Thursday, May 22, 2008

Are You Ready For Radio?

By Wendy Burt-Thomas

So you’re finally getting your big break to promote your business on the radio. Are you sure you’re prepared? Follow these guidelines to help get your ducks in a row.

One little mention on the radio can do wonders for your business. But it takes a lot of preparation to get mentioned, to sound eloquent, and to be ready for the listener response. Here are some tips to help you through the process.

Getting on the radio

Who to pitch: Call the radio station to find out to whom you should be submitting your segment idea. It’s often the station producer, but you’ll need to ask for the correct spelling of his/her name, their title, and their email and fax number. Start by sending the pitch via email, then follow up a week or so later with a phone call.

(The best time to reach a producer is typically 10 minutes after the show.) If you’re leaving a message, be sure to leave your phone number twice and have a concise (about 30-second) pitch so you don’t ramble. Be sure to leave an upbeat message with lots of energy. Think of your pitch as a “mini-interview,” since it’s the first time the producer will hear your voice and they’ll likely make a quick decision based on their first impression.

What to pitch: Because radio is auditory, not visual, you’ll need to present an idea for a segment that isn’t prop-heavy. That means you’ll want to offer ideas for listener quizzes (with prizes, if you can offer some), funny or insightful information (depending on the radio station and its listening audience), and possibly a value-added bonus that can be listed on the radio station’s Web site. The bonus could be a coupon, list of tips or resources, photos or additional information on the topic you’ll be discussing. “When I do appear as a guest on radio shows, I always include fun listener call-in games,” explains Tanya Mitchell, Director of Training for LearningRx, a national brain-training franchise. “I always have prizes and offer valuable tips, self-evaluations and printable lists for the radio station to upload to its Web site. The radio station appreciates that I drive traffic to their site and we get a link to to drive traffic back to ours. It’s a win-win.”

Depending on your topic, you’ll want to offer interesting facts, statistics or news that is relevant to the station’s listening audience. Don’t assume the producer will automatically see the tie-in; spell it out.

Being on the radio

1. Listen to several segments the week before your appearance to understand the general tone. Is it serious or is there a lot of joking going on? Is there frequent banter or does the host let the guest speak for minutes without interruption? Know your key messages and use phrases that will allow you to easily segue into them.

These phrases include:
• “The most important thing to remember is…”
• “It’s crucial for everyone to understand that…”
• “That raises an important point…”

2. Look for ways to use specific examples rather than generalities when referring to the benefits of your product or service.

3. Practice answering potential questions with a coworker or employee who knows your business so they can point out key messages if you’ve omitted them.

4. Pay close attention to the host’s advice regarding where to place your mouth in relations to the microphone. Avoid wearing loud jewelry (such as multiple bracelets) and turn off your cell phone before the show.

5. If the host plans to come to your business to do the interview, ask him/her in advance about any sounds he/she would like to purposely pick up in the background. (If you work as a teacher, for example, they may want to get the sounds from a playground or music class.)

6. If the interview isn’t live, you can take longer than normal pauses before answering your questions because they can be edited out later.

7. If you’re sharing information about a product or service that sounds too good to be true, be prepared for the interviewer or listeners to be skeptical. “It’s natural for listeners to be skeptical if your product, service or results sound unbelievably fabulous,” explains Dr. Ken Gibson, author of “Unlock the Einstein Inside; Waking up the Smart in Your Child.” “It’s important not to be defensive if the host reflects the listeners’ doubts. It doesn’t mean they don’t believe you. That’s his/her job. I’ve become accustomed to parents thinking our results with kids with learning disabilities sound too good to be true, so I use phrases to turn the skepticism to my advantage. Use concrete statistics or well-known resources whenever possibly to add credibility to what you’re saying.” Gibson’s favorite examples include:

• “I might be skeptical too, if I didn’t see that 98% of the kids completing our program see three to four years of improvement …”
• “I realize it’s hard to believe. But let me share a specific example about a child who came to us that was getting Ds and Fs…”
• “I understand why parents have their doubts. But studies show that with special training, a parent can actually prevent reading problems by 90 percent and…”
• “I’d love to read you a few testimonials…”

8. Let your staff, customers or clients know when you’ll be doing the radio interview – especially if it’s at your place of business. Find out who would be willing to be interviewed as well, and let the host know in advance. (e.g. “I’ll have two sets of parents available to interview that day” or “One of my models will be at the studio that day if you’d like to talk to her about the clothes.”)

Preparing for a (listener) response

1. If you have a Web site, confirm with your Web master that the site is ready to support a lot of visitors. Although it’s not likely with a small local radio station, the last thing you want is for your Web site to crash.

2. Make sure your staff is prepared to answer questions if you become inundated with phone calls or emails.

3. Have a clear way to track coupons as they’re submitted in person or as discount codes via the Web site so you can track your response. Your staff should also understand how to properly process any coupons or discounts that were offered along with your radio segment. (Coupons should require users to fill in an email address in order to help you build your mailing list.)

4. Archive your radio segment to your Web site for online visitors who missed the live segment, as well as for future pitches to radio and TV stations. (You want to have an example to demonstrate that you’re a good radio/TV guest.)

The most important thing to remember is that preparation is everything. It will not only make you a better guest, but it will also help you relax, and a good interview will probably garner you a repeat appearance.

Wendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer with more than 1,000 published pieces. She’s appeared on numerous radio and TV programs to promote her two books for McGraw-Hill. Visit

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