursued with other sources to be placed on the record.
Examples from the Georgetown Faculty
- Kelly Whitener on the Children's Health Insurance Program, August 23, 2017, C-SPAN (discussing the future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP))
- Affordable Care Act Insurance Market Stabilization Efforts, featuring Sabrina Corlette, August 2, 2017, C-SPAN (discussing discuss efforts to stabilize various Affordable Health Care insurance markets)
- Q&A with Paul Butler, July 19, 2017, (discussing Chokehold: Policing Black Men, Butler’s book on the American criminal justice system and its impact on African-American men)
- Analyzing Intelligence, May 24, 2017 (Interview with James Bruce)
- New Report Argues That Russian Cyber Meddling Is an Extension of Cold War Tactics, interview with Professor Mark Jacobson (September 28, 2017)
- Mass Incarceration Is A Major U.S. Issue, Georgetown Law Professor Says, interview with Professor Paul Butler (May 30, 2017)
- Understanding the Language of Girl Talk, interview with Professor Deborah Tannen (May 8, 2017)
- Marketplace Confusion Opens Door To Questions About Skinny Plans, Washington Post article quoting Kevin Lucia (November 27, 2017)
- Trump Administration Plan to Add Medicaid Work Requirement Stirs Fears, Washington Post article quoting Joan Alker (November 15, 2017)
- Michael Eric Dyson Believes in Individual Reparations, New York Times Magazine interview with Michael Eric Dyson (January 4, 2017)
- Dealing With the Press, Inside Higher Ed (November 5, 2014)
- Effective Media Interview Tips, American College of Emergency Physicians
- Media & Publicity Tips for Faculty, Pomona College
- Media Relations, Queen’s University
- Media Training, Indiana University Bloomington
- What to Do When Speaking to the Media, The Chronicle of Higher Education (January 27, 2011)
- Working with Journalists, American Association for the Advancement of Science