Preparing for a media interview is important and can help you feel more confident and at ease. See below for media interview tips provided by MSU University Communications. (Also available as a download: Media Training Tipsheet PDF.)

Interview prep:

  • Create 2-3 talking points, one bottom line.
  • Identify supporting examples, analogies, data, and personal experience.
  • Simplify your answers.
  • Anticipate hard questions and prepare answers for them.

Interview dos:

  • Consider opening with a 90-second overview of your expertise and thoughts.
  • Ask the reporter to clarify a confusing question.
  • Be friendly, open, and respectful.
  • Use a metaphor to paint a picture.
  • Be honest if you don’t have an answer; you can always follow up with an email.
  • Say how you want to be identified.
  • Ask to repeat an answer asked earlier in the interview.

Interview don’ts:

  • Use acronyms and jargon.
  • Say things “off the record.”
  • Ask to read the story before it’s published.
  • Stray too far from your expertise.
  • Say “no comment.” (Try: “That’s not a question I can answer.”)
  • Repeat a negative framing in your answer.

When questions get tough:

  • Maintain control and composure.
  • Don’t be defensive.
  • You do not need to answer hypotheticals – “I’m can’t speculate.”
  • Be honest if you don’t know the answer.
  • You can reframe questions.
  • Always feel free to contact communications for help vetting the interview request! (Can contact CAL Marketing Office at media@cal.msu.edu and MSU University Communications at media@msu.edu).

Traps to avoid:

  • In response to leading questions: “Your assumption isn’t true,” then, state a key point.
  • The uncomfortable silence. Make your point, then stop talking. “Did you have any other questions?”
  • The non-question. “Did you have a specific question?”

When you can’t quite answer:

  • “I can’t predict the future, but I can tell you what happened in the past.”
  • “I’m not in a position to make specific recommendations, but I can tell you some policy options…”
  • “I can’t answer that definitively at this point, but I can tell you have to minimize risk…”

Bridging to your messages:

  • “I think what you’re really asking is…”
  • “That speaks to a bigger point…”
  • “Let me put that in perspective…”
  • “The real issue here is…”
  • “I don’t know about that, but what I do know is…”
  • “What’s important to remember is…”
  • “Just the opposite is true…”
  • “That’s false…”

At the end of the interview:

  • “The most important thing to remember is…”
  • “The real issue is…”
  • “We’ve talked about a lot today, but it boils down to three things…”
  • “Let me make one thing perfectly clear…”

Media & PR contacts at MSU