The following is adapted from an article by Roberta Gale in Talkers magazine. After spending more than 20 years as a radio talk show host, Roberta is now president of Roberta Gale Media Coaching.
The bold points are hers: They tell you what not to do.
The remainder of each point feature my comments: They tell you what you should do instead.
1. Never get to your main point. One of the big no-no’s of being a good guest is meandering. Get to the point fast. Rarely will you answer any question with more than two or three sentences. If you do, you’ll lose the audience and your host.
2. Be totally unfamiliar with (or ignore) the host’s style, format and time requirements. If you want to be a good guest, do your research. Have an idea of who you are talking to. Are you doing a morning zoo show or an afternoon talk show on a talk station? Is the format of the station AC (adult contemporary), CHR (contemporary hit radio), AOR (album-oriented rock), classics, hip hop, news talk, country western, religious, or what?
If you don’t know the format of the station, you can’t talk to its audience. The audience demographics for each type of station is dramatically different. As soon as possible, match your answers and style to that of the host. You won’t get anywhere being too serious on a morning zoo show. On the other hand, you can be too flippant on a religious talk show.
3. Use insider jargon, obscure facts, and as many big words as possible. Learn to talk in the language of the people, using shorter words and shorter sentences. When you have to use a word that listeners might not know, define it right away.
4. Overuse statistics. Don’t get statistics happy in an interview. No one will remember them. Tell a story instead. People remember stories. One or two stats to highlight a problem can grab people’s attention – if the stats are dramatic, but you can lose an audience really quickly if you continue to spout out stat after stat.
5. Speak rapidly and don’t repeat or explain what you say. Slow down. Sometimes when you get excited, you can talk too fast. Then no one will understand you. Remember to slow down, especially when you want the audience to remember your point.
I usually recommend that talk show guests limit themselves to three main points. Tell them in the beginning what those three points are, then explain them throughout the interview (with some great stories), and then, to close the interview, tell them what you told them.
Remember that most people listening to radio are also doing something else at the same time (working, driving, cooking, diapering a child, cleaning). By repeating your most important points, you give them a chance to really appreciate what you have to offer them.
6. If you don’t know the answer, just make one up. Never lie. Never cover up. Tell the truth at all times. If you don’t know the answer, admit it. Then tell them where they can find the answer for themselves. Or tell them that you will research the question and post the answer on your website within two days. Now, you’ve got them coming to your website. Isn’t it wonderful to be ignorant!
7. Sound rehearsed, tired, and bored. You should be prepared for your interview, with a clear idea of the points you want to make. You should also have some great sound bites ready. But you should never sound as if you’re reading your answers. Remember: You are having a chat with the host and via him or her, a chat with the audience as well. Sit back and relax – and enjoy. Then your audience will, too.
8. Speak softly with a monotone. Be sure to talk clearly and loudly enough that you can be heard. Vary your tone. Be enthusiastic and upbeat. Have fun.
And here are a few key points on how to pitch radio show producers for your potential interviews:
Send your PR kit in a brightly colored envelope. That will help you draw attention to your kit when you do your follow-up phone call with producers and hosts.
Follow up your email pitches with phone calls. Email blasts rarely work (except for timely pitches to current news items).
Send out postcards with a link to a great media pitch on your website.
Feature an attractive professional logo next to your address on your envelopes.
Print two or three testimonials about your interview prowess on the outside of your envelope. Feature testimonials from other radio show producers, TV producers, and podcasters.
Handprint the address of the producer/show/podcast on a big label which you then stick on the outside of your pitch envelope.