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You Can Help Train Spokespeople

Training SpokespeopleOften, the library director is the best spokesperson when it comes to handling library issues. Sometimes, however, a library patron, board member, trustee, or Friend is a stronger spokesperson depending on the audience and the topic. While we expect the library director to be relatively media savvy, sometimes other spokespeople need some additional coaching to be at their best (and most comfortable) when dealing with the media.

The goal of media coaching is simple: to help people channel their passion, personality, and commitment to an issue, whether they’re appearing on TV, speaking to a group of legislators, or talking to a reporter over lunch. The most effective and engaging spokespeople are those who are prepared, focused, genuinely enthusiastic, and comfortable with themselves.

Key Points

Hone Your Message and Develop Sound Bites

This is critical! For a successful interview, use the messages developed for your campaign. Refine them by defining key points and finding the most effective phrases, facts, and examples for illustrating those points. Think about your target audience and how to best reach them.

To develop sample sound bites, brainstorm sound bites with friends, family, and colleagues. Choose vivid images. Paint pictures with words. Try them out on friends.

Below we’ve included the “What’s Your Story?” campaign key messages for your use in interviews.

  • Montana libraries are community centers and centers of the community. We are where people meet – whether it’s for a book discussion group or to share a cup of coffee or to hear a speaker or to register to vote. Montana’s libraries are where Montanans come together.
  • Montana libraries foster learning at every stage of life. From pre-school story hour to estate planning, Montana’s libraries have the resources to help you learn where ever you are in life.
  • Montana libraries are high-tech and high-touch. Computer databases, Internet access, even computer classes – Montana’s libraries have it all. And, we have the librarian to help you sort through it.
  • Senior Citizen Campaign
    Montana libraries are a fountain of youth. Recent research indicates that keeping your mind active is one of the best ways to live a long and healthy life. At your Montana library, you can exercise your mind and meet with friends to discuss the latest news, check out the most popular bestseller, learn how to surf the Net, or even volunteer your time.

Do a Dry Run

On the way home from work, at staff meetings, or at someone else’s desk at lunchtime, rehearse your remarks before interviews. Your colleagues are even more likely than reporters to know the tough questions that might be thrown at you. That will give you the chance to prepare a reply, try it out, time it (for live broadcasts especially), and revise. Tape yourself on audio or video. Play it back, so you can hear yourself as others do. Then refine your presentation.

Identify Your Communications Problems for Each Type of Outlet

(TV, radio, print), and use the training to work on one specific type of outlet. Most problems are nonverbal. They may include: adopting a wooden body posture; presenting material too technically; averting, darting, or poorly using eyes; ineffective use of hands; lack of facial expression or one that communicates fear, hostility, arrogance, or defensiveness; low energy; humorlessness; and use of boring language. Have your trainer help to identify them and then work on ways to improve.

Improve Personal Style

Everyone has a personal style. What is yours? How is your physical appearance? Your rate of speech, pitch, and tone of voice? Your level of animation, use of gestures, eye contact, comfort level? Bring your full personality and most expressive physical self to every interview in person or by telephone.

Dealing with Difficult Interviews

Hostile interviewers or interview questions often throw the most experienced public speakers off guard. It’s important to redirect a question if you need to, but be sure to respond in a way that is positive, contributes to the dialogue, and doesn’t make you look evasive or defensive. If a reporter uses negative, incorrect, or inflammatory words in a question, don’t legitimize them by repeating the misconception in your answer. The hotter the interviewer gets, the cooler you need to be. Stay friendly, calm, and direct in a response to a nasty questioner or loaded question.

Excerpted from the American Library Association’s A Communications Handbook for Libraries, published in Summer of 2004. To see A Communications Handbook for Libraries in full, please visit: http://www.ala.org/ala/pio/availablepiomat/online_comm_handbook.pdf.

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  • Helena, MT 59620-1800
  • Phone: (406) 444-3115
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  • msl.mt.gov