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Radio Station Checklist: Stuff You need to Know & Do Before You Go on the Air!

by Larry James

It is estimated that everyday, more than 10,200 guests appear on approximately 6,000 radio talk or interview shows across America. In addition, there are about 988 TV shows to consider for interview possibilities. Ninety-four percent of the guests are authors who do not have recognizable names. Radio and television talk shows need interesting guests to attract listeners and viewers. Authors are interesting people. The general public think that authors are experts and celebrities.

Why do radio talk shows to promote yourself or service?

  1. Most radio interviews can be done by telephone, with no travel required.
  2. Most interviews are live, and allow for Q & A from the listeners.
  3. With interviews ranging from five to sixty minutes, this forum provides adequate time for a you to talk about yourself, book or service.
  4. A guest can give out a toll-free number, website, or direct listeners to a bookstore to make a purchase.

Talkers Magazine describes the average talk radio listener:

  1. A majority of the talk radio audience is 35 to 64 years old.
  2. Economically, talk radio's audience is considered to be among mass media's most affluent. 42% of the talk radio audience has a household income in excess of $60,000 per year and 62% earn over $50,000.
  3. Relative to other forms of mass media, the talk radio audience is clearly one of the most educated with a notably high percentage of listeners who have attended one or more years of college. 35% have graduated with a four-year college degree.
  4. The gap between men and women in the radio audience has narrowed by two more percentage points, bringing it to 54% male and 46% female.

If you are available to do interviews with the media to promote your book or speaking business, the following checklist will prove helpful. Always remember, while you are there to promote your stuff, you must also provide entertaining content for the radio audience. Talk show hosts will seldom invite you back if you do not first have their audience in mind. In other words. . . your book will get you on, then you must have something interesting to say that is unique, controversial or fascinating (besides an occasional mention of your book).

Here are a few bits of info that you must get before your interview that will prove to be invaluable during and after the interview:

    Check box Date of initial call. Be prepared to follow-up. If you do not receive a call-back after the 2nd call, send a book cover postcard, give them time to receive it and call again.

    Smooze with the receptionist. On one occasion I was having trouble getting the producer to return my call. After several conversations with the receptionist we were getting to be good friends. I sent her a signed copy of my book and hinted at passing it by the producer. The day after she received it the producer called and booked me as a guest.

    If you cannot get a positive response after the 5th or 6th call, give it up, shout, "Next!" and call someone else.

    Check box Producer's name. The producer usually books the show, however you should try to talk to the host if at all possible to get a feel for how the interview will go.
    Check box Best time to call the producer if not in?
    Check box Radio station call letters, i.e., WOR, KXAM, WLW.
    Check box Frequency of the station, i.e., FM 96, 1020 AM, Power 92.
    Check box Their complete address
    Check box Office phone number
    Check box Fax number
    Check box Emergency phone number. Keep this handy in case they or you cannot get through on their regular phone line.
    Check box This is very important:  Will they call you or will you be calling them? What phone number? Be sure the producer has your direct phone number and be sure you know exactly when they will be calling you or if you will be calling them. Generally speaking the producer will call you.
    Check boxHost's name. Will there be more than one? Verify spelling and pronunciation. It is also a good idea to have this in front of you during the interview so you can refer to the show and to the host(s) by name. Mentioning the city occasionally is good.

    Listen during the commercial breaks for jargon, things that trigger thoughts, or anything that will help the listeners relate to you better. Keep a pencil handy to jot down this info.

    When I hear a major book store commercial, when the interview continues I will usually say, "I'm happy to know that Barnes & Noble (or whoever) is a sponsor of the Paul Gonzales Show. Your listeners can find my books there."

