There are a few simple points that can help anyone become a radio pro...
1. Landing interviews isn't as mysterious as you might think. Radio show producers have the job of booking interesting guests on the program. Now that certainly doesn't mean you can automatically get on their program just by asking, but present yourself in an interesting way you certainly stand a chance. Two of the best ways
2. If talking to a large group of people scares you, forget the audience! You know this if you've done radio before, but the vast majority of all interviews occur in the privacy of your home or office. You'll pre-arrange a time with the station, they'll call you, and it will be almost exactly like you're simply talking to someone on the phone. So many people get completely freaked out by the idea that thousands and thousands of people might be listening to the interview - but get a correct mindset to control this fear! Pretend that you're simply talking to a friend, or that there are only a handful of people out there. Once you get into the interview, and with a little experience behind you, it's easy to adopt that frame of mind... you're just talking to a friend on the phone.
3. Try to work in regional information. Although it's not always the case, you'll usually have at least twenty-four hours to prepare. If there's some way that you can relate your book or interview topic to their region, chances are you'll get more airtime. Use the Internet to look up statistics or information pertaining to your discussion, and before the interview, work out a plan for weaving it into the conversation.
4. Always be ready to go at a moment's notice. Once you've sent press kits and query letters to radio stations, they will keep the information in their files. One of the reasons for this is that if they need a last-minute guest, they'll have a large selection of guests at their fingertips. If this happens, though, you might get a last minute call saying, "Can you be on the air in 10 minutes?" If that happens, there can only be one answer: YES! If you work from notes, always have them in a file that you can access immediately. Personally, I don't; I just sit and mentally go over previous interviews, getting into the right mindset to get started right away. Whatever the case is with you, just be ready to be called for a last-minute performance.
5. Get the details. When the producer of a radio show calls you to set up the interview, there are a few things that you have to write down. The first is the time... but just as important, the time zone. I've had the phone ring and someone say, "Okay, you're on in 5... 4... 3..." I'd say, "Wait! You said 9 AM!" The voice answered, "It is 9 AM - here on the east coast!" Learn how to calculate time zones if you don't already know. Also, be sure to ask how they found out about you. That will let you know which of your promotional avenues are working.
6. Find out who'll you'll be talking to. One more thing to ask during the set-up phone call. You'll also need to write down the exact names of the persons you'll be speaking to in the interview - although I've never had this happen, I have friends who spent an entire interview calling DeeJay James by the name "Johnny". Not a good thing. Find out who everyone on the show is, and how they want to be addressed.
7. Send a free book to give away on the air. You will want to mention this during the set-up phone call as well, if there's enough time before the interview to get a book to them. Radio stations love to give things away to listeners, so if they can tie in a book giveaway with your interview, it can actually add time to your segment. I've used this technique many times, and it works well.
8. Mention your book/website repeatedly. It is so easy to get lost in talking about the facts of an interview, and forget to mention your book name and/or website. If you over-mention them, it's going to turn off the interviewer and the audience, so try to strike a happy medium between not saying it at all, and bombarding the audience with it. My rule of thumb is that: if you think that you're saying it too much, you probably are. If you think that you're not saying it enough, you probably aren't.
9. Be prepared for a call to go terribly wrong. No one wants this to happen, but it does. One of my best writer-friends in the world got a call to be on the "Snake and The Bruiser Show" in New York. When she started the interview, one DeeJay was serious and sincere, while the other asked the most horrid, irreverent questions. As it turned out, "Snake and The Bruiser" were shills from the Howard Stern show, and the entire thing was a terrible setup. While that extreme example probably won't happen to you, be prepared for some "shock jock" to turn on you at a moment's notice. Their mission is to offend you enough to get you to hang up the phone, which to be honest, you'll probably end up doing. Hang on as long as you can, answering offensive questions with "bypass answers" like, "Well, I don't know about that, but at mywebsite.com you can certainly find out about my book." Some people say that there's no such thing as bad publicity, so just hang on while you can, and get your name/website out there when you can.
10. After the interview, send a thank-you email. Some folks swear that it should be a tangible, paper letter, but not me. We live in an electronic world, and producers keep electronic files. Send them an email, and they'll file it in their "great guest" mailbox (or wherever they keep their good information). Also, radio folks also have on-line industry bulletin boards where they list good guests, and sending a heart-felt "thank you" can help them remember to post your name there.
© 2005 Mitchel Whitington