The radio interview: how to survive to tell the tale
Ask any PR person and they’ll tell you they can spot a novice or untrained media performer in the first few seconds of a radio interview. Our ears are finely tuned after years of providing advice to clients on the do’s and don’ts of the interview.
My own PPP (personal pet peeve) is the interviewee who constantly uses the interviewers name – “Thank you for the opportunity Pat….Mary, the key point is that….we are delighted to announce Matt…As I’m sure you are aware George…”.
But aside from being a petty annoyance for PR people, it’s a very distracting habit. The beauty of radio is that it’s a very intimate medium. Listeners feel as if they are being spoken to directly; that is until the interviewee reminds them that s/he is, in fact, speaking to the interviewer facing them.
We often hear people complain that interviewees don’t answer the question they’re asked. That’s probably because they’ve been advised to get their complete position across in the answer to the first question. This is a precautionary measure in case the interview is cut short or the questioning takes an unanticipated track.
In most cases, radio interviews are a positive opportunity to explain your position or promote your product or services. With a little preparation you can make sure you get your message across, that listeners enjoy your contribution and, most importantly, that you get asked back on the programme again!
So, for the record, we’re happy to share our top ten tips for making the most of your radio interview:
1. Practice, practice, practice! Prepare your key message and anticipate sticky questions. Then find out if the interviewer has ever covered your issue before and listen back to the interview online. Find out if the interview is one-on-one or if you will be part of a panel. It is critical that you know this so that your advance work can include research on the other panel members and the issues they are likely to raise.
2. Nerves are normal but if you think they might impact your ability to articulate your message, make sure you have a written note of the two-three key points you want to communicate in front of you.
3. Live interviews are always best. They give you total control and like championship football, you will probably give your best performance.
4. If it’s possible, do the interview in studio. You’ll be less anxious and build a better rapport with the interviewer if you’re looking into the whites of their eyes. Failing that….
5. Consider the listener and use a landline rather than a mobile phone. Do not use a speaker phone! Mobile lines are unreliable and phones on speaker sound too distant.
6. Do not, under ANY circumstances, read your answer verbatim from a page. It makes listeners question the credibility of the interviewee. “Do you really know what you’re talking about if you are obviously reading
7. Be conscious of any words or phrases you tend to overuse. If you tend to say “like” or “you know” or “do you know what I mean” at the end of every sentence then you will really need to consciously force yourself not to fall into the habit on-air.
8. Make sure you can provide back-up for any point you make. Evidence makes a interview credible.
9. Do not get annoyed or respond emotionally.
10. If you don’t know something, you can either say you don’t know or………. prove you don’t know!
Finally, embrace the opportunity. Unlike many other countries, Ireland has a fantastic tradition of talk radio and there really is no better way to get your message into the kitchens and cars of the country.