How to Have a Great Radio Interview
There are a number of advantages associated with doing radio interviews. For example, radio interviews can be an effective way of communicating with targeted audiences that are likely to be interested in what you have to say. Also, you can do most radio interviews them from the comfort of your own home or office. (Note however, that nearly all shows require that you use a landline, not a cell.)
Another advantage is that if an interview is archived on a radio station’s web site, you can include a link to the interview podcast on your own site and you can also post that link at the social media sites you're active on. Both actions let you make your interview available to more people than just those who happened to tune in to listen when you are on the air.
Of course, none of these advantages really matter much if the radio interviews you do don’t go well. So here is some advice that will help you make the most of them.
• Have a game plan in mind. Spend time before an interview identifying your goals for it, including the key points you want to make during the interview. As a reminder, write those points on a piece of paper and keep the paper in front of you while you’re being interviewed.
• Use sound bites, analogies and anecdotes. Short, memorable phrases, interesting comparisons, and stories are effective and entertaining ways to convey information during an interview.
• Provide your own questions. Offering the producer of the show you will be a guest on a set of suggested questions to ask you is an excellent way to help ensure that you’ll have the opportunity to convey the points you want to make during an interview. Although many producers will ask for questions, if that doesn't happen, don't hesitate to offer them. (If you're working with a publicist, he or she should make the offer for you.) Be forewarned however: Although some hosts will stick to your list of questions, others will pick and choose from the list, some may throw in their own questions too, and still others may not ask you any of the questions you’ve provided.
• Practice. If you have little or no interview experience, it's a good idea to do some practice interviews. For example, I always spend time with clients who are new to radio going over the questions they are likely to be asked, critiquing their responses to the questions, and offering suggestions for how they might rephrase or shorten their answers. Not only do these practice sessions help my clients improve their interview skills, but they also help build their interview self-confidence.
• Understand how the interview will work. For example, make sure that you know the day and time of the interview and who will initiate the interview -- whether the show will call you or whether you are responsible for calling the studio. Get clear about whether the interview will be live or taped, and if it will be live, if you'll be asked to take calls from listeners. And, regardless of who will initiate the interview, always get a phone number for the show's producer or host in case there is a last minute emergency or glitch.
• Know how to get to the radio station. If you will be doing an in-studio interview and you're not sure where the radio station is located or where you can park your car, drive to the station before the day of the interview. The trial trip will tell you about how long the drive will take and will minimize the likelihood that you’ll become stressed and panicked on the day of the interview because you got lost on your way to the station or because you couldn’t find a parking place. Either experience could rattle you and cause you to have a bad interview.
• Show up early. If you’ll be doing an in-studio interview, arrive at the radio station a little early – maybe 5 minutes before your interview is scheduled to begin. If you're doing a phoner, be by your phone 5 minutes or so before the interview is going to start because the show's producer may call you before that time to make sure that you are there, that there is no static on the phone line, and so on.
• Don’t be long-winded. You risk losing your audience if you provide long, overly detailed or rambling answers to an interviewer's questions. Also, some radio interviews can be quite short - maybe just 5 or 10 minutes long – so if your answers are too long, the interview may be over before you've had a chance to make your main points.
• Be responsive. During an interview, listen carefully to the questions you are asked and provide answers to each one as best you can.
• Express your opinion. Don't be afraid to state what you think. The media love guests who have something interesting to say and listeners are more apt to remember you if you have opinions. However, avoid sounding bombastic, arrogant or dismissive of people who don't share your thinking.
• State the basics. During an interview, make sure that you mention your web site’s URL and the name of your company, book or whatever it is that you want to promote. A good interviewer will usually mention this information for you, but if that doesn't happen, try to slip the information in at an appropriate point during the interview. However, avoid sounding like an advertisement for yourself.
• Be prepared to steer the interview if necessary. Occasionally you may encounter a host who does little or nothing to guide you through an interview. If that happens you'll have the opportunity to take the interview in the direction you want it to go. If you or your publicist prepared a set of questions for the interview, it’s a good idea to have them in front of you just in case you find yourself in this situation.
• Keep your cool. If the host of the show you are a guest on is antagonistic towards you, stay calm and be polite. The same advice applies if you take calls from listeners and some of the callers are confrontational or ask you questions that you think are irritating, insulting or just plain off-the-wall.
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