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Frequently asked questions about our office:

1. Who are you?
2. What is Media Relations and how does it differ from public relations and advertising/marketing?
3. Who does Media Relations serve?
4. Do I have to talk to you or reporters?
5. What do I do if a reporter calls?
6. How does the media relations office decide what is newsworthy?
7. When should I contact you with news?
8. Do you want to hear from me if I have bad news?
9. How should I prepare for an interview?
10. When will my news appear on air, in print or online?

1. Who are you?

The media relations staff is comprised of media and public relations practitioners who serve as a liaison between external news media and the college. It is our responsibility to inform and educate the public by facilitating communication about the college's academic programs and other activities.

2. What is Media Relations and how does it differ from public relations and advertising/marketing?

Media relations is one of many functions of public relations. Media relations deals directly with the press-print, broadcast and online. Public relations deals with a variety of 'publics,' often by communicating through the media.

In public/media relations efforts focus on 'unpaid publicity.' Placement is never guaranteed, and the release or the pitch has to appeal to specific reporters and editors. It has to capture these gatekeepers attention based on their perceptions of what their reading/viewing public will enjoy. In advertising/marketing, space is purchased in the media. The advertiser or marketer publicizes events or initiatives based upon the purchaser's own priorities and preferences.

3. Who does Media Relations serve?

The media relations staff serves the college community by obtaining public recognition for the achievements of Columbia faculty, staff and students as well as promoting cultural events that are open to the public. We also serve the media by introducing them to expert resources and interesting story ideas.

Ultimately, we serve the publics who derive information about the college through the media we serve.

4. Do I have to talk to you or reporters?

No, not really. We understand that you are busy. We also understand that faculty and staff schedules are very demanding. We will do our best to help make the media relations process easy for you and hopefully a little fun. Working with media relations benefits your department, our students, faculty, staff, you, and the entire institution.

Positive media coverage can mean more awareness of Columbia. Public goodwill is a positive factor in grants and state support, the cultivation of individual donors to the college, student satisfaction and prospective student interest, and employee development and retention.

5. What do I do if a reporter calls?

If a reporter calls unexpectedly, do not feel you must respond to their inquiry immediately or at all. Feel free to ask to call them back within the hour. Then you can contact the media relations representative assigned to your department or program for advice about to how to proceed. This often involves speaking with your department chair or dean.

Before hanging up ask the reporter, if you're comfortable, what the interview is about, what information the reporter needs; the news affiliation they're working for; who else the reporter is contacting; the location, time and estimated length of the interview; a contact phone number; and the story deadline.

6. How does the media relations office decide what is newsworthy?

News is subjective. What is important or of interest to one person or department may not seem significant to news reporters. In the end, what is newsworthy is whatever interest news editors.

Topics that are likely to interest the media include major grants and gifts, faculty expertise relevant to current events, national trends, major developments or changes, human interest stories.

For the most part, in order for something to be news, it has to be current and/or new and appeal to a broad audience base. The media relations staff works with their beat department to identify newsworthy items.

Serving as a filter for the media, director of media relations decides what is or isn't newsworthy. To make this decision, the director takes several factors into consideration such as whether or not the news conflicts with and/or interfere with pending news placements currently being pitched, as well as upcoming events and media placements.

Our success in serving the college and the public is based on our relationships with the media. Despite the unique and interesting things going at Columbia, not everything will be of interest to reporters.

If the decision is made that a particular item is not newsworthy, we may be able to communicate your message in other ways by using your information in another format or suggest how you can get your story told through one of the college's internal communications vehicles.

7. WHen should I contact you with news?

Contact our office before the news happens. Media Relations can work with you to prepare an embargoed release, which means that information is not published before the date specified. The more time we have to prepare, the more effective we can be.

In the case of news, newspapers often work with very little lead time in the case of news. For event listings, contact our office with detailed information 4 to 5 weeks prior to the event date to give us time to plan and write. Online, radio, and television are known for their immediacy. Monthly lifestyle, trade and consumer magazines work with 6 to 8 weeks lead time.

Here's a guide to assist you:

Media Lead Time
Daily Newspapers 3 weeks
Calendar/Event Listings 4-5 weeks
Special Sections 1 to 2 months
Sunday Magazines 3 to 4 months Distributed weekly with Sunday print newspapers
Newswires Special sections

Monthly Magazines
Trade 6 weeks to 2 months
Consumer 5 to 6 months
Metro Magazine 3 to 4 months
Weekly Magazines 1 to 2 months

Public Service Announcements 6 to 8 weeks
National Morning News Shows 2 weeks to 2 months
Local Morning News & Talk Shows 2 to 6 weeks
Local News 2 days

Public Service Announcements 6 to 8 weeks
Promotions 2 weeks to 2 months
Talk Shows 1 week to 1 month
News 2 days

New Media
RSS Feeds
Online print & broadcast publications By the time you finish reading this sentence.

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.

8. Do you want to hear from me if I have bad news?

Definitely. However, first notify your department chair, school dean or department head as soon as possible. They will inform the proper administrators and contact the Associate Vice President of Marketing and Communications and/or the Director of Media Relations.

Our media relations staff makes up part of the college's Crisis Communications Team, and we are experienced in responding to public relations emergencies. We will need adequate time and factual information in order to develop a plan for responding to media inquiries and informing the college community and external constituents.

9. 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 points/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.

10. When will my news appear on air, in print or online?

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.