Understanding media requests

Every day, local and national journalists reach out to the University of Minnesota looking for sources who can do interviews and provide expertise for their stories. Talking to the media can be a great opportunity to raise your profile, share your expertise on critical issues, and highlight how investments in research benefit communities.

Before accepting an interview, consider the following questions:

  1. What’s the reporter’s outlet and deadline?
    If you are unfamiliar with the outlet or reporter, your partners in University Relations are happy to provide context and answer any questions. Next, find out the deadline. If the timing doesn’t work for you, but you’d like to provide expertise, ask the reporter if they have flexibility in their schedule or offer to be a source for future requests.  
  2. What is the interview format? 
    Each format requires a different set-up. Many newspaper reporters conduct phone interviews, though some prefer to meet in-person. Some radio interviews are simple phone calls, while others require headphones, a computer, and a strong internet connection to access specialized software. A TV reporter might want to meet on campus, or they might invite you to their studio, or they might need to meet via Zoom. Each format, reporter, and story has different needs. Make sure to clarify the specifics and don’t be afraid to advocate for your own needs. For example, if the reporter wants to meet in person but you only have time for a phone call or a Zoom interview – let them know! They might have some flexibility.
  3. How much time is needed? Do they need video or photos? 
    An interview could range from five minutes to over an hour depending on the format and topic. If visual elements are involved, expect the time commitment to be longer.
  4. What’s the story topic and focus? 
    Though some reporters will provide interviewees a list of questions in advance, many newsrooms prohibit this practice. However, most reporters are happy to share details about the story angle and topics they are hoping to discuss.
  5. Why do they want to interview me (my expertise or my role at the U of M)?
    First ask yourself if you are the right person to be interviewed on the topic and if it's relevant to your unit/program goals. If you are not sure, check with your communications team for guidance on next steps. Understanding “why me” and what your role is may be the most critical question on the list.
  6. Who else are they interviewing? 
    Try to get a sense of if you are the main focus of the story, or if you are one of many experts providing a small quote.  Knowing this will help you prepare talking points accordingly.

How you manage media requests is your individual choice, but know that University Relations is a resource for you. Don’t forget — reporters can always be referred to our team before proceeding with a request. Involving us early on means we can help you think through these questions, illuminate potential blindspots, and provide counsel on your messaging and approach.