We lost a legend today.
Former New York City mayor Ed Koch, who died at age 88, was not only a great guy and pretty darn good mayor, he was the best I have ever seen at using the media.
I had the privilege of working with Mayor Koch on his weekly radio program for Bloomberg Radio in the mid-2000’s. He was in his late 70’s/early 80’s then, and when he’d show up at the studios in the early evening, he’d seek me out and remind me of my most important duty– making sure to wake him up right before the show. Then he’d lay down on the big couch in the Bloomberg food court and doze off. I vividly remember one day coming to get him and had a hard time waking him up. He finally opened his eyes, looked at me and said, “Oh my. I was wrapped deep in the arms of Morpheus.” It was just another example of his amazing ability to react instantly to any situation with a pithy comment. He immediately got off the couch and did a flawless show.
What struck me most about Mayor Koch then– and later when he was a guest on my Fox Business TV shows– was how old and frail he looked most of the time. He would walk slowly and hunched over, appearing half asleep. But then suddenly, when the “On Air” light was illuminated, as if by magic he changed– alert , head high, eyes twinkling, full of vigor and excitement. Mayor Koch KNEW when it was time to perform. And he never failed to respond.
Anyone hoping to get more from the media would do well to study Mayor Ed Koch. Here are some of the key lessons from his extraordinary life in the media:
1) Availability. Mayor Koch was ALWAYS available to talk to the media. In fact, I don’t know any politician in history who was so accessible. And he would talk about anything. That was not an accident– he was smart and made it a point to be well-informed on a wide range of topics. If reporters needed a comment, the Mayor was there and prepared.
2) Decisiveness. You never were unsure of where Mayor Koch stood on anything. He formed his opinions and never wavered, even when they were not always popular with the public or his political allies (such as endorsing Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush). Plus, because he thought out his positions carefully, he always made good arguments. Mayor Koch knew his stuff.
3) Affability. It was very hard not to like Ed Koch. He was self-effacing and while a serious man, never took things too seriously. That allowed him to make jokes and come out with great quotes that were memorable. Because he was so likeable, people paid attention to him even more.
Those were just a few of his strengths. Take some time to check out a video of him in action…or a recording of one of his radio shows. I guarantee you will learn something. Suffice it to say you will do very well in your media dealings if you take your cues from Ed Koch.
God bless, Mayor. You’ve answered your own question, “How’m I doin’?” You did very, very well. Thanks for sharing your life with us.