The purpose of this guide is to assist the employees of the MU Libraries in working with representatives of the media.
Our Legal Obligation
As a Land Grant University, MU is accountable to the citizens of the state of Missouri. Most written communication within the University is in the public domain and must be shared with the public and news organizations if requested. However, state and federal laws balance the public's right to know with student and university employees' right to privacy.
Who Can Speak for the MU Libraries?
- Jim Cogswell, director of libraries, serves as the spokesperson for the MU Libraries.
- Shannon Cary, communications officer, is the primary media contact and Mark Ellis, executive staff assistant, is the secondary media contact. You should contact Shannon or Mark if a reporter contacts you directly. They will accept calls from reporters and determine the proper course of action. If neither is available, refer the media to the administrative office for assistance.
- In some cases, Jim or the media contact may call upon you for your expertise in a particular area. The following sections contain helpful techniques that can help you deliver the message successfully.
Tips for Talking to the Media
- Regard any interview as an opportunity to tell your story. Pick one or two main points that you would like to make and be sure to make them. You may need to repeat those points or restate those points in different ways
- Remember that you do not have to answer every question that is asked.
- If you don't know the answer, simply say so, but add that you will be happy to find out and get back to them. If you are not at liberty to discuss the topic, say so.
- Find out the deadline and ask about a quote check. All reporters are supposed to call back and check all quotes attributed to you.
- You can set the ground rules for the interview-such as when it will take place, where it will take place and the length of the interview.
- Remember that there is no such thing as "off the record" for a reporter. Do not say anything that you do not want quoted in print or on radio or television.
- Remember who your audience is-it is not the reporter. It is the public who will hear or read the story.
- Keep it simple. Do not bridge a positive comment with a negative (in other words, do not use "but" or "however") because if only a portion of the sentence is used, it may be the wrong part.
- Avoid jargon. Use relevant examples or short stories to illustrate a point and make the topic more interesting.
- Prepare (or use already available) tip sheets with easily quotable material and give those to the reporter.
- If the question is phrased negatively, turn it into a positive.
- If the question is based on incorrect information, correct it.
- When you have said what you need to say, stop talking.
- Listen to the entire question. Do not interrupt the interviewer. If the question is long and convoluted, ask for the reporter to re-phrase the question.
- Be calm. Be polite. Be positive.
We would like to thank the University of Minnesota for sharing their Media plan with us. We have used it as a broad outline for this document. The document was published by University Relations, 6 Morrill Hall, 100 Church Street Southeast, Minneapolis, MN 55455