By Contributing Editor Jennifer Nastu
Unlike being interviewed on TV, "A radio show is very open to
keeping to the interviewee's topic, keeping the conversation
flowing around the interviewee and their area of expertise," says
Annie Jennings of Annie Jennings, PR.
Plus, you can often get more on-air time, even if you're not a
household name celebrity.
Jennings regularly lands interviews for clients on radio networks
such as the Voice of America, Business Talk Radio, Talk America
Network, and the Associated Press Radio Network (as well as on
some TV shows including The Today Show, Fox News Channel, and
Here are some tips she revealed to us on how to do it:
-> Step #1: Craft a pitch letter that works
A radio interview pitch letter is *not* a corporate or news
release, so don't think "who, what, when, where, and why."
"In radio, they want listeners to walk away with powerful
information that they can immediately implement into their course
of business." So don't try to push your book or your services.
You need a new theory, new strategy, or new trend, Jennings says.
Then craft your release so it includes "every single thing the
host or producer needs to conduct a powerful interview with you,"
Here are the 7 elements you need:
Begin with three or four catchy, powerful headlines, one after
the other. Include industry stats, if you can. Example: Marketing
Departments Have Cut Their Spending X Percent.
"This is a synopsis of the interview stacked with everything
good," Jennings says. "That lets the host know they've got a hot
Should include who you are, what you're an expert in, and why
listeners will be interested. For example: John Dodge, Ph.D. in
marketing and author of…. will reveal the strategies your
listeners need to bring their marketing to the next level.
If you're the author of a New York Times bestseller, that belongs
in the intro. Avoid human-interest stuff such as, "We live in
Pittsburg, we have a dog, and I wrote my book because…"
o Talking points
Talking points are designed to give the producer an idea of how
the interview will flow, and should be written as complete
sentences, not as bullet points. Sample talking points for an
expert in marketing:
- Challenges the marketing industry is facing in an
- What drives business if you cut your marketing budget?
- You can expect the marketing you’ve already done to last
for about three months if you cut your budget; what
happens after that?
Put each talking point in bold, italic type so that it stands
Follow each talking point with three or four conversational
sentences of commentary. These are not necessarily answers to the
questions or challenges posed in the talking point. Rather,
they're a summary of the conversation that will follow.
o Sample questions for host
After the talking points and commentary, include 8-10 sample
questions that a host might ask.
These should be cutting-edge questions that, if they were asked,
would allow you to give powerful, informative answers that the
audience can immediately put to use. “That is called ratings,
ratings, ratings,” says Jennings.
-What happens if you do cut marketing spending?
-Will you lose your edge if your competitor continues to market?
-When should a marketing budget never be cut?
This is critical: If you're a book author, the questions should
never include, “Why did you write your book?”
“Everyone thinks this will promote your book, but it won’t,”
Jennings says. “It will get you off the air. If the guest is
boring or overly promotional, there’s a technical difficulty on
the phone line and they say, ‘Oh, what happened to our guest?’
and your 15-minute interview has turned into a two-minute
o Call to action
Include a sentence that says you’re available for interviews, and
give several phone numbers.
The intro just gives the high points of your experience. The bio
should be four or five lines. Something like: “Ph.D., University
of Pennsylvania, specializes in Fortune 500 companies including
IBM,” Jennings explains.
o Contact info
The release should be no more than two letter-sized pages, and
your contact information should be on both pages.
Include your Web site. If possible, this should be a separate
site from the one you use to sell. “If your book hits the
producer in the face, forget it. Create a media site that
showcases you as an expert in the field,” says Jennings.
If you don’t have the luxury of doing that, then make sure you
send them to the specific page for the media within your site.
-> Step #2: Research the Best Radio Shows for Your Pitch
Besides doing a keyword search on the Web, there are a few other
ways to find radio shows, if you're serious about becoming a
Bacon's Media Directories (print) and Bacon's MediaLists Online
may be the standard in the industry. They offer access to over
80,000 different media outlets. Information includes radio show
topics, program format, size, station wattage and frequency,
station locators for the top 50 markets, and more. (http://www.bacons.com)
Burrelle’s Information Services offers similar print and online
MediaMap offers the same type of information in an online
directory only. (http://www.mediamap.com)
All three of these sources will cost you -- the print versions of
Bacon's and Burrelle's begin at $350 and go up from there.
However, you can sometimes find one of the directories at the
library (though they're often outdated).
Whether surfing the Web or using a directory, look for an
interview/talk format in your topic area. Also, because business
radio shows are not as prevalent as you might imagine, include
general interest shows which often cover business topics.
Then, narrow the list. "You can't just start with the biggest
shows and think you're going to get booked," Jennings says. "For
a newcomer to get into one of the top 25 markets (as measured by
number of listeners) it would be a disaster. Begin by working in
Jennings recommends aiming for nothing in the top 50 at first.
"This way you can make all the mistakes and not pay the price,"
-> Step #3. Pitch the Show Booker via Phone
Start with the receptionist and ask the name of the exact person
who books guests on the show.
Then call to give that person your pitch. The message you leave
(and it will usually be a message) should cover all the basics of
the intro from your press release. In fact, says Jennings, you'll
probably learn to read your press release in a conversational
You might say something like, "I'd love to be on your show to
discuss X,Y, and Z. I'll share marketing techniques, what the
best strategies are in today's economy…"
It can also be useful to offer a news tie-in: "USA Today reported
that marketing budgets are once again on the rise. I'm going to
tell you what that means to business and how it will change blah
Your voice should be high-energy and not frightened, and you
should never, ever wing a pitch call. "It's going to take 50
calls just to get it right," says Jennings. "With each call
you're working a different challenge. The first you're afraid,
the second you're not as afraid but you don't know what you're
going to say."
Once you've made your pitch, tell them you're faxing a press
release (ie. your pitch letter) -- then go send the letter right
away. She also recommends sending an email, so that the producer
now has three touchpoints from you.
-> Step #4. Follow-up
Once you've left a message and sent the press release, wait two
days and call again. Don't think that just because you haven't
heard back from anyone means they don't want you.
"You're in the process of rising above the wannabes who fall away
because nobody calls them back," Jennings says. "They don't have
what it takes to stay in the game. The pitching process is an
audition. So now you have three touchpoints and still no
response? That's not surprising. But now, when you call to follow
up, they most likely have seen your press release."
On the follow-up, it's a really good thing if you can speak to
the right person. So here's a trick: Check out when the show
airs, and call the host five minutes to an hour after the show
That's when they're at their desks, and often when they're
hunting for the next guest, says Jennings.
You can also try asking the receptionist the best time to reach
Leaving a second message is okay, but make sure the message is
slightly different (you may add, "I faxed the release, I'm happy
to fax it again" or you may mention a different news angle), and
stay determined to reach the producer personally.