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Working with the media
Higher education is becoming more prominent as a news topic these days, especially as issues of affordability and accountability come to the fore. As a result, reporters are likely to contact students, faculty and staff for comment on a broad range of issues.
There's nothing wrong with talking with the news media. In fact, the media are a vital communications link between the university and the public.
- Most people get their information about higher education from newspapers, magazines, radio and television.
- As a public institution, Missouri S&T has an obligation to share information with the public.
- The public gains a better understanding of Missouri S&T research activities, issues and policies through the news media
- When you are speaking for Missouri S&T's interests, you can provide a more balanced view of critical situations and answer questions more accurately in the event of a crisis or tragedy on campus. It's better that they hear the straight story from us than an incomplete and inaccurate story from the rumor mill.
When a reporter calls
If you are called by a reporter, you should:
- Ask the reporter to identify himself or herself, and the news organization he or she represents. Then ask for a phone number where he or she may be reached, tell the reporter you'll return the call, and then call the Missouri S&T Public Relations staff at 573-341-4328 for assistance. The PR staff can brief you on how to handle a media call.
- Once you return the reporter's call, identify yourself and your affiliation with Missouri S&T.
Tips for talking to the news media
- Be prepared. Think about what questions might be asked. The Missouri S&T Public Relations staff can help you prepare for an interview.
- Get the important facts out first. Know key points you want to make, then make them up front.
- Don't speculate or respond to hypothetical questions. If a reporter asks you what might happen under various hypothetical circumstances, simply decline to engage in speculation. Instead, emphasize facts.
- Don't go "off the record." Never use this term. In interviews, there is no such thing as off the record.
- Always tell the truth. If you mislead a reporter, you lose credibility. That hurts you as well as the university.
- Address issues from the public's perspective. You will establish better rapport with the reporter if you talk about the issues in terms of what the public wants to know.
- Be conversational. Don't memorize your lines or read text for face-to-face interviews. Think first, talk later.
- Don't fill conversation gaps. After you've answered a question, simply wait for the next one. Reporters know that if they wait a bit most people will feel obligated to fill the gap by offering additional information.
- Avoid jargon. Don't expect a reporter to understand your buzzwords, acronyms and specialized terms. Keep it simple.
- Don't evade. If you don't know the answer to a question, say so. If it's an important question, tell the reporter you'll get the answer later. Then do it.
Tips for television
If you are scheduled for a television interview, remember these hints:
- Use visuals if possible, and have facts about your subject readily available.
- Think about location. For TV, the location of the interview is important. But you should feel comfortable in the setting, too. Conduct the interview in your office or laboratory, or somewhere else where you are comfortable.
- Look and talk to the interviewer - not the camera.
- Get your message out. TV stories usually last less than three minutes, so keep your message short, simple and to the point. Give main points only.
- Dress for success. For men, light blue shirts work best, with a conservative tie. For women, light colors are best.