Working with the Media
The media expect the Office of Public Affairs to be their first point of contact and the representative voice for the university. Please do not hesitate to call us if we can be of assistance. For example, we will provide media training with you if you are headed into the spotlight or in front of a microphone. Combined we have over 38 years of experience in communications.
We write news releases and media alerts in a style and format that the news media expects from the university. We pitch stories by phone and send stories by e-mail and regular mail based on the needs of the media we contact.
When you have a story idea, collect as much information as you can and call us. Look at the headlines in the daily news media about medicine and health care related issues and see if there is someone in your college who might add into an ongoing story. Feature stories on faculty, students, staff and alumni are important to us. Stories on sciences and research, particularly when they are topical are also valuable to us.
Often our first question of a reporter is about their deadline. If we respond quickly, help reporters meet their deadlines and provide clear, concise information, reporters will come back to us with other story ideas. If we can build these relationships and maintain them, then we build the visibility of our university in this media market and gain the reputation that matches the quality that we represent.
The more lead time we have to develop and find placement for a story, the better the chances are that the story will get used. We can arrange for photography and meet the technical needs of publications that are planning to carry our stories. Good reporters always have follow up questions. We will make sure those questions are answered on time for the reporter.
When a Reporter Calls
It is our intention that Western University be considered an open and accessible campus for the news media. The Office of Public Affairs stays in touch with writers, reporters and editors. We know their interests and part of our role is to act as a news gatekeeper, always aware of their daily time constraints.
If a reporter calls you about a story and you don’t want to take the call, tell the reporter to contact University Communications. Everyone has the right to talk to a reporter, but you also have the right not to. We field and screen calls all the time. We will verify the authenticity of the reporter and the publication.
When you talk with a reporter, you are taking on a big responsibility. A number of things have already happened before you got the call from the reporter. Usually, the reporter has been assigned the story by an editor who has determined the value of the story. Space or time has been dedicated for the story and deadlines are tight. A writer is contacting you or a producer is calling to arrange an interview on camera, perhaps live on television. You may not be the only person being interviewed about the story.
Everything you say to a reporter, even in simple conversation, is on the record. If you are talking into a camera, there is no taking your words back, the world is watching. On the record means that what you are saying is going in print or on the air. The best reporters will rarely, if ever, ask you to talk off the record. Off the record is a tool, almost a contractual agreement between the reporter and interviewee that certain information is for background use and is not to be attributed to the interviewee. Off the record has a very specific beginning and end. Violating an off the record agreement immediately ends the working relationship between reporter and the interviewee.
When speaking to a reporter or into a microphone or camera, keep you comments clear, simple and FACTUAL. Don’t guess or speculate and don’t lie. There is no need to panic when being interviewed. If you need to take a moment to compose yourself, drink some water, and then step back into the interview. If you don’t have an answer to a question, say so. Tough stories come and go. The media and the university will both be around long after the story is forgotten.