How to ace a radio interview

Radio interviews are a great way to promote your small business or nonprofit.

Radio interviews are a great way to promote your small business or nonprofit.

By Mark G. Auerbach

Working in radio has been a part of my life for the past 30-plus years. I’ve been in front of the mic as a reporter, anchor, host, or spokesperson, and behind the mic as a producer and a publicist trying to get a client on the air.

For the last two years, I’ve been an arts commentator on air at 89.5FM/WSKB, a public radio station in Westfield, MA, that partners with the Westfield News Group papers I write for. I’ve been a substitute morning host, and beginning this month, I’ve been invited to produce and host a weekly hour-long arts show for a 14-week limited run.

It makes me think of who the best guest for radio is, and how they can be best-prepared for their time on the air.

If you’re a radio guest, it’s likely for one of the following reasons:

-Based on your accomplishments, you’re an expert or an authority on a newsworthy topic.

-You’re a spokesperson for your own small business and its unique place in the listening area.

-You’re involved in an event and therefore a spokesperson on-air to promote its visibility and ticket sales.

That said, jot down a few items you’d like to discuss in a particular order that you’d like to discuss them.

Prepare your radio host and producer in advance of your appearance. Make sure they have:

-A fact sheet of your background, your company background, and some key discussion points as a guideline.

-A pronunciation guide for any names and places that might get mispronounced. I’m in Massachusetts, and it’s funny how many people can mispronounce the name of a nearby city, Worcester, which on occasion is a part of my comments. I used to do public relations for a shopping center, and their spokesperson and marketing director was an articulate French gentleman named Michel Robert. I used to have to prep the media that Michel was a guy and then give them the correct pronunciation of his name.

If you’re doing a phone interview, make sure you’re calling in from or getting called at a number in a place where there’s no background noise. A landline is always preferable to cell. Disconnect call-waiting, and if you’re using your landline, silence your cell. Tell your colleagues to walk softly, talk softly, and keep your office clear of distractions–like a PA announcement. If you’re dialing in from home, keep the ambience quiet.

During a recent blizzard, I was scheduled to come in to the studio, but the engineer decided I could “phone it in.” At 6:00 AM, I didn’t realize I’d have to silence the loud neighbors’ children, who were having a heated argument outside in the snow, in front of my window. Thankfully, a plow came by to drown them out, and I pretended on-air that I was doing a stand-up live from my condo swimming pool.

If you’re going to the studio, plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early. If you’re running late, you’ll be nervous–and it will sound in your voice. Your radio host will be nervous about your arrival, and things may not go like you hope. Get the directions in advance. Always make sure the producer has your cell number and you have theirs…just in case.

Warm up your voice before you go on-air. I tend to sing in the car to get my radio voice in motion. I keep the windows closed to protect the innocent bystanders.  I make sure I am hydrated, but I stay away from any beverage that’s too hot or too cold, and anything with dairy. I reward myself with a latte after I’m off-air.

Don’t forget to breathe. Speak in a normal level of voice–and slowly. And remember, the best part about doing radio is, that unlike doing television, it doesn’t add ten pounds to your frame. There are no bright lights, cables to trip over, cameras swirling around you. It’s just you, a radio host, an engineer perhaps, and thousands of ears waiting to be a part of whatever you plan to say. If you sound hot, you are hot.

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Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark hosts ArtsBeat Radio, Fridays 8AM-9AM beginning May 26, on 89.5FM/WSKB, Listen live on the airwaves,or on www.wskb.org or at www.westfieldtv.org.

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