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 CNN.)
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," Jennings says.
Here are the 7 elements you need:
o Headlines 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.
o Intro "This is a synopsis of the interview stacked with everything good," Jennings says. "That lets the host know they've got a hot prospect."
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 economic downturn - 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 out.
o Commentary 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.
Marketing-based examples: -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 interview.”
o Call to action Include a sentence that says you’re available for interviews, and give several phone numbers.
o Bio 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 radio star:
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)
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 smaller markets."
Jennings recommends aiming for nothing in the top 50 at first. "This way you can make all the mistakes and not pay the price," she says.
-> 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 manner.
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 blah 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 ends.
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 the person.
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.
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