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Last modified: Wednesday, September 21, 2005

What is Media Relations?

Frequently asked questions about our office

1. What is the IU Office of Media Relations?
2. Whom does the Office of Media Relations serve?
3. Do I have to talk to you?
4. Who is on the Media Relations staff?
5. Are you journalists?
6. What is news and what isn't news?
7. When should I contact you with news?
8. What if I have bad news?
9. How should I prepare for an interview?
10. When will my news be in the paper/ on the air?

What is the IU Office of Media Relations?

The IU Office of Media Relations (OMR) is a group of writers and editors who serve as a liaison between news media reporters and Indiana University representatives. We are a system-wide office, serving the Bloomington campus and all other IU campuses.

In accordance with the mission of the university, our charge is to inform and educate the public by facilitating communication about IU research, education and other activities.

Media Relations staff writers prepare news releases, respond to inquiries from reporters, identify expert sources among IU faculty and staff, and assist with opinion editorials and letters to the editor. We also provide informal and formal media training, help with crisis management, and coordinate interviews and media appearances.

Whom does the Office of Media Relations serve?

As an office of the university, we serve the Indiana community as part of IU's educational mission. We serve the university, its schools, its departments and other divisions by obtaining public recognition of the achievements of IU faculty, staff and students. We also serve media writers and editors by introducing them to expert resources and interesting story ideas.

Do I have to talk to you?

No, you don't have to. We know how busy you are. However, IU is a public institution, and the university is expected to be accountable to the public. We understand that faculty and staff schedules are very demanding, and we will do our best to help make the media relations process easy and fun for you. Working with the Office of Media Relations benefits your department, the university and you in many ways.

In addition to helping fulfill the university's mission as a public educational institution, media coverage can provide further benefits to the university's schools, departments, faculty, staff and students. Positive media coverage can mean more public support for IU and its departments and affiliates. Public goodwill is a positive factor in grants and state support, student satisfaction and prospective student interest, and employee development and retention. Most importantly, sharing findings from IU research and news of IU activities helps the university's departments and personnel perform their job of educating the public.

Who is on the Media Relations staff?

Media Relations writers cover specific beats connected to university schools or activities, such as business, health, science, music or law. We collaborate with other IU communications experts in these beat areas, such as the directors of marketing or external affairs in the various schools.

Are you journalists?

No. We will not "go public" with your information until you want us to. We will always ask you to approve our materials before distribution. You can feel comfortable speaking "off the record" with IU Media Relations writers.

Talking with journalists is very different. In a media interview, expect that anything you say can and will be printed.

Writers in the Office of Media Relations create news releases and tip sheets that are sent to editors and reporters. These documents are intended to inform the public about IU research and other activities by connecting with media decision makers. Sometimes our news releases and tip sheets will be published, but it is more common for an editor to assign a reporter to interview you and prepare their own story.

What is news and what isn't news?

This is a tricky question, and everyone will have a different answer. News is subjective — what is important to one person or department may not seem "significant" to news reporters. Ultimately what is "newsworthy" is whatever interests news editors.

Topics that are likely to spark interest include current or recent research, major grants, expertise relevant to current events, and major IU developments or changes. The one thing that is (almost) always true is that in order to be news, it has to be new — so please try to contact us before your event or publication happens.

Our strength in serving the university and the public is based on our relationships with media representatives. Not everything that goes on at IU will interest reporters. Part of our job as Media Relations staff is to filter information. Even if we do not issue a news release about your news, we may be able to help communicate your message in other ways by contacting reporters directly or using your information in another format.

When should I contact you with news?

Contact our office before the news happens. We can work with you to prepare an embargoed release, which means that no one can publish your information before the date you specify. The more time we have to prepare, the more effective we can be. Please try to give us more than a week before your event or publication date.

If you have information from a recent study, presentation or event that has already happened, we may be able to promote your news in another format such as a tip sheet or faculty profile, or we may contact reporters or editors directly. However, it is important to keep in mind that if a lot of time has passed since the event or publication, it may no longer be news.

What if I have bad news?

After you have notified your department chair, school dean or division head, please contact Larry McIntyre at 812-856-1172 or Susan Williams at 812-855-8773 as soon as possible. Media Relations personnel are experienced in responding to public relations emergencies, but we will need adequate time and information in order to develop a joint plan for responding to media inquiries and managing the situation.

How should I prepare for an interview?

We can work with you to prepare in a number of ways, including asking the questions you are likely to hear from a reporter and helping you identify the main points that you want to emphasize. In addition, here are some general tips for preparing for interviews:

• Determine one or two main ideas that you want to convey, and return to those points again and again during your interview.

• Aim to answer questions briefly using everyday language.

• You don't have to say anything you don't want to say. Answer the question that you want to answer, even if it is not the question that was asked.

• If you receive a call when you were not expecting it, arrange to call back in 10 or 15 minutes and use that time to prepare.

• Don't be put off if a reporter asks the same question more than once. Continue to return to your main points, and don't worry about repeating yourself.

• For a television interview, wear lightweight clothing in solid colors. Wear contacts rather than eyeglasses if possible. Give short, clear answers in everyday language, and do your best to smile. Unless the interview is live, feel free to repeat yourself or even ask to start over.

When will my news be in the paper/ on the air?

It is difficult to predict when or even whether a particular item will be covered. You may have a great news story that gets pushed aside because of other events, or you could have a minor publication that catches attention and becomes big news. Don't be discouraged if your item does not get coverage right away. There will be other opportunities to submit stories or even recycle information in another format.