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Media Interview Tips

If you are contacted by a reporter, remember that you are speaking as a representative of the university. What you say and how you act will reflect upon this institution. If you have questions or would like assistance, the KU News Service is available to help. Contact (785) 864-8858 or e-mail kunews@ku.edu.

Why Talk to the Media?

  • Talking to the media is talking to the public. KU is a public institution. Our funding depends on a public understanding of what it is we do.
  • We're in the education business.
  • News is 4 to 6 times more believable or more credible than advertising. It is an effective means to deliver a message to the public.

Some Do's

  • Return phone calls from reporters promptly. Reporters need a response in minutes, not hours or days. It's the nature of their business.
  • Find out the details. Ask for the reporter's name, publication or broadcast station and phone number. Ask what the reporter's story is and how you can help her. What is her deadline?
  • Find out if you are the right person to be interviewed. Are you the appropriate spokesperson? If you're not, refer the reporter to another faculty expert or administrator, or to the KU News Service, (785) 864-8858.
  • Prepare for the interview. Anticipate questions, especially the hard ones. What are your key messages? If you feel unprepared when a reporter calls, tell the reporter you will call back in 15 minutes or so. Collect your thoughts and then call. If you want to consult with the KU News Service in the interim, please give us a call.
  • Encourage a person-to-person interview. Try to see the reporter in person rather than talking over the phone. Distance and deadlines sometimes make this impossible, and it may take more of your time, but a face-to-face interview is always preferable to a phone interview.
  • Be simple, to the point and brief: Short, simple answers are better than long answers (less chance of being misquoted). Avoid technical terms or jargon. Note: Eight seconds is the average length of a TV sound bite.
  • Repeat yourself. Try saying your main point in more than one way. Ask to have your words played back to you, and change your wording if you are dissatisfied with what you have already said.
  • Make eye contact with the reporter.
  • Be careful. Everything said within earshot of a reporter is game for the story. If a microphone is attached to your lapel or shirt pocket, assume it is recording from the instant you put it on until the instant you take it off.

Some Don'ts

  • Don't accept a reporter's facts or characterizations of others. Always state the facts in your own terms.
  • Don't say "off the record." Such a thing doesn't exist.
  • Don't say "no comment." You appear to be hiding something or evading the question. Explain why you cannot comment.
  • Don't answer hypotheticals.
  • Don't be afraid to say you don't know the answer to the question.
  • Don't be afraid to say you need to verify the facts and call back.
  • Don't be compelled to say more than you need to. An interview is not a conversation.
  • Don't allow yourself to be provoked.
  • Don't lie or mislead.
  • Don't joke.
  • Don't ask to see the story before it's published. It conflicts with journalistic ethics and professionalism. If you are concerned, ask the reporter to read back your quotes or read to you only your quotes when the story has been written. If you fear a point has not been understood, ask the reporter to review the story "one more time." Invite the reporter to call you back for further clarification or additional information if needed.
  • Don't fire off a letter to the editor if you're unhappy with the story. Call the KU News Service first. We can help.
  • Don't call the editor or publisher. If you're misquoted, contact the reporter, not the editor. But don't overreact, especially if the error is minor or not quite the choice of words you would have used.

Television Interview Tips

  • Take the time to look in the mirror. Straighten your hair, tie or scarf. You don't want viewers to be distracted by a crooked tie and miss hearing your words.
  • Dark clothes look best on TV. Blue shirts look better than white. Avoid checkered or striped patterns.
  • Remember that you are representing KU. Don't wear clothes with the insignia of another organization or university.
  • Note whether the backdrop is appropriate.
  • Talk with the reporter about the interview before it starts. Find out what the questions will be so you can prepare your response.
  • Sit if possible; don't stand.
  • Look at the reporter, not into the camera.
  • Talk clearly in short phrases. Try not to talk too fast.
  • Don't repeat a reporter's negative terms or phrasing. You don't want that to be the clip that shows up on TV.
  • If a reporter asks a negative question, you don't have to answer it.
  • If you are asked to "chat" while the cameraman shoots "B" roll (non-interview footage, cutaway shots, etc.), be sure your body language and comments are appropriate.

Happy Kansas Day, Kansans! We caught sunflowers standing tall at the Grinter Family Farms just outside Lawrence last fall. You may wonder how the sunflower came to be the State flower in 1903 and we found an excerpt from Kansas legislation: Whereas, Kansas has a native wild flower common throughout her borders, hardy and conspicuous, of definite, unvarying and striking shape, easily sketched, moulded, and carved, having armorial capacities, ideally adapted for artistic reproduction, with its strong, distinct disk and its golden circle of clear glowing rays -- a flower that a child can draw on a slate, a woman can work in silk, or a man can carve on stone or fashion in clay; and Whereas, This flower has to all Kansans a historic symbolism which speaks of frontier days, winding trails, pathless prairies, and is full of the life and glory of the past, the pride of the present, and richly emblematic of the majesty of a golden future, and is a flower which has given Kansas the world-wide name, "the sunflower state"... Be it enacted ... that the helianthus or wild native sunflower is ... designated ... the state flower and floral emblem of the state of Kansas.

Have family visiting Lawrence? #exploreKU and take them to the @KUnhm like @ChrisCanDesign did. http://t.co/PTDSdpSakh
Explore KU: The Bells of Mount Oread KU’s Campanile, a 120-foot-tall timepiece that tolls automatically on the hour and quarter-hour, not only sounded in the 2015 New Year at midnight with 12 mighty gongs, but also regularly rings up memories for many Jayhawks – the 277 faculty and students who gave their lives during World War II, the graduates who walk through its doors at commencement, and aspiring students who have strolled through the Lawrence campus. (See http://bit.ly/1xjjwJj). For nearly 60 years, KU’s 53-bell carillon has been tolling the sounds of peace and serenity across Mount Oread since it was installed in June 1955 inside the landmark World War II Memorial Campanile, which was dedicated in 1951. (See http://bit.ly/1BoL9jv) The carillon is also a four-octave musical instrument, which is played with a giant keyboard and foot pedals. University Carillonneur Elizabeth Egber-Berghout (http://bit.ly/14fiBPl), associate professor of carillon and organ, climbs 77 steps up a spiral staircase in the bell tower to perform recitals several times a month.

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Industry recruiters who visit annually to hire KU Geology's graduating students