University of Vermont

Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR)

Media Guidelines for Faculty and Staff

University faculty and staff are often contacted by and interact with local, national and international media of various types including, but not limited to, social, broadcast and print. Below are some guidelines to consider, specifically, how faculty or staff might prepare for an interview and best represent themselves, the University, and if appropriate, the funding agency.

If possible, please first contact the Office of University Communications before your interview or other media interaction at 656-2005; or contact Jeff Wakefield, Assistant Director, University Communications, at 802-578-8830 or by email at jeffrey.wakefield@uvm.edu

UVM Communications staff and their support services may also be found at: www.uvm.edu/~uvmpr

UVM Communicates Workshops

UVM Communicates workshops provide hands-on experiences to help faculty and students better communicate their expertise with the public, the media, public officials, and others outside their own discipline. Workshops are being offered in fall 2016 for faculty.

UVM Communicates is an affiliate of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, established in 2009 at Stony Brook University.

Basic guidelines (regardless of type of media interaction)

  • Always consider your audience, e.g., "Who am I addressing through this outlet?"
  • Stick with your messages. Feel free to paraphrase and repeat if a reporter presses.
  • Speak plainly and try to avoid technical jargon.
  • Try and place your work within the context of its regional or global relevance so as to connect Vermont with the broader community.
  • Let your passion for the subject show — it is often enlivening and infective.
  • Be candid, forthright and truthful.
  • Try to be brief.
  • Take a moment before answering a question to take a breath and think about your response.
  • Be factual; don't speculate if given hypothetical situations.
  • Be positive and persuasive. You are the expert.
  • Don't be goaded into getting defensive: acknowledge what the interviewer is asking and redirect with a transitional statement to where you want to be, e.g., "I hear what you are saying, however..." or "that is sometimes said, however..."
  • Don't argue (same as above); restate your message simply. It's okay to repeat.
  • Don't take things personally.
  • Never say "no comment." Most people equate this to "guilty" or something negative even if that's not the case.
  • Don't go off the record for any reason.
  • Remember that you are representing UVM.

Interviews for radio or print

It is very important that you take the time to develop your key messages, and you are strongly encouraged to develop your messages in conjunction with University Communications. You'll also need to anticipate difficult questions and rehearse what you will say. University Communications can also help in this regard by calling a reporter in advance and asking what general areas he or she plans to cover and what questions you should be prepared to answer. Don't try to memorize answers, just be prepared to speak knowledgeably about your messages.

Concurrent with your preparation, be sure to contact the interviewer to confirm date, time, and location of the interview.  They are usually on tight deadlines and appreciate quick confirmation. University Communications can help with this scheduling.

During the interview, be yourself and speak clearly while avoiding technical jargon and acronyms. Speak to your audience in language they will understand. Communicate your passion for the subject.

Interviews for television

  • Stick with your messages.
  • Be thoughtful about the location or background. If you have an opinion about that, share it with the reporter or producer.
  • Be thoughtful about what you are wearing and do your best to appear professional and appropriately dressed. Try to avoid white clothing; it does not look good on television.
  • Consider your posture and body language. Sit up with your shoulders straight and feel free to use small hand gestures.
  • If they offer makeup, take advantage of it. Professionals use it for a reason.
  • Be as concise as possible. Most of the time (for news interviews) only 10-20 seconds of your interview will end up on the air.
  • Speak in full sentences. It is okay to incorporate the interview question into your answer.
  • If you didn't like your answer to a particular question, tell the interviewer why and ask if you can answer it again.
  • Assume the camera and microphone are always on.
  • If you aren't sure, ask the interviewer where they'd like you to look. There are exceptions, but most of the time you will NOT look at the camera.

Interviews via email

It is more and more common to see an article in print or online that reads, "In a recent email, Dr. Smith said..." If you are offered the opportunity to answer some questions via email, here are a few tips:

  • Make sure your messages come through.
  • Even though it seems like space is unlimited, be concise. Reporters like content but don't want to sift through too much to find what is useful to them.
  • Speak in complete sentences with your replies.
  • If possible, have someone quickly review your answers. Two sets of eyes are always better than one to find and correct grammar mistakes and typos.
  • Reply with your answers as quickly as reasonably possible. Email does not change the fact that there are deadlines to be met.
  • Be sure not to write anything that is inappropriate — email is forever and can lead to legal consequences.

Holding a news or press conference

It is particularly important to touch base with University Communications before holding a press conference. As noted above, planning your key messages and themes ahead of time is critically important, and the Communications staff will help with that. They will also contact the media and help plan the logistics of the news or press conference so that you can be concerned about the content and messaging. And remember to anticipate difficult or awkward questions so you'll be prepared if asked.