Tap, Tap, Tap … Is This Thing On? Tips to Nail a Radio Interview

By Dana Cobb, Senior Account Executive

We are constantly pitching our clients for radio interviews. All sorts of formats: news pieces, CEO interviews, product announcements, expert commentary, celebrity phoners … the whole gamut. While the concept of capturing a conversation on air seems simple, it is often not.  Just like being a Boy Scout, the key to having a successful radio interview is to BE PREPARED.

Prepare for an abrupt start. Most radio interviews are done by phone, not in studio, and most stations prefer to call you. Some producers call a few minutes before the interview begins, allowing you to listen for few minutes to get a feel for the program’s tone. But others wait until the last possible second, meaning you’re on the air within moments of picking up the phone. When you pick up the phone, be ready to go live on a second’s notice—or on no notice at all. You’ll hear the host over the phone line, so turn your radio off to avoid hearing a distracting delay.

Express passion. Sure, you’re on the radio. But listeners will hear it if you stand, move your hands and smile—so get a telephone headset and gesture away. Try to match or slightly exceed the host’s energy level to avoid sounding flat.

Sit close to the microphone (in-studio). New Radio 1080 KRLD’s David Johnson always tells our clients to “sit uncomfortably close to the microphone.” We can literally hear the distance when the interview airs.

Make the connection (in-studio). We suggest that our clients make eye contact with the host and speak with them as if they are having a great conversation at a party. Be confident, smile. The listener hears confidence. It’s absolutely acceptable to bring a few notes or talking points in studio, but never read them—glance down occasionally if you need to and try not to lose your connection.

Don’t depend on them to make the plug. You’re probably on the radio because you want to promote something—a new book, your website, your company. Although many experienced hosts are adept at “plugging” whatever you want promoted, some aren’t. We send the producer a short bio and key points in advance of the interview which many hosts use verbatim to introduce me on the air.

The truth is in the tape. Few people enjoy listening to tapes of their interviews, but doing so can help you identify and fix problem areas. This is where you hear those dreaded “uhs.”