Speaking with Reporters

Suggestions for Speaking with Reporters

In the course of serving as a PTO president, it may happen that you are called by a newspaper reporter to comment on a recent event at your school. Since not many of us have much experience in speaking to the press, we offer the following tips only as a potentially helpful aid in such an event.

  • Consider asking the reporter to call you back at a later time (be sensitive to their needs to meet a deadline) so that you can pull yourself and thoughts together. Be sure and understand what you will be interviewed about.
  • In the intervening time before your scheduled interview, put together the thoughts that you would like to convey in the interview so that you can make sure you stay “on message” throughout the interview.
  • Before you start the interview, gather the following facts:
    • Name of reporter and newspaper
    • How he/she got your name
    • How to reach him/her
    • When the article will be published
    • General discussion about what he/she is trying to get across in the article
  • Always ask if your comments will be on the record or off the record.
  • Ask if you will be quoted and with what attribution (member or officer on a board, or your professional title, etc.).
  • Be careful when you are on the record about what you say. If you find you need to go off the record, stop the interview and say that you don’t want to be quoted. Ask the reporter if you can go off the record. If the reporter refuses, end the interview. If you aren’t sure that the reporter has taken you off the record, end the interview.
  • Stick to the facts and don’t speak off the top of your head.
  • Keep your answers simple.
  • If you are uncomfortable being interviewed, suggest to the reporter that he/she should call someone else.