Working with the Media

Faculty and staff should contact News and Public Relations when …

  • You have been contacted by a news organization or can offer an expert opinion on a current news story
  • You use innovative teaching techniques in the classroom or laboratory and want to share them with others
  • You or another faculty member has won a major award or recognition
  • You have completed a ground-breaking research project and want to announce it
  • You want to tell others the "good news" about your students

This page includes general information about publicizing events and dealing with reporters. For additional help, call Nate Haas at 351-1763.

How to promote your event on campus

Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to submit UNC news items and events for the daily electronic campus newsletter and the online UNC calendar.

All events — including concerts, speakers, performances, workshops, meetings, celebrations, athletic events and festivals — should be entered directly into the UNC calendar. Events publicized in UNC Today will be taken directly from the calendar. Announcements such as job openings, policy changes and information about publications should be e-mailed to You can also submit story ideas for the Spotlight on UNC section of UNC Today.

How to promote your event beyond campus

Media Relations writes and distributes press releases to local, state and national media about campus events that are of broad, general interest. But we can't help promote you event if we don't know about it well in advance. We need time to assemble and write the information and distribute it to the relevant media, and they need time to format it for their publications. We also use press releases to pitch story ideas to media outlets, and editors need time to include your event in their reporters' busy schedules.

  • For press releases doing advance promotion of an event (you want to get the word out so people will show up), we need your complete information at least three weeks before the event date. If there is an advance registration deadline, submit your information three weeks before that date.
  • Avoid use of discipline-specific jargon and be sure to accurately report the names of any organizations - don't use acronyms.
  • Remember the media decide what information to use - the Media Relations staff has no control of where, when or how press releases are used in any publication. The only way to guarantee your information will appear when and how you want is to purchase advertising space.
  • Include complete information about the event date, time and exact location, plus any specifics that would help a reader understand the significance of the event - such as the biography/resume of the speaker, the title of the presentation and a brief description of what the program will include.

How to promote honors won by faculty, staff and students

Most honors and awards we report are of interest primarily to the campus community. Generally these include such recognition as departmental awards, appointments to boards or committees of academic or specialized organizations and other honors related to the jobs people do at UNC. These are generally reported in the daily online "UNC Today." See the submission guidelines for that publication for details.

A few awards and honors, such as prestigious scholarships, large research grants or national recognition by widely known organizations, make appropriate news for the broader community. In those instances, Media Relations will prepare a press release and distribute it to the relevant media outlets.

  • Be sure to inform Media Relations of the specifics as soon as the award or honor is announced so we can write and distribute a timely press release. It's not news to any media outlet if it happened months ago, no matter how prestigious or important it is to you.
  • Remember the media decide what information to use - the Media Relations staff has no control of where, when or how press releases are used in any publication. The only way to guarantee your information will appear when and how you want is to purchase advertising space.
  • Include complete information about the award, the organization presenting the award and a brief description of the criteria used to chose the winner.

How to promote activities or honors of UNC Alumni

Northern Vision magazine, published three times annually, covers the achievements and activities of university alumni in a variety of formats, ranging from news briefs to feature articles. To suggest topics, e-mail

What to do when a reporter calls

  • Return the call as quickly as possible - reporters generally have deadlines.
  • Ask what is the news outlet, what will be the topic and depth of the interview and who will be the audience. This helps you know whether you have the level of information the reporter is seeking. If you don't think you're the right person for the topic, say so. If you know who is and can put the reporter in touch, do so.
  • Because of time constraints, reporters often conduct interviews by telephone instead of face-to-face. If you need time to prepare for the interview (such as looking up statistics), you should set a time when either you or the reporter will call back. Be aware that the reporters might be working under a tight deadline, especially if the interview concerns breaking news.
  • Contact Media Relations if you need assistance. You are not required to have any permission before speaking with the media, but we are available to help you decide whether to participate and to prepare for a positive outcome.

Preparing for an interview

  • Focus on three to five key points you can get across fairly quickly. If you are being interviewed for radio or television, you should break up your points into 20-second bites. Make notes on the points you want to emphasize so you don't leave out anything important.
  • Try to anticipate difficult questions that could come up and consider how you would answer them.
  • Compile any statistics or background information you can provide the reporter to support your main points, and arrange to provide written copies.
  • If the story will be illustrated with a photo, consider what image would best convey the important points. The reporter might request assistance setting up a photo or ask to have a photographer contact you. You might also be asked to provide a portrait "mug shot" of yourself, so have that on hand if appropriate.

Being interviewed

  • Be friendly, but professional. Having the chance to highlight your area of expertise can be enjoyable.
  • Always tell the truth. Avoid the temptation to guess or exaggerate - if you don't know the answer, say so and offer assistance in finding it (either by referring the reporter to the person who would know or by finding the information and calling the reporter back.)
  • If you are speaking for the university (or a department or organization), indicate that to the reporter. Otherwise, be clear that you are offering you personal opinion. If you don't know the university's official position on an issue, say so and refer the reporter to Media Relations.
  • Keep your answers brief and non-technical. Avoid using discipline-specific jargon or acronyms that a general audience won't understand.
  • Don't feel you must fill in silences, which reporters sometimes use to get people to say more than they intend. Answer the questions as completely as you think is appropriate and then wait for the reporter to ask the next question.
  • If the interview strays from your key points, redirect the conversation. Keep your notes at hand as a reminder and check to ensure you have covered the information you consider most important.
  • Don't go off the record. If you don't want to see it in print, don't say it. And remember tape recorders or cameras might still be on even after the interview has concluded. Anything you say to a reporter, even conversation before or after the interview, could be used in a story.

After the interview

  • Don't ask to see or approve a story before it is printed or aired. Reporters are professionals and will not agree to have you check their work. Most reporters will, however, agree to contact you after the story is finished to check direct quotations, especially if the subject is sensitive. You should set a specific time when you can be reached for this (remembering the reporter's deadline constraints.)
  • Ask when the story will run, but realize reporters aren't generally in control of this. Media Relations can often contact editors to find out for you.
  • If you find a mistake in a story after it is printed or aired, contact the reporter or ask Media Relations to do so. Newspapers routinely run corrections of major errors. If the error is small, it might be best to let it go rather than call more attention to it. If the reporter does not respond to your concerns, contact Media Relations to take the matter to the editor.


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