Media Guide

I. Introduction

The University Relations and Marketing (URM) office is responsible for generating, distributing, monitoring and collecting news coverage on Bowie State University (BSU), its academic programs, events, and the achievements of its students, faculty and staff. This office also serves as the primary liaison to the external media by establishing and cultivating relationships with journalists, responding to media inquiries and counseling the University community about the relevant guidelines. All faculty and staff should work with the URM office to develop and distribute news about the University and to schedule and participate in media interviews. URM is committed to working with faculty and staff to help them to effectively promote the University using the media tools that are available.

II. Media Tools

News Releases/Media Advisories

URM develops news releases and media advisories, written in Associated Press journalistic style, to keep the public abreast of Bowie State news and events.  News releases are essentially one-to-page articles. The media advisories are brief one-pagers outlining the who, what, when, where for an event.  The news releases and media advisories are placed on the Bowie State website and distributed to local and specialized media including print, radio and television.

Media Pitches

Although URM primarily uses news releases and media advisories to make the media aware of the latest news and events at the University, the office also contacts the media via telephone, email and media visits. It is common to use these forms to “pitch” the media to encourage them to write articles or broadcast coverage on the University.

Media Inquiries/Interviews

Media inquiries can be categorized as solicited and unsolicited. Solicited media inquiries can result when URM has “pitched” news organizations to make them aware of a specific news item. Unsolicited media inquiries can occur when journalists learn about an event or other news about the University from sources other than URM.

Journalists occasionally request interviews with University leaders, faculty, staff or students related to specific news developments. If the request is in response to URM contacting the media, the office has already identified a spokesperson to speak on the issue/s and will arrange the interview for the journalist with the spokesperson.  However, if a request for an interview is unsolicited, URM may need to research the issue and determine whether and/or who could speak effectively about the issue.

Press Conferences/Media Briefings

Press conferences and media briefings are generally reserved for announcing news concerning the University that will have a significant impact on the constituents, external community and the future direction of the University. The primary audience for these events is the media, who expect “real news.” Therefore, these types of events should not be overused, such as to announce news that is not significant.

III. Working With the University Community

Media Training

URM will work with BSU-TV to conduct media training sessions for faculty and staff who are expected to serve as spokespersons for the University. Sessions will be held in the television studio and each participate will receive a copy of the Media Guide. Attendees will participate in mock interviews and learn what print and broadcast journalists expect in an interview, how to be an effective interviewee, the differences between print and broadcast interviews and other useful information.

Campus Community and BSU News Operations

The URM office considers the Bowie State University community and the campus news operations its most important constituencies as it communicates to the internal audience.  URM staff regularly distribute dynamic emails to update the University community and external constituents including alumni, prospective students, faculty and staff at other higher education institutions, state and federal legislators, corporate and opinion leaders, current and prospective donors. URM uses the front page on the website to announce the most important campus news.  Visitors can click on the news releases, announcements and calendar sections and view bold and colorful photos with captions. By working closely with the campus news operations—BSU-TV, BSU Radio, and Spectrum newspaper, the office promotes the University via articles, television programs and public service announcements.

IV. Frequently Asked Questions

 Who is authorized to contact the media?

  • The  University Relations and Marketing office is the only department authorized to contact the media on behalf of the University.
  • When the URM media liaison receives a media call, he or she will identify the appropriate spokesperson to respond.
  • Some BSU spokespersons may have established relationships with media and they may feel comfortable speaking with certain reporters who contact them directly. URM should know about these cases. In these cases, the spokesperson should notify URM about the media call and the subject matter.
  • The Planning, Analysis and Accountability office is the only source that can provide accurate and up-to-date statistical information (e.g. enrollment numbers) concerning BSU. URM will work with this office to provide such information to the media.
  • If media contact you, refer them to URM.

When you participate in an interview:

  • Stay focused on key messages and repeat them throughout the interview
  • Always be truthful and accurate. Never exaggerate or inflate.
  • Remember that everything you say is “on the record” and can be included in a story. Never believe a reporter who says that any portion of the interview is “off the record”. If you do not want to see or hear it in print, on the web, radio or television, do not say it.
  • If you need time to research or think about how to respond to a question, please say so and arrange a deadline for providing the additional information.
  • Avoid using jargon.
  • Spell difficult names.
  • Speak slowly.
  • Repeat figures.
  • Treat reporters courteously.
  • Discuss only a subject that is within you area of expertise.
  • Keep in mind that reporters occasionally report on facts incorrectly. An attempt to avoid this situation from happening, ask the reporter to read back your quotes to confirm accuracy.

