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De Graffenreid

Syracuse University Senior Associate Vice President for Content Strategy Ellen de Graffenreid recently joined our CCTS Training Interdisciplinary & Emerging Research Scholars (TIERS) to present a workshop on "Meet the Press: Stress-free Media Relations for Scholars." De Graffenreid’s background includes 20 years of higher education and academic medicine communications and marketing leadership at the Robert J. Margolis, MD, Center for Health Policy at Duke University, the University of Missouri, and Brandeis University.

After providing an overview of the media cycle, building reporter relationships, and messaging for broad audiences, De Graffenreid discussed fundamental interview skills. She encouraged the roomful of early stage investigators to recognize “you can be an effective carrier of science messaging without being the ‘über expert.’” Her first piece of advice? “When the press comes calling, work closely with your institutional public relations or communications officers—they will protect you against the most common gaffes, which will help reduce your anxiety.”

Below we summarize this communication guru’s other top tips for reducing the stress associated with media interviews, whether conducted by phone, video, radio, podcast, or live TV. You can catch her complete CCTS TIERS talk on our YouTube channel.

  1. Prepare for the interview. Do your homework on what is known by the public and what might be asked and develop key messages with which to respond.
  2. Share your key messages first. Stay on message by practicing “bridging statements” that bring the conversation back to your main points.
  3. Keep your comments “clear, concise, conversational, catchy, and colorful (but not too much so).” Avoid offering too much detail.
  4. Speak in plain language and avoid jargon. Lay audiences are unlikely to know the meaning of scientific terms like “p-value.”
  5. Consider the visuals around you if they will appear during the interview. Remove anything that might distract or introduce controversy.
  6. Do not argue with a reporter, speak disparagingly about others, or share anything controversial “off the record,” even if you think the mic is off.
  7. Do not overhype discoveries. Be clear about the population a discovery may benefit.
  8. Be clear about what you are comfortable discussing and unafraid to say “that is not what I said.”
  9. Don’t let “imposter syndrome” rob you of an opportunity to discuss what you know.
  10. Relax and have fun!
For more of de Graffenreid's advice on ways to share your scientific knowledge with the world, see "How to Share Your Views as a Scientist."