Public health communication: what to do when that reporter calls?

Stephanie Kroll, MPH

Population Health Service Fellow, 2014-2016

Fellowship placements: Public Health Madison & Dane County and Wisconsin Division of Public Health

In public health, we need to be able to effectively communicate with the general population, policy makers, and others in our community.

Often, it is better if you are proactive and reach out to the media to publicize a story.  However, sometimes you have to be reactive and respond to requests from the media.  I am still learning how to do this well, but I thought I would share some resources and tips that I have gathered over the course of my fellowship!


month ago

, I was able to participate in a TV interview.  A reporter contacted Public Health Madison & Dane County because there was an


on the teen birth rate in Milwaukee, and she wanted to report on the rate in Dane County.  We had


two days to prepare for the interview.  Below is the script that I used (developed by my coworkers).  I highlighted the points featured in the

televised interview

 (based on her editing). She asked me questions (off camera) for about thirty minutes in a conference room and filmed my responses.

Overall, it was a great experience!   

Here are some of my reflections and lessons learned


  • Things to consider before doing an interview: 
    • What is the subject and focus of the interview, and why did the reporter contact you?
    • Is the subject currently in the news? How controversial is the subject?  What is your organization's stance on this subject?
    • Who is the reporter? What news outlet does the reporter work for, and who is its audience?
    • Where and how will the interview be conducted (e.g., in person, on the phone, radio, video), and how long will the interview take?
    • What is the message you want to get across?  What frame will you use?
    • Do you have a media relations staff member you can work with?
    • I was very nervous, but I tried to just jump right in and practice, practice, practice!  The more you can prepare beforehand, the better!
      • Practice with your coworkers.  Make sure you have a conversational tone and don't sound rehearsed.  
        • Think through what questions the reporter might ask. Your coworkers can help you brainstorm about questions you might get during the interview.
          • Be aware of your appearance.  Think through what you will wear the day of the interview.  Think about your posture/body language.
          • Stick to the script and always circle back to your main point.