What is news (as cited in “On Deadline—Managing Media Relations” by Carole M. Howard and Wilma K. Mathews, 2006)?

  • It has consequence—information that informs and educates; important to lifestyle or ability to cope; has a moral or social importance; is “should know” material.
  • It conveys interest—unusual, entertaining, has human interest, arouses emotions or would cause people to talk about it.
  • It represents timeliness—current, is a new angle on events or a new trend,
  • It shows proximity—pertains to local issues, trends or events.
  • It communicates prominence—concerns famous people, famous events, has received other media coverage.

How to handle Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests?

  • The University must respond within 20 working days.
  • FOIA covers most documents unless there’s a specific exemption
  • For advice on handling FOIA requests from the media, contact the director of University Relations and Marketing.
  • NOTE: Items covered under the Family Education Right and Privacy Act are exempted under the FOIA.

How to recognize a hostile interview?

  • Questions withnegative words--Don’t repeat them.
  • Rapid-fire questions--Select one and answer.
  • Interruptions--Be polite but assertive. Ask for the opportunity to answer.
  • A-B dilemma--If it is neither, say so.
  • Stating an untruth as fact--Correct the error before answering.
  • Misquoting a previous answer--Correct the error before answering.
  • Confronting you with a fact that seems to contradict your views:--First, avoid the situation whenever possible by releasing your own bad news. If that is not possible, admit bad news if you must, but move on to positive points.
  • Demanding an answer--Be politely assertive; offer to get the answer
  • Friendly “chit-chat” during commercial breaks after hostile questions on the air--The hostile interviewer will return, so do not be distracted.
  • Asking the same question over and over: Give one answer over and over.

Other tips:

  • Body language is important. You want to project a positive outlook, authority, and appropriate concern. The subliminal message is “we are in control”.
  • Do not submit to an ambush interview. Move to another location where you feel more comfortable; take time to think. Limit the length of interview at the outset. Stick to your key messages.

How should you prepare for a television or radio interview?

  • Learn all you can about the program: Is it live? Will there be call-ins? Will other people be on the program discussing the same topic? Watch or listen to the show ahead of time. This information will help you prepare.
  • Ignore the camera and monitor:  Look at the person interviewing you.
  • Keep your eyes steady and hands free; avoid jiggling keys, change, jewelry, etc.  
  • Avoid nodding your head as the question is being asked. It will indicate agreement.
  • Avoid swiveling or rocking in your chair.
  • Ask for a glass of water if you need help clearing throat or your mouth is dry.  Doing so will help you to avoid making strange throat or voice sounds in the microphone.
  • Dress professionally (dark jackets are best).
  • Sit on the jacket tail to avoid bunching.
  • Avoid stripes and shiny materials such as jewelry, lapel pins, name tags or other items that reflect light.
  • Men should wear long socks—no leg skin showing.
  • Women should watch skirt length, keep their legs together and cross their angles.
  • Avoid dark glasses.
  • Sit up in the chair, and lean forward slightly toward the interviewer.
  • Use appropriate body language—avoid folding your arms across your chest or gesturing too broadly, and be sure your expression matches the subject matter (avoid frowning when discussing a campus tragedy).
  • Assume the microphone is on. Be mindful of the “cut-away” or “two shot”. You may still be on camera even when the interview has ended. The reporter will let you know when you can take off the microphone and get up.
  • There may be equipment problems. Just relax and review your notes.

When should you provide information to URM that may be of interest to the media?

  •  It is never too early to inform URM but it can be too late. URM requests information at least four weeks before an event. This timeframe allows for writing, editing, distribution and meeting media publishing and broadcast deadlines. 

When will your interview, event or story appear?

  • URM will do as much as possible to encourage media to print or broadcast a BSU event or story. However, the office cannot guarantee media coverage. Editorial and broadcast decisions are beyond URM’s control. The office regularly monitors media coverage that mentions the University via a clipping service but encourages the University community to provide notification about articles, etc. that they may see or hear about.

What kind of news is the URM office looking for?

URM wants to know and communicate a variety of news about Bowie State University to enhance its public image and to ensure that information about the University is communicated accurately and in a timely manner.  Examples are as follows.

  • Upcoming public events, exhibits, conferences, presentations, etc.
  • Important staff changes
  • News programs
  • Changes in existing programs
  • Awards, achievements and appointments
  • Research, ongoing or completed
  • Community outreach efforts
  • Exceptional students, faculty and staff accomplishments
  • Unique programs, skills, achievements, etc.
  • Grants, endowments, and exceptional donations

Contact the URM office: