Media interviews are a very effective way to share your research and insights with a large audience. They also help raise the profile of the university for recruitment, research and funding opportunities as well as in reputational surveys.
A good interview is a conversation, a natural exchange. There are some things to keep in mind when giving an interview that are specific to the type of media the journalist represents. There is also some general information you should know when preparing for and granting media interviews that are universal, regardless of the platform.
Giving journalists a good interview will increase the chances that he or she will call you again or look for other experts from the University of Waterloo for their stories.
The media relations team has a lot of experience conducting interviews and preparing experts for them. Please feel free to contact a member of the team to discuss possible line of questioning and logistics to help you feel the most at ease while providing journalists with a wealth of useful—and useable--quotes or clips for their stories
General information for media interviews
- Always prepare. Arrange a time for interviews that gives you time to prepare. It’s often handy to prepare a small handful of key messages that you want to convey in the interview that you can practice delivering in clear, concise chunks. Anticipate the questions you will be asked and practice your responses.
- Journalists are often working on tight deadlines, so it is important to respond their queries as quickly as possible, and always on the same day they ask.
- Keep the audience in mind and use accessible language in concise sentences for ease of comprehension. Unless otherwise specified, assume the audience is non-scientific and non-technical. If you use jargon or terms the audience members won't know or recognize, you will lose them. Many people find it easy to imagine talking to a bright ten-year-old.
- If you are talking about research, consider the practical application of your work to help make it accessible to the audience.
- Journalists are often skilled generalists by necessity and are often journalists tasked to report on topics in which they have no background. Using analogies is a helpful way to make your work accessible to a broader audience and it’s always helpful to make sure you contextualize technical terms.
- Assume all interviews and telephone calls are recorded. This is often for note-taking purposes but with rare exceptions, it is legal for media outlets to air a telephone conversation between you and their journalist. They do not have to tell you they're recording you. So only say things you wouldn’t mind seeing attributed to you in a media story.
- Don’t fill dead air. Interviewers will often leave extended pauses sometimes in the hope that you say something unintended. You don’t need to fill the silence, just focus on what you want to say in short, understandable chunks and stop talking.
- Please ask the journalist to identify you in the story as being from the University of Waterloo. For reputational rankings it's important that the university's name appear in every media story possible.
- Find out where and when the story will appear. We ask that you advise the media relations team, who monitor mentions of the University of Waterloo in the media.
Even the most skilled interviewees who have meticulously prepared for their interviews will often be asked a question that makes them uncomfortable, or that comes out of left field. It can be tricky to move the interview back into territory that you are comfortable with, but the bridging technique is one way.
Bridging, or flagging, allows the interviewee to keep interviews on track, refocus on your own messaging and makes for a more compelling interview.
Bridging uses simple, concise phrases to move from an answer to a message. Flagging uses the same technique to draw attention to a critical point.
Here are some phrases that work as bridging or flagging statements:
- “However, what is more important to look at is…”
- “However, the real issue here is…”
- “And what this all means is…”
- “And what’s most important to remember is…”
- “With this in mind, if we look at the bigger picture…”
- “If we take a broader perspective…”
- “Let me put all this in perspective by saying…”
- “What all this information tells me is…”
- “If we take a closer look, we would see…”
- “Let me emphasize again…”
- “And the one thing that is important to remember is…”
- “What I’ve said comes down to this…:
- “Here’s the real issue…”
More examples of bridging or flagging phrases (DOC) can be found online from V.T. Covello in Keeping Your Head in a Crisis: Responding to Communication Challenges Posed by Bio-terrorism and Emerging Diseases published by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers.