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Good Advice from the Media Man

The very animated Dave Baum practiced what he preached to keep his talk interesting and entertaining.

The very animated Dave Baum practiced what he preached to keep his talk interesting and entertaining.

The Sunday afternoon Media Relations Training was a worthwhile event for any library employee who wanted to know more about how to get the media’s attention, score some coverage, and deliver their messages as clearly as possible. I’d seen speaker Dave Baum before, but enjoyed listening to him again. Baum has been reporting and interpreting news and sports on radio, on TV, and in print for more than 40 years, and his experience sure shows. (You can hear him now on Internet Talk Radio.)

Baum delivered way more information than I could fit into any blog post, but I’ll share some highlights of his advice here. When talking to reporters:

  • Never think you can actually say anything off the record. “If you don’t want to see it, read it, or hear it, don’t say it.”
  • If the media is reporting on bad news from your library (crime, porn, etc.), don’t try to dodge the matter. Instead, “Prepare up front for the stuff you don’t want to get asked about” so you can speak carefully about it. Honestly acknowledge the problem and tell the reporter what you’re doing to solve it.
  • Never say “no comment” – that implies guilt.
  • You need to be animated and appear happy when you’re interviewed. The truth is that, after a quick interview, viewers may not remember just what you said, but they’ll take away an impression of whether you were likeable.
  • When you’re on TV, you absolutely have to smile at some point. As Baum exclaimed several times, “I wanna see teeth!”
  • Deliver your message via stories. Reporters absolutely love stories. “Storify it!”
  • Before you’re even interviewed, know exactly what’s most important to get across. What’s your main message? (repeat it a few times.) What’s the take-away? (what should listeners remember or act upon?)

Baum also answered the age-old question about how to get reporters’ attention and time. What can you do to get them to pick up your press releases or stories? Even with the many changes in media over the years, this answer remains the same: Nothing works better than developing good old-fashioned business relationships.

~Kathy Dempsey

Editor, Marketing Library Services newsletter