A prime objective of a public relations effort is to secure an interview on radio. While these opportunities can be stressful, I find that preparation is the key.

“This President is going to lead us out of this recovery”, said Dan Quayle, Vice President of the United States in response to a simple question by a radio reporter. A little verbal slip on his part made him the butt of countless jokes for the rest of his career. Google “Dan Quayle” and will find a host of other verbal guffaws on his part.

We all make mistakes, but a little preparation will go a long way to help you avoid blunders as this while making the most of the public relations opportunity. Radio can be a terrific way to position yourself as a “knowledge broker” while promoting your business. Talk radio may be the best radio format for an interview along with the news segments on traditional radio stations.

Getting interviewed on a radio program is not as tricky as you might think. Radio station managers are always looking for interesting topics and guests; like you in your business, they trying to be different from the competition. The challenge is to get on their radar, so to speak. Before approaching them, study the station’s target audience. Who is their customer? What demographic are they targeting? This may help alter your story or pitch.

Here are a few ideas on improving your odds at getting on the air and some tips on making the most of your opportunity, once you get it:

– Go to the radio station website and you will find information about the station’s mission, the audience that they serve, and what content they cover. Make yourself knowledgeable of what they are trying to do.
– They sometimes archive previously-aired material on the website which should give you a feel for their content or message.
– Like any company, there are numerous points of contact including the on-air personalities, the program managers, the PR department, or the producers. You can contact these folks directly, but don’t expect a call back until they need you. Getting referred in is best, but that works only if you know someone who knows them.
– You may find a link the on the website that gives instructions on how to contact the station by e-mail. This is the formal channel communication into the radio station. They are expecting people to contact them; unfortunately, they generally screen out 90% of the requests. The good news is that the radio staff is always on the hunt for news, feature stories or talent. That is you.
– As simple as it sounds, listening to the radio station will probably give you the best sense of what the station is all about.
– Maintain a dialog with radio stations via press releases. Note that turnover in radio staff is notoriously high and it will take great effort to keep your database current. Both e-mail and direct mail can do the trick. People get fired a lot in radio, so don’t get too attached to them.
– When they need an “expert”, it is typically because of a “hot” news story. This means that they have little time to go looking for you so it helps to be in their database as a “knowledge broker”. When they need you, you will have to drop everything to help them or they will just contact someone else on their list.
– I recommend contacting the show producers along with the on-air personalities to let them know of your special knowledge. Your timing will never be right when you approach them, so you need to express your interest and ongoing availability.
– Radio stations are required by the FCC to make public service announcements (also known as PSAs in the trade). Your knowledge or message may fit the station’s criteria for a PSA. Often the PR department will have the job to find PSA material. They can help you contact the right person to speak with at the station.
– The straight news at the radio station is typically traffic, crime, and weather. They will be quick to admit that it is very boring, repetitive stuff. Because of that, they are always on the hunt for feature or human-interest stories. It could be that your business and “knowledge” fit the bill.
– As a guest, the good news is that you are an expert and, therefore, you know more than the interviewer and more than the audience (generally speaking). So, relax and speak as if talking to a friend. Keep your responses concise, but colorful. Visualize the audience listening to you and smiling at your comments. Be prepared to answer the same question several times during the interview, radio personalities are surprisingly poor interviewers and worse listeners.
– If the interview is on the phone, close the door to your office and let everyone know that you are on the radio. No interruptions allowed. Always use a landline phone since cordless phones and cell phones just don’t sound right. Can you say dropped call?
– An interview at the radio station requires that you dress professionally, (i.e., look the part) although radio personnel tend to be a casual group themselves.
– When you are done offer your contact information. This way people know how to contact you for follow-up questions. Often the station will allow you to release your website address over the air.
– If the station records the segment, ask for a copy. You can include this on your website. After the fact, you can promote the recorded interview via e-mail to your website’s registered guests.
– Be sure to follow up with thank you cards to the station. Send a card to everyone that you met. Express your willingness to do this again.
– Do your best to establish a relationship with the on-air talent and the producers; if they like you, they will invite you back.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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