Hearing is believing: 8 tips for a successful radio interview

July 31, 2012

Sandwiched between the security of a familiar newspaper reporter and the lure of a smashing TV expose, non-profits often underestimate the power of an excellent radio interview. We’ve got tips, but first let’s understand why radio is important.

Radio is the second most common media in Americans’ lives (93% of us use or own one vs. 98% for TV). And radio listeners have enormous faith in what they hear on air. NPR listeners are about three times as likely to trust what they hear on the radio than that they see on TV. The commercial success of conservative talk radio is another testament to radio audiences’ commitment.

So what’s a source to do? Here are eight tips to help you succeed:

1. Know the format. Find out if the interview will be live, live-to-tape, or recorded for inclusion in a story. Will there be other guests or will it be one-on-one with the host? How long will it be? What topics are of greatest interest?

2. Use notes. Decide the top points you want to drive home (one main point and two supporting points is usually sufficient for a short interview) and WRITE THEM DOWN. Have a compelling statistic to make your main point memorable. Keep your notes in front of you during the interview. It’s radio — no one can see you!

3. Stay on point. Consider how each question relates to the question you want to answer and pivot back to your message. They can only use what you say, not what they wish you had said.

4. Take your time. Give yourself time to formulate your reply (“That’s an interesting question…”) Don’t speak too quickly. Unlike on TV, listeners can’t see your lips. If they can’t keep up, they can’t absorb your message.

5. Ask for a do-over. During a recorded interview, if you trip up on your words or think of a better answer mid-stream it’s ok to stop mid sentence and ask to start your answer over again. Remember, the host isn’t out to get you. She wants you to make smart points and sound intelligent making them.

6. Don’t be afraid of silence. When you’re done with your answer, stop talking. Wait for the host to make the next move. It’s not your job to fill the silence.

7. Talk to the host, not to the audience. Imagining thousands of people listening is a sure way to wander off message.

8. Embrace your jitters. It’s OK to be nervous. It only means that you want to do a good job. Harness your nerves, breathe deep, and knock it out of the park.

Here’s what it sounds like when an interview goes well:
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Eric Jaffe