1. Write down 3 points you want to make.
- Have them in front of you during the interview.
- State them early in the conversation and repeat them as opportunities arise.
- Back them up with data and studies: You’re uniquely positioned to inject EVIDENCE into the news.
2. Describe the big-picture problem.
- Even if not asked, step back and briefly describe the overarching issue or challenge in simple terms.
- Explain why addressing the issue demands a methodical, scientific approach.
- Reporters often push for answers, but do the above before you delve into potential solutions.
3. If you disagree with the premise of a question, say so. It’s not rude to say:
- “Actually, that’s not quite right. Let me explain …”
- “I don’t think your premise is correct. What I see is …”
- “That may be one factor, but the bigger issue is …”
4. When you don’t know the answer, it’s okay to say so. Some options:
- “I’m sorry, that’s outside my area of expertise.”
- “I don’t have the answer at my fingertips, can I get back to you on that question?”
- “That isn’t something I focus on, but [COLLEAGUE] might be a good person to talk to.”
5. Remember these DOs and DON’Ts.
☑ DO USE ANALOGIES, VISUAL EXAMPLES, AND ANECDOTES.
Paint a picture with your words to make your knowledge more accessible, relatable, and memorable to nonexperts.
❌ DON’T USE ACRONYMS, ABBREVIATIONS, AND JARGON.
They can confuse non-experts, obscure your insights, and increase the odds that your otherwise valuable contribution ends up on the cutting room floor.
☑ DO ASK CLARIFYING QUESTIONS.
It’s fine to ask questions in an interview to be sure you understand what the reporter is looking for or as a way of suggesting a new perspective for the reporter to consider.
❌ DON’T GO ‘OFF THE RECORD’ DURING AN INTERVIEW.
The default presumption when talking to reporters is that everything is “on the record,” meaning that anything you say may be quoted and attributed to you. If things get difficult, avoid saying “off the record” (different reporters interpret this phrase differently) or “no comment” (which, in itself, is a comment, and not generally taken positively). A good neutral approach is: “I’m not prepared to talk about that right now.”
☑ DO CLOSE EVERY INTERVIEW BY:
Asking the reporter to summarize what they heard in the conversation. Repeat your key points if needed & offer to be available for follow-up questions or fact checking.