In early March I traveled to Connecticut to do two talks related to two of my book projects. As part of that trip, I managed to land two radio interviews. Although I do a monthly podcast on Conversations with Mrs. Claus, I don’t have much experience with radio interviews. Really, I’m a writer more than a speaker, which I think is the case for many authors. So, I got a little panicky.
Interestingly, just around that time I came across an email from former publicist Arielle Ford, who made a name for herself by working with many bestselling authors including Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Now retired from doing book publicity for others, Arielle has recently written her own book, The Soulmate Secret: Manifest the Love of your Life with the Law of Attraction, and to promote it she’s out doing a lot of radio interviews. In her email, she offered three tips for doing well on the radio. Here they are:
- Get media trained by a professional so that you have your most important tips on note cards in front of you at all times.
- Stand up during your phone interviews — and SMILE — you’ll project more energy and authority that way.
- Give it all away — every idea, tip, statistic, every bit of useful info that can help someone — share it.
I didn’t have the time (or the money) to take the advice in number one, so to ease my nerves I decided to ask some other experts and authors for advice on how best to prepare and to handle myself during the interviews. Their advice was invaluable, so I thought I’d pass it along this month in my blog. I know it has little to do with writing per se, but since all nonfiction writers need to be promoting themselves, and radio interviews are a great way to build platform and sell books, I feel this subject fits this blog well.
First, I asked Vic Osteen, author of 60 Ways to Manage, Market and Staff Your Speaking Business. He told me, “I believe you need to do as much as you can to guide the interview. Most radio people only talk and do not listen to what you have to say.”
Additionally, he added, “Go for sound bites and phase you already have. Drive home only about three points. Write down the questions you want asked, and answer them whether they are asked or not.”
Last, he added, “Have so much fun and laugh big.”
Then I asked author Lisa Alcalay Klug, whose book Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe!, was released this year, for advice. I’ve heard her speak on a radio show (and saw a video of her doing a show) and I was impressed with how very articulate and cool she was during her interview. Here’s her advice: “Practice with the questions and answers you think they may ask. That’s the best way to be prepared! Come up with the message you want to deliver and focus on that.”
Last, but not least, I asked publicist Susan Harrow, CEO of www.prsecrets.com and a top media coach, marketing strategist and author of Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul, whose clients have appeared on Oprah, 60 Minutes, NPR, and in numerous publications. She said authors should maximize their time on the air by “telling stories that intrigue and leave enough out so your audience wants more.” She then offered a variety of tips – too many to include in one blog post, that I’ve honed down to the ones I was able to use immediately:
- Use a specific bio. Don’t leave this first sound bite — your introduction – up to the radio host. Control the public’s perception of you, she suggested.
- Don’t squander time. “You have a precious few minutes to convey your essential messages to people who have nano attention spans,” she said. So, create an essential message tailored to your particular audience.
- Back opinions or ideas with facts. “One of the most validating ways to be taken seriously is to research statistics that support your views and quote them accurately,” said Harrow.
Here’s what I was able to put to use on very short notice:
- I didn’t stand up both times, but I sat up tall, and I did smile. For the 30 minute interview, I relaxed after a while and started to feel like I was having a conversation with a friend. That helped, except that I had to really stay on my toes.
- I gave away as much information as I could in the allotted time and within the given format. It helped me to know that it was okay to share as much as possible rather than to feel I had to guard some information for some reason.
- I tried as much as possible to guide the interview by leading the show host in the direction I wanted to go. If the host got off track, I tried to get back on track to the subject matter I wanted to cover. However, on particular show host had her own agenda, and this made it a bit more difficult. I found I had to really roll with the punches.
- I made sure to have sound bites written out, as well as my questions and answers, and to have both in front of me. (My sheet of paper contained my “message” and the questions I wanted them to ask me with scripted answers; I did practice my message, sound bites, and questions and answers as much as possible before hand, although I did not have them memorized.) I used that script whenever possible to get my sound bites and information on the air. It helped me to know that I had a written script if I needed it. It was like a security blanket, but I could see where having it all memorized would be much better.
- I tried to truly enjoy the conversation and to laugh whenever possible. The hosts actually like to have fun, so I tried to join in.
- I sent both show hosts a bio tailored to my subject matter and to the event where I’d be speaking. One used the bio verbatim, one did not. One asked me to offer information on where I was speaking. This taught me to always have all information handy.
- I tried not to squander time, but I found the show hosts often did this for me. On one show I spoke too quickly, trying to get all my information into a very short period that was left.
- I did back my opinions with facts, finding some statistics I could use during my interviews. I found these very effective, and they made great talking points during the interview and even in my talks. The radio hosts loved using them as a way to get into conversation, and they were impactful as well.
All in all, I was pleased with my radio interviews, and I had a lot of fun doing them. I no longer feel panicky about doing another. That said, I’m sure having media training would serve me well, and I hope to be able to do that in the future. I hope to put some of the other tips I learned to use…and to have some of the professionals I spoke with share them with you come November. Until then, happy writing…and speaking!