Public Relations and Media Relations Guidelines

Public Relations and Media Relations Guidelines

To ensure our continued good relationship with the media and to further media contacts, the Office of Marketing and Communications should be the first and primary contact with the media. Most reporters call the Office of Marketing and Communications when they need information or are seeking an expert for a story. They know that they will be referred to the proper source of information quickly and with respect for their deadlines.

In most cases, the media will contact the marketing office directly and a representative will contact you to set up either a telephone or in-person interview. If a reporter should contact you directly, please ask him/her if he/she has contacted the Office of Marketing and Communications first. If they haven't, please notify the reporter that, in the future, all initial contacts should be made through this office. You may continue to talk to the reporter, but please follow up as soon as possible with a phone call to the Office of Marketing and Communications at ext. 6029 with information including the news outlet, the reporter’s identity, and the subject of the interview. It is important to track all media calls, especially since the department may be working with another media source on the same story.

If you are contacted directly by the media, please try to respond to the reporter within 30 minutes whenever possible. If you are unable to contact the reporter, or do not feel comfortable doing so, please contact the Office of Marketing and Communications with the reporter's name and the marketing office will handle the inquiry and, if necessary, arrange a time for the reporter to interview you or another person. In addition, staff members will provide you with as much information as possible, including what the story is about and questions you might expect. However, if the media directly contacts you regarding a crisis situation, please do not give the reporter any information, but rather refer him/her to the Office of Marketing and Communications. In these situations, the campus' crisis communication policy will be put into effect.

Media contacts may take as little as a few minutes to more than an hour for major stories. Media interviews can be enjoyable and rewarding. Ultimately, your goal is to publicize Penn State Harrisburg and its achievements as well as enhance your personal reputation. Remember, a young reporter from a small newspaper may one day be a senior editor at The New York Times.

Keep in mind:

  • If you are meeting with a reporter, or if you have a telephone interview scheduled, make sure you have some time to collect your thoughts before the interview.
  • The interview should take place in a private area. If the interview is to take place in your office, hold all phone calls. If you need help in finding a location for the interview, please contact the Office of Marketing and Communications to make the arrangements for you.
  • If possible and appropriate, give reporters written materials such as brochures for their later reference.
  • Never mislead the media. Don't exaggerate.
  • Repeat your main points at least twice.
  • Keep your statements clear and concise.
  • Speak slowly and spell difficult words or names.
  • Assume everything you say will be quoted. If you feel commenting is inappropriate or outside your area of expertise, politely decline.
  • Don't limit yourself to answering questions. Raise points you think are important.
  • Don't hesitate to correct a reporter if he or she makes an incorrect statement.
  • Don't let reporters put words in your mouth.
  • If a touchy question is asked, take your time in responding.
  • If you know the answer to a question but can't respond without getting yourself or someone else into trouble, don't say "no comment." Instead, say, "I can't talk about that," or "You'll really have to ask that question of (someone else)."
  • Nothing is off the record or confidential! If you don't want to see it in print or on the air, don't say it! If you feel you must say something off the record, make sure that you preface your statement by saying "this is off the record" and let the reporter know when you are back on the record. Do not state after-the-fact that the material you just gave them was off the record.
  • If you don't know the answer to a question, say so. You can always call the reporter back after you've found the information.
  • Don't ask to see the article before it is printed. Reporters generally cannot meet this request.
  • Have a business card handy during an in-person interview and provide it to the reporter to ensure correct spelling of your name and title.


Please respond promptly to all media requests, even if it is to decline or to refer the caller to the Office of Marketing and Communications. Reporters are usually under very tight deadlines and a delay of a day, or even an hour, can mean the difference between favorable coverage or a lost opportunity or negative relationship with a reporter. Your courtesy will help Penn State Harrisburg now and in the future.