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Tips & Guidelines

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(Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Interview Tips
  • Prepare ahead of time a list of the points/messages you want to cover during the interview. The idea is to get out the message you want while still responding to questions. Tell stories and anecdotes that illustrate your point and give examples.
  • Take into account the intended audience for the article/program. Use clear, simple, straightforward language. Use as little professional or technical jargon as possible. No acronyms, please
  • Reporters always need perspective (i.e., How many people are affected? When did the issue arise? Is this part of a national trend?). Don’t hesitate to put the issue into perspective, even if the reporter doesn’t ask.
  • Don’t overestimate a reporter’s knowledge of your subject. If a reporter bases questions on information you believe is incorrect, do not hesitate to set the record straight. Offer background information where necessary.
  • Only answer questions that relate to your area of expertise or that you feel comfortable answering. If you do not understand a question, ask for clarification rather than talking around it. If you do not have the answer, say so. Tell the reporter where to find the information or suggest another source, if possible. If the reporter repeats the question, tell them again that you do not feel comfortable answering a question that is outside your area of research.
  • Nothing is 100% off the record. Never say anything that you do not want to read in print, hear on the radio, or see on television or the internet.

Special considerations for radio, television, and film interviews
  • Speak in complete thoughts. The reporter’s question may be edited out and your response should stand on its own.
  • Wear a solid color shirt or blouse. Clothing with prints, parallel lines or checkered patterns can be distracting on camera. Avoid wearing a white shirt or blouse, which can make lighting the scene a challenge.
  • Setting up lighting equipment for filming is time consuming. If you're filming a one hour interview for a TV program or documentary, be aware that the film crew will need an additonal hour an a half for set up. It's best to schedule filming on a day where you can dedicate most of the day to that project. That will allow you to be more relaxed and feel less rushed during the on-camera interview. Again, the Media Office is happy to help with scheduling and will stay with the crew while they set up, film and take down equipment.

Last updated: February 14, 2012

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