If you’re lucky and your local radio station has responded to your media release, the interviewer rings you up, tells you they will ring back in 5 minutes to record the interview. Then you might only get 3 minutes of air time.
It takes some getting used to, and I was always nervous. Even though I prepared my 3 or 4 points and had my sound bites, I was still inclined to rattle on with platitudes and clichés, letting the interviewer lead me into wormholes I never wanted to enter.
So how do the successful ones do it?
Practice out loud, to a family member or colleague. Have them listen closely and have them ask the hard questions, the ones you don’t want them to ask, but they inevitably will. Time yourself. Tape yourself and listen.
Have three or four points ready and make sure you get them in. Answer a question briefly and then, before you are interrupted, go on to make the points YOU want to make.
Make your point again!
Have sound bites. Have key facts ready. Thanks to ALIA, ASLA and ECU, we have some Australian stats now. The results of the ASLRP survey are starting to come in:
Over a third of school libraries in Australia have no teacher librarians. (Note: one third of Anglican schools have two OR MORE teacher librarians.)
Half of our government schools have budgets under $5000. A quarter of these have budgets of less than $1000! And half the schools in the NT have budgets under $500! (Compare this to those independent schools with budgets of over $100,000!)
If we are talking about equity, we must talk about equitable funding and staffing of government school libraries.
Or use the copious US research.
Do unsupervised library clerks make a difference in academic achievement?
What does make a difference?
- Teacher Librarians planning and teaching cooperatively with classroom teachers.
- Teacher Librarians providing in-service training to classroom teachers.
- Teacher Librarians meeting with the principal, attending faculty meetings and serving on curriculum committees.
- Teacher Librarians managing computer networks that provide remote access to the library’s resources.
None of these activities is properly in the job description of a clerk. Thus, hiring only a clerk, produces a false sense of economy. Unsupervised school library clerks do not engage in activities that make a difference. See the Lance study in Alaska, 1999.
Think about your audience.
Drive radio? Parent at home radio? Talk to that person driving to the office. Talk to that mom or dad at home.
Australia has fallen behind in the OECD league tables for literacy. We have also fallen behind in our staffing of school libraries. Is there a correlation? Well, the research shows having a teacher librarian makes a difference in the amount read. Larger school library collections with exciting reading materials increases borrowing. Larger school library collections mean higher reading scores. (Krashen, Stephen. The Power of Reading; Insights from the Research. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1993.)
Want to see your son or daughter achieve their best at school?
Research shows the highest achieving students attend schools with good school library programs.
Scores tend to be 10-20% higher in schools with stronger libraries. It’s worth the investment! (Lance and Loertscher. Powering Achievement. 3rd ed. 2005).
Make sure your school has a qualified teacher librarian.
Paint a picture
We’re finding it difficult to meet twenty-first-century demands with nineteenth-century budgets (ALA)
Think before you answer. Buy yourself time by saying, “Do we have many TLs in training? That’s a good question. There actually isn’t any data available, and there needs to be.” Pause before you begin your answer to get your thoughts in order.
Flag important statements by saying, “The most important thing here is . . .” or “The real issue here is . . .” you not only get the reporter’s attention, you get the audience’s attention too. These are also good transitional phrases when you want to redirect the interviewers question to your key message.
Stay on message. If an interview starts on the wrong topic, be sure to bring it back to what you’re really there to discuss. You can do that by “bridging,” such as, “Well, that’s an interesting question, but what I really hope you’ll understand about school libraries is they are the centres for teaching and learning about finding and evaluating information. Teacher librarians are our specialists in information literacy. ”
Hook your interviewer by saying “There are three important points here . . .” the interviewer (and the audience) is automatically waiting for those three points. It grabs the interviewer’s attention, and they can’t cut you off before you finish the three points without annoying their audience.
Be concise. Avoid jargon and clichés. Don’t give a speech.
Speak with a smile. Your voice will sound warmer!
These and several other techniques can help you keep control of the interview, make sure you get your points across, and speak directly to the audience. Your conversation must always be geared to the listener—not the interviewer.
Well, those are some of the tips from experts. And I never became one. I’m leaving that up to you My greatest admiration to anyone who gives it a go! Listen to a successful interview on Life Matters ABC Radio National 22 July, ‘Teacher librarians are a dying breed in the education system’. Richard Aedy interviews Mary Manning, Executive Officer, School Library Association of Victoria. It may help that Richard’s mother was a TL!!
Sources: ALA A Communication Handbook for Libraries, 2004
AASL Crisis Toolkit, 2008