- Only agree to speak as an “authority” on topics about which you actually have an authoritative grasp of facts/issues. Otherwise take a pass.
- Be aware that there is, practically speaking, no such things as “off the record”; anything you say is liable to come back to haunt you.
- Ditch the jargon. Connect when possible with “human interest” stories. Don’t spin. Reporters really value talking with someone who isn’t always trying to sell them a PR angle. Be willing to invest time in a relationship. Conversations are more productive than news releases.
- Communicate complicated and nuanced ideas through example. You don’t need to dumb things down; you simply need to communicate ideas clearly.
- The biggest difficulty for academics dealing with the media is to avoid all the hedges that would be necessary when talking with peers. Most of us have a tendency to hedge every statement, because we are used to thinking about the boundary conditions of a particular phenomenon. Those boundary conditions often aren’t at all relevant to a media story.
- If a reporter cold calls for an interview or quote, ask about the topic and tell him or her that you will call right back (they are usually on deadline). Don’t be pressured. Use the interlude to think about what you want to say and compose your thoughts. Call right back.
- Tell a compelling story, find an immediate news ‘‘hook’’ and get the message to the right people.
- Learning/remembering: (1) Less is more. Don’t offer too much beyond what is being asked. (2) Prepare. Don’t simply ‘‘wing it.’’ Know what you want to get across in advance. (3) The media are not your ‘‘friend.’’ The media have their own agendas. (4) The media can be fair. They don’t necessarily skew one’s statements.