Media Relations Best Practices
Media relations helps the University maintain professional, open lines of communication with local and national media outlets. Effective media relations also assists in increasing the University’s visibility and positively impacting its reputation.
As part of its strategic external communications, Institutional Communications acts as the primary liaison between the media and the University. Institutional Communications is responsible for pitching to the media, preparing for interviews and events where media will be present, and coordinating press conferences. Institutional Communications also develops and maintains positive relationships with members of the media, which are enhanced by providing honest and helpful information to reporters in a timely manner and in an atmosphere of mutual respect and candor.
Institutional Communications often engages in media relations to promote new programs and upcoming initiatives, or to recognize outstanding student or faculty successes. They also provide resources for journalists seeking information for stories.
Interacting with the Media
As a member of UWF’s faculty or staff, you may be asked by Institutional Communications to participate in media relations through various capacities, including speaking at press conferences or events or responding to media inquiries with information about specific topics. These interactions provide valuable opportunities for you to share information and positively represent the University.
The following tips are suggestions and best practices to follow when interacting with members of the media. When possible, Institutional Communications will help you prepare prior to a media interview by providing background information, potential interview questions or information on the reporter and media outlet.
Tips for Participating in Media Interviews:
- Remember that nothing that is said to members of the media before, during or after an interview is “off the record.”
- Review any relevant background information about the topic, especially if the media outlet has covered this topic in the past.
- Practice delivering the answers in a way that is sincere, specific and direct.
- Tell stories. Examples and anecdotes can help communicate your message.
- Use colorful, lively quotes and speak in active rather than passive voice.
- Avoid using overly-academic language. Simplify the topic for the general reader/viewer/listener.
- Familiarize yourself with the background information of the reporter who will be interviewing you, as well as the media outlet they represent.
- Prepare a few key points you plan to focus on throughout the interview. Support them with examples and facts.
- Balance the interview by being an active responder and listener. Listen to each question carefully and think through your answer completely before responding. Remain calm and natural.
- If you are conducting a televised interview, it is recommended that you wear solid colors. Specifically, a gray, brown, blue or mixed-color suit or dress is best. Ties should be simply patterned and should coordinate monochromatically if possible.
Tips for Speaking at Press Conferences or Related Events:
- Rehearse your delivery to make sure that your timing fits the schedule provided. It is often helpful to read your speech aloud while using a mirror and a tape recorder.
- Based on the audience and presentation, determine what, if any, equipment is needed. If you are uncertain, Institutional Communications will work with you to arrange your needs/preferences.
- Institutional Communications will conduct a run-through with you and the equipment if applicable and/or if time allows. At that time, they will also check the lighting and sound systems.
- If you are using slides, be sure you are comfortable with using a remote from where you are speaking, or arrange for someone else to advance the slides for you.
- Stand up straight and direct your voice toward the audience. Speak loudly, slowly and distinctly. In addition, establish eye contact (or appear to do so) with the audience from time to time and stay within the allotted presentation time.
- When answering questions, remember to remain friendly, cool-headed and confident.
- Answer only the questions asked and do so as succinctly and clearly as possible. If you are asked a question that you are unsure how to answer, respond by stating: "Our communications staff will find you at the conclusion of this press conference/event to make sure that they have your contact information to follow up with this.”