    Check box Type of programing, i.e., music (rock & roll, jazz, easy listening, country) & talk, or only talk radio.
    Check box Demographics, e.g., audience mix; 25 to 34, female, etc.
    Check box Date of interview
    Check box Time of show, i.e., 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., etc. Your time or their time zone?
    Check box Length of interview
    Check box EXACT time of the interview. EST, CST, PST, MST, etc.
    Check box Be sure to get the host's e-mail address. 
    Check box Website. Exploring their website can help you to get to know the host(s), format and more. If you really want to impress them, bring up an issue from their city that relates to your topic.
    Check box Will there be call-ins? Are you willing to take call-ins? Talk about this in advance.
    Check box Ask if it is okay to give your 800 number, web site, e-mail, etc. I say it this way, "It's okay to give my 800 number isn't it?" Most will say yes, and if they forget, remember to mention it.
    Check box Would the host like several books to give away prior to or during the show? I often will offer a book or two to give away. I ask them to send me the winner's name, address and phone number by e-mail.

    I personally sign the book and mail it to the winner. I make a note of which book they won and add them to my mailing list. When I mail the book, I include information about other books, cassettes, video, seminars, etc.

    Check box Would the host like to have a prerecorded promo for use before the show? You can do this on the telephone.

    • Example. . . "Hi, this is Larry James, author of How to Really Love the One You're With. Listen for some stimulating conversation about relationships on the Joey Reynolds Show on WOR radio this Monday morning at 1 a.m."
    Check box Ask if they have a book store sponsor that you can call about your appearance on their show? (Name, address, phone number, etc.) Call the book store and ask them to order lots of books! If the book store knows you will be interviewed on the radio, it is much easier to schedule a signing at their store. Read: 40+ Ways to Make Your Next Book Signing an event!!
    Check box Ask if there are any specific do's and don'ts for their station!
    Check box Ask if they will record the interview and send you a copy on a cassette. Most will but set it up before you go on the air. (Offer to send them a blank cassette).
    Check box Ask if the show puts links to stories or guests on their Web site. Ask for the name of the webmaster, call him/her and ask if you can e-mail contact info related to the story. Go to their site to see the length of the blurbs that are already posted. E-mail your info to the webmaster and they'll add it to the site. These links often stay up for several months or longer. This also works well for TV appearances.

What to send to the Host:

    Check box A letter of confirmation (guest proposal or thank you letter). If you are sending a guest proposal letter, be sure to let them know how their listeners will "benefit" from hearing you on their program.
    Check box Your bio. One of the most important things you can do is to prepare the interviewer to interview you.
    Check box If you have a website, be sure the host knows where to go to get your latest bio and relevant info. It's smart to have a special page especially for talk show hosts.
    Check box Send a "thank you" e-mail to the host and include a link to your links page on your website that shows that you have posted your appearance on their show on your site. I have a page especially for this purpose called, The Venue Menu.
    Check box Copies of your book(s). Most hosts will want to read them (or at least skip-read them) before the show. Be sure to personally sign the book.
    Check box Book marks with endorsements. (You do have book marks, don't you?)
    Check box Sample questions for the host. This is a list of frequently asked questions or questions you would like to be asked. Some hosts are better than others. Most appreciate having questions to use as "thought starters".
    Check box A sheet of paper with your book title(s), 800 number, E-mail and Website printed in a large font. Receiving this will help them to remember to announce the titles and the 800 number correctly.
    Check box Endorsements for your book from celebrities, industry experts, authors who have written similar books, ministers and others.
    Check box Endorsements from other talk show hosts. Most people who have been in broadcasting very long know their competition. This is ofen helpful. Some will inquire about other shows on which you have appeared.
    Check box A brief preview of what is in the book(s).
    Check box A business card
    Check box Your newsletter, brochure, one-pager, news release, newspaper & magazine articles featuring your work or anything else that will help them make a favorable decision to schedule you as a guest.
Follow-up! - If you send your stuff to a producer, be sure to follow up with a brief phone call to verify that they received the info. My experience has been that I am mostly like to book an interview during the follow-up call.

Be Prepared - Have your cheat-sheet with your keywords and book(s) in front of you. Be sure to have answers (sound bites) written out for the sample questions you sent the host. Most radio interviews are by telephone. If you go to the studio, take your stuff with you! Read How to Be a Great Radio Guest!.

