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Crisis Communications


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Interview preparation strategies

Preparation for a media interview, whether in a crisis situation or to promote the campus and its work, will pay tremendous dividends by efficiently giving the media - and thus, the public - the information they need. It will also keep your focus on a few important statements and increase your comfort with being interviewed.

Before meeting the reporter

When the reporter arrives

After meeting the reporter

Before meeting the reporter

Think about your message

What are the key points you would like the reporter to understand by the end of your conversation with him or her?

Put key points in writing

You will NOT read from them during an interview, but you should use them to help you focus your responses to support those points.

Practice answering tough questions

Call the News Bureau at (217) 333-1085 or Public Affairs at (217) 333-5010 and ask for a mock interview. A group of seasoned journalists will meet with you to help you run through many of the questions reporters are likely to ask.

If you are serving as the spokesperson for a story that involves unpleasant news, make sure to explain what's being done to prevent that type of problem from happening again.

Spend a minute on grooming

Make sure your hair is combed, that your tie has no ketchup stains, and so on, to keep distractions to a minimum.

Choose an appropriate location for the interview

Find a place that is relatively quiet and well-lit, if possible. Think about how the space will look to the reporter. Choose a location that enhances your message, or at least a location that does not conflict with your message. An obvious example would be talking about efforts to curb student drinking while seated at your desk with a bottle of wine that had been given to you as a gift.

When the reporter arrives

Stay on message

Answer the reporter's questions using information you want in the story. In other words, think about how the questions relate to your points and answer them accordingly.

Ask questions

Listen and ask follow-ups. It is absolutely appropriate for you to ensure that the reporter understands the story, so don't be shy about asking him or her if the information you've given is clear. Clarify the story for the reporter, rather than simply answering his or her questions.

If the reporter asks a question you can't answer, don't fake it

Volunteer to find the answer and follow up with additional information.

Tell the truth

This one is self-explanatory.

Don't talk to a reporter unless you're comfortable in the role of spokesperson

You may request that campus spokesperson Robin Kaler and handle interviews, if you prefer.

Alert your unit's Chief Communications Officer and Public Affairs about potential news stories that could have negative ramifications

If the story involves faculty, please alert Abbas Benmamoun. from the Provost's Office.

Offer to answer additional questions as the reporter is writing the story

Know the reporter's deadline and provide the best possible contact information for that time frame.


After the reporter leaves