News-gathering, writing and giving reaction statements
Media monitoring service
How to deal with media enquiries
If you are approached by a journalist try to be helpful, polite and positive.
Any enquiries which concern something outside your area of expertise, or University policy, a controversial topic or the personal details of a current or past member of staff or student, should be referred to the UniversityCommunications Office.
If the journalist wants to speak to you about something within your field, find out the following important pieces of information before accepting:
Their name, the name of the newspaper/broadcasting company and their direct line number.
The subject matter, their news angle and who will be interviewing you if it is not person calling.
If you want time to think, or to consult the University's in-house Communications Office or a colleague, ask the journalist what their deadline is and get back to them as quickly as possible. If the journalist wants an immediate comment, say you will call back after checking some facts and figures. In fact it is often a good idea to collect your thoughts before commenting. Remember the way and speed with which you deal with a media enquiry will affect the media’s perception of you and the University, so respond within a reasonable timescale.
If you do not want to take part in an interview, politely decline and where possible refer the journalist to a colleague or the Communications Office who may be able to help. Never say “no comment” as it will make you look like you have something to hide.
If you are unable to speak for practical reasons, such as the fact that the results of your research are not yet complete, say so. You may be able to interest the journalist in other research you are involved in or a future project that may be newsworthy.
Treat everything you say as “on the record” and avoid saying anything you do not want quoted. If you are worried about being misquoted on a complex issue ask the journalist to recap the points you have made and check over the key facts. Alternatively you could offer to send the journalist a key statement by e-mail. This reduces the risk of misunderstanding.
If you have taken part in an interview please let the Communications Office know, a quick email will do, to firstname.lastname@example.org. In return, we keep a record of all mentions of the University of Stirling in the media, and can supply you with details of any coverage generated by your interview.
How to prepare for an interview
If you have agreed to do an interview, keep your message short and simple as you will not normally have a lot of time to put it across. Keep what you want to say to a maximum of three points and write them down as bullet points to help jog your memory. If you have the opportunity, go over your points with a colleague or the Communications Office to increase your confidence but do not read from notes during the interview. You may also wish to think through your responses to difficult questions. This is something staff in the Communications Office can advise you on.
How to handle an interview
If the interview is being filmed or recorded in your office or home, make sure there are no interruptions. Choose somewhere quiet, take the phone off the hook and switch off your mobile.
Try to speak and act naturally during the interview. Everyone gets nervous in these situations, but you will often find that once you start talking your nerves will pass. Numbers and figures should be rounded up or simplified (“one in six” rather than “16.6 percent”) and jargon should be avoided. Make your main points at the beginning of the interview and use real examples/analogies to bring them to life.
Appearance is very important in TV interviews, so ensure you are dressed appropriately for the programme and/or subject matter. If in doubt opt for smart rather than casual. Avoid wearing clothing with fine stripes or tiny patterns as the camera may distort them (also known as “strobing”).
How to suggest a media release
If you think you have a newsworthy story, an event to promote, or would like to comment on a topical issue, there is no reason why you should not make the first move. Contact the Communications Office with a brief outline of the story or comment you would like to make. We will offer advice and (if appropriate) write a news release. You need to make what you want to announce relevant to the “man on the street”. There are two main things to remember when putting forward a suggestion: start with the most important and interesting information, and write clearly and intelligently.
News releases also have a better chance of success if they tie into the current news agenda, so look for times and places when your work is relevant and contact the Communications Office when an opportunity comes up. Remember if you do agree to a news release, you will have to be prepared to talk to the media.
How to get your name in the papers
The University has an online guide to academic experts, which is used regularly by the media to find people who can give expert comment on the stories of the day. If you have an expertise, no matter how obscure or mainstream it may be, and would feel confident about taking occasional calls from journalists, please ask for your name to be added to the register. Just send an email to the Communications Office with your details.
How to increase your confidence
If you would like to receive media training please contact the Communications Office. We can arrange workshops, run in conjunction with the Development Centre. Individual role-play sessions and tailor-made training events are also available.
Information for staff and students
Please notify Communications of any media enquiries and do not comment on behalf of the University.
Contact us to be added to the expert directory, our online database which members of the media use to source expert comment on topical stories.
Media training is offered to staff on a group and individual basis. Contact Communications to discuss any training requirements.
Staff are asked to notify Communications of any research and reports in advance of publication. If you think you have a newsworthy story, an event to promote, or would like to comment on a topical issue, contact Communications who can provide guidance and support throughout.
Top interview tips:
Jot down three bullet point messages you wish to get across
Practice these points with a colleague
Consider any difficult questions and how you might respond
Pick a quiet spot to be interviewed
Speak confidently and naturally
Avoid jargon and complicated statistics
The University is a member of the Conversation, the online news analysis website written by academics and republished by media outlets worldwide including the BBC and CNN. Staff from PhD candidate to senior lecturer can pitch story ideas in just 100 words. Contact Communications to discuss opportunities to write for The Conversation and find out more about workshops on campus.