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Jul 30, 2004
Interview

PR Interview: How to Guest Star on the WebTalk Radio Show

SUMMARY: More than a million listeners per month tune into the WebTalk radio show. Producer Dana Greenlee told us she turns down about 80% of the guest star wannabes who pitch her. Find out how you can make it into the lucky 20%. Plus, who was the worst guest ever.
WebTalk Radio Show Dana Greenlee, Show Producer 6918 59th Street Court West University Place, WA 98467 253-566-9356 dana@webtalkradio.com http://www.webtalkradio.com

-> Reach

The show airs on 13 stations throughout South Dakota, California, Mississippi, Washington, Illinois, Idaho, Arizona, Indiana, and Alabama.

It also airs online at a number of sites, with total monthly listeners of 1,328,000.

And a bonus: Greenlee takes about half her interviews and writes them up in article form for syndication on Google News, Topix.net, and Moreover.com.

-> Greenlee's background

"I grew up in Los Angeles and studied radio and television in school, but like 100% of college students I went into a different field," Greenlee says.

But six years ago, she left a job in Web site editorial for Amazon.com to open an audio production studio, Loudvox.com. She produces and co-hosts the WebTalk Radio Talk Show, and also produces shows for clients who want their own radio show.

"My life is 50% doing my own show, 50% doing shows for clients," she says. "Oh, and there's another 50% doing Web production, and I spend some time teaching at a community college."

-> Current editorial coverage

"We are not just a technology show even though that's the one-word description," Greenlee says. "We focus on the Internet, anything having to do with the Worldwide Web, email, ecommerce, innovative online marketing."

The first part of the show consists of the hosts covering industry news from the past week, with a focus on anything other news outlets might have missed.

For the rest of the show, the hosts interview one or two guests. "We like to think of ourselves as the Charlie Rose of radio talk shows. We give our guests 20 or 30 minutes rather than a soundbite."

Guests generally speak about trends and the future in a variety of topics: viral marketing, voiceover IP, blogging, hosting, Spam, virus attacks, wi-fi, etc. "We love to talk with entrepreneurial types doing something new," she says. "In every interview, we ask the person to put on their futurist hat: what will change in the next year?"

What the show doesn't cover, "though it happens by accident sometimes, is ten straight minutes on a new product. We try to make them understand that we're going to talk first about industry trends and then work around to their solution at the end."

-> Best way to pitch Greenlee

Send an email to Greenlee or the other show host, Rob Greenlee (her husband). --dana@webtalkradio.com --rob@webtalkradio.com

"Rob makes the decisions, but I'll look at them and pass them on," Greenlee says.

Try a subject line such as "radio idea" or "WebTalk Radio suggestion" followed by a colon and then the idea. "If it says 'Hi,' I'll never see it," she says. "You have to triage your email."

-> What she looks for in a story pitch

Whether you're hoping for an interview or to be mentioned during the news portion of the show, the approach is the same. Email a press release or interview idea, and include a story angle or talking point.

The pitch must have an Internet angle. "This morning I got one from a watch company that has a new watch that's supposed to be really good for engineers," Greenlee says. "There's no way it will be on."

Just being on the Internet isn't enough, either. "I'm a bookstore and I have a Web site, so let's talk about me? No," she says.

The press release or "well-written" pitch is enough for initial contact. "Then we'll go to their Web site and look around." If they're interested, they'll ask for more information, and authors (they love to interview authors) will be asked to send a copy of their book.

While follow-up calls are not taboo, they tend to embarrass Greenlee because she generally has already decided against the pitch but hasn't responded. "I didn't reply and I should have, and I have to tell them no," she explains. "I don't encourage them to follow up unless they feel so strongly that this is a fit."

Greenlee books about 100 interviews a year, and close to 50% of those she invites on her own. That means she turns down maybe 80% of people who pitch.

So here's an insider's tip:

She loves guests who are willing to give a little something back. "If you say, 'Hey, we're going to promote the heck out of this,'" she'll take more notice. Let her know if you can link back to the interview on your site, or if you plan to promote it in a newsletter or engage in other PR.

-> Pet peeves

"Nothing really upsets me," Greenlee says, though once a guest is booked a couple of things frustrate her.

For example, she gets irritated if guests change focus on the air to talk all about their product.

"We had that with Netscape," she says. "We got one of the VPs and it was ten minutes of pure, 'Sign up for Netscape Internet service.'"

She also had occasional problems when PR people act as a barrier between her and the guest. "PR people know what they're doing and they handle the details really well. They arrange the times, act as a go-between, send questions or talking points."

But having no contact with the guest at all raises problems. Just yesterday, "The guest didn't call in, the marketing person didn't pick up their cell phone, and we were there waiting."

-> Favorite professional publication

Business 2.0, Infoworld, Google News

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