I learned a long time ago while working in radio news that there was a lot more to being a good interview or interviewer on-air than having a deep voice. You had to SOUND good to the AUDIENCE, and sounding good on radio involves much more than being a baritone. (I remember a very well-known CBS News radio anchor who would stretch his body and mouth, sing loudly to warm his vocal chords, and blow his nose, all just seconds before going on air. It relaxed him so he could tame his natural energy, and sound calm yet confident and assertive.)
My thoughts went back to those days after reading WTOP Washington all-news radio reporter Ari Ashe’s
Five Essentials for a Good Radio Interview. Besides being good advice for potential radio guests and their PR advisors, Ashe’s tips touch on some of the basics of all good communication that we at CommCore always remind our clients of regardless of the medium or occasion:
• Being concise is particularly important on live radio because of limited time and the limited attention spans of listeners who are usually multi-tasking. Know what you intend to say, and have good sound bites ready to use. Ask about the time limits of the interview beforehand, and plan your points accordingly.
• Know your audience, and imagine you are speaking with passion and interest to a specific person or small audience, and not to a microphone. Be energetic but focused.
• If you are interviewing by phone, stand up and use a headset so you can be more animated and not distracted by your desktop computer and papers.
• Radio is a medium of the imagination. Listeners visualize what they hear in their mind’s eye. Don’t bore your audience with endless mounds of data. Pick a couple of salient data points and illustrate them with compelling and relevant stories that you describe visually. Then direct the audience to a website or a phone number if they want more detailed information, which you can provide separately in the form of graphs or charts. (Remember that almost all radio interviews are either streamed or posted on the radio station’s website.)
• Practice your interview ahead of time with a colleague.
The last thing a radio station…or an interview subject…wants is for a listener to tune out by punching up another station, turning the radio off, or clicking over to another website.
What radio interviews have you had or arranged for a client? Why did it work? Or, why did it not?