Check Out the Host - Before appearing on a radio interview, check out the radio station's website. You may be able to view a picture of the host, a bio, listener info and more, all of which will help you sound like you're a long-time listener, even though you've never heard the show. If the website features audio streaming you may be able to listen to the show before your appearance. The more comfortable you sound with the host, their format and their listeners, the better the interview and the more likely you will be invited back.

Here is a list of radio stations who have websites and broadcast on the Internet. You can browse by state for their websites. Go to http://www.gebbieinc.com/radintro.htm.

You can use the Radio Locator to locate all of the radio stations near a U.S. city.

    Check box A good book to read: SoundBites: A Business Guide for Working with the Media written by Kathy Kerchner.
Make comments like: "As I said in my book, Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers, blah, blah, blah." or "My books are available in major book stores however I'm sure your listeners will want to know where they can get a signed copy of my book, blah, blah, blah." Never answer a question by saying, "You'll have to read about that in my book," without giving the audience a taste of what is in the book. To tease without sharing makes it obvious that you value self-promotion above the listener's well being.

Be sure to mention the station's call letters when you are on the air. Also call the host by name several times during the interview. Write it down so you get it right.

Check box Always say your best stuff first. A special "Thank You" to my good friend, Gregory J.P. Godek, for this excellent tip. This is very important. If you don't, you may not have a chance to get your message across later. Do your best to bring up things in your answers to questions that lead the host to ask you questions about what you want to talk about. Since most radio interviews are on the telephone, you will find that it helps to have several key words written in front of you.

Referrals: If you know other speakers or authors who would be a good fit for the show you were on, refer your friends to the host, then call your friends and give them the referral. In your "thank you" to the host, include their names and phone numbers.

If the interview went well, ask for a letter of praise from the host.

  • Actual example... "My interview with Larry James was the most fun and entertaining interview I have ever had!" - Jim Horn, WSBA, York, PA.
The best time to ask is immediately after the interview.

IMPORTANT: If your book is not ready for you to send to those who want it or if it is not already in the book stores when you have the interview... You are wasting your time and energy and allowing your ego to rule. Save it for later is a better idea.

The more experience you gain from interviews, the more selective you can become in choosing the stations you would like to be on. In the beginning I was always ready when anyone called regardless of whether the station was "right" for me. That's one of the reasons I developed this checklist.

Remember that the length of an interview has nothing to do with its impact. Many people feel that short interviews don't pay off, while longer interviews do. Keep in mind that whatever length the interview, the host and the audience are accustomed to that format. They "will" get something out of the interview as long as you are prepared.

In sales it is important to qualify the buyer. I believe it is equally important to find out as much about the station, their format, the hosts, the music (if any) before you say yes. At first it may be difficult to say no. After you have gone through this checklist with them, if it doesn't feel right, have the courage to say no.

Always send them a "Thank you" for having you on their show, preferably using your book cover as a postcard. This gesture helps you "stand out" from all the rest. It had helped me to get repeat interviews; one station. . . five appearances!

Check box And finally. . . after the interview always call the station's receptionist to provide information about your book, because listeners who don't remember your name or your book's title may call the station for additional information. The receptionist is the first and very often the only person the listener will ever reach. Ask for the fax number and fax a full information sheet with your name, book title, phone number, Website and complete ordering information.

Related Articles:

How to Be a Great Radio Guest! by Larry James,
http://www.writing-world.com/promotion/radio2.shtml

Copyright © 2002 Larry James. Reprinted with permission.

This article is available for reprint provided that the author's byline, bio and copyright statement are included and the article is unaltered.


Author Larry James is also a professional speaker and relationship coach. He is the author of four books. His articles have appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and on the Internet. His popular relationship website features a special section of great information for authors and speakers. Contact: CelebrateLove.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695; http://www.CelebrateLove.com/authors.htm.

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