University Communications and Marketing

Tips for Working with the Media

Preparing for an Interview

  • Deadlines. Please understand that reporters are usually working on a deadline, especially television reporters. When a reporter calls you, always find out what kind of deadline he or she is facing. They have a story to get out and a timetable, which we must try to honor. Always remember that this story – especially if it’s negative – will be reported with or without your input. Usually, it is better to have your input.
  • Audience. Ask for the reporter's name and the media organization for which he or she is reporting. If you are not familiar with the organization, ask for more information. If it’s not a media organization, think twice about answering any questions before contacting the University attorney. Know your audience and craft your message appropriately. The message you give may be different for the Pine Needle, which is targeted to students than for The Fayetteville Observer, which is for general audiences.
  • Topic. When a reporter calls requesting an interview, you have a right to ask the subject of the interview and some sample questions. If you need time to collect your thoughts and the reporter's deadline allows, offer to call back later at a specific time and follow through.
  • Ambush. Don't let yourself be ambushed by the media. If a reporter shows up in your office or calls at a time when you are unprepared, reschedule the interview for a time when you feel comfortable. Having time to prepare and research is critical to giving a good interview. This is fair to you and fair to the reporter. Don’t be rushed into an interview, while remembering that reporters have deadlines.
  • Stay on target. Think of two to three main points you would like to make about your subject. Gather facts, figures and anecdotes to support your points. Anticipate questions the reporter might ask and have responses ready. Write out your responses if necessary. Have printed materials to support your information whenever possible in order to help the reporter minimize errors. If time allows, offer to fax or mail the reporter printed information in advance of the interview.
  • Nothing is Off-The-Record. Reporters may or may not honor your off-the-record request. If you’d rather not answer a question, restate one of your key messages; never respond with “no comment.”
  • Very Difficult Interviews. If the answer to an interviewer’s question is not confidential, but you don’t necessarily want it aired on the 6 o’clock news: Give an answer or offer a sound bite that you do want on the evening news, even if it is not the exact answer to the question.
  • Help. University Communications and Marketing may help you with facts or crafting your statement. The University attorney may help you with legal questions, such as what information about students, personnel, legal actions, crimes, property negotiations or other information is confidential.

After the Interview

  • Ask the reporter to identify you as being affiliated with the UNCP.
  • Errors you make. If you feel after reflecting on an interview that you misspoke or gave incorrect information, call the reporter as soon as possible and let him or her know.
  • Feedback. Give positive feedback to reporters, if merited, after a story appears.
  • Errors they make. If an error appears, let the reporter know right away. Sometimes a correction can be printed or aired. You also will want to prevent the incorrect information from being used as background for future stories. Make sure your correction is important and if it is very important, make sure you have a commitment to running a correction.

For more information, contact Scott Bigelow at or 910.521.6351.