Back to Articles



by Theresa Meyers
President, Blue Moon Communications

For years we've heard that it's word of mouth and hand pitching that boosts sales and recognition for authors. But writers often pass up the single best media opportunity they have to build word of mouth. It's called radio. And it can change the way you promote yourself forever.

"Radio is the national water cooler. It's where people talk about what is really on their minds. More than any other medium on the planet, radio has a finger on the pulse of the country and that really distinguishes it from other media," explains Joel Roberts, a professional media trainer and former talk show host for KABC in Los Angeles.

One thing best-selling authors who work with professionals publicists have in common is their willingness to do radio shows, according to Ariel Ford, one of the top no non fiction book publicists in the nation. Many fiction authors avoid radio because they're not familiar with the medium and don't know the powerful possibilities it can unlock.

What kind of opportunities is there for authors? Plenty. At any time there are 2,000 to 3,000 radio producers looking for guests to talk about every conceivable subject. Most radio stations will have at least one talk show during the week; many have several each day. Many radio shows, like newspaper columns, are syndicated and reach as many as 350 cities across the country with a single interview.

Getting booked as a guest takes know how and preparation. Keeping them calling you back takes practice.

At this point I have both bad and good news. You have lots of opportunities-that's the good news. The bad news is that radio shows prefer to interview guests by phone because with the flick of a finger they can cut you off and end the interview if you don't seem to be what they are looking for or you can't get their producer's phone to ring. Most authors tend to fall into this category because they don't have a spine. A lot of people get on the radio and don't articulate their overarching main theme. They'll give you a lot of examples or ribs, but no central, driving comment or spine. You'd be amazed how many people get on the radio and don't know why they're there. They don't know their message points for forget them completely once they get on the air. My goal in offering you this information is to show you how to get control of whatever venue you are in. You don't control the questions during an interview, but you sure control the answers.

Your main theme or message point becomes increasingly important since you won't get the opportunity to discuss your book in depth. Most radio interviews are going to be less than 15 minutes. However, on the up side, you can reach literally millions of people in just a few hours and, if your message is honed to a fine point, it will come across loud and clear. Just remember to repeat often because people will only be half listening. Pauses are also incredibly effective on radio.

To romance radio, first you need to know the rules. Each radio show has its own personality and style. Put together, these items make up the culture of the show. It is critical before you pitch a radio producer that you know what the culture of the show is. The following make up the culture of a radio show:

· Format - Is the show guest or host driven? Who talks most? Howard Stern is a host driven show. It doesn't matter whom he has on, he is still the star and the focal point.
· Demographics - Ask yourself who is their audience? Are they young, old, executives, housewives, men, women?
· Orientation - What type of programming do they use. Are they music? What type? Are they talk radio featuring business, sports or news?
· Pace or style - Is the show a rapid-fire talk radio or a friendly chat over coffee in the morning to entertain their listeners?
· Tone - How do the hosts come across? Are they authoritative, friendly or obscene?
· Do they interview people?

What if you're visiting your sister in Topeka and don't have a clue what the radio show is like? Call them. Ask to be put on hold during the show so you can listen, advises Roberts. If you live in the area, tune in. Much of what you need to discover about the culture of a show can be found by listening to it yourself.

In general one thing holds true especially for radio media. They are less like purveyors of truth and more like show business. According to Roberts, radio is a "yeah, but" business. The hosts of a talk show get brownie points when they make the switchboard overload with calls from listeners. If you can help them achieve this, then you're well on your way. In radio especially it is the HEAT (controversy) not the LIGHT (truth or facts) that are interesting and draw an audience.

"Most people don't know that in radio if you bring the women listeners in, the men will follow," Roberts added. "At KFI in Los Angeles, the number one radio station in the number one market in the country, producers and hosts receive bonuses based strictly on the female demographics their shows create, not the male."

Unlike television, which works very hard at appearing to be objective, radio functions on the gut reaction level. The really good media guests are so well armed for media combat when they go in that they are totally relaxed. That is part of the reason we've been working on your message points and discussing branding. You'll need to be firmly grounded in what your brand is and your message before you attempt radio.

Whenever you go onto a type of program, you have to be better at critiquing yourself than they are. Unlike television and video, radio is strictly verbal so in essence it's strictly storytelling. Media training is about trying stuff on to see if it works. It's about being so anchored in your message that you are compelling involuntarily when you get on the air.

Most of you probably raised your eyebrows at this and wondered what I was talking about. Media combat is just an easy way of saying, learning how to handle even a go-for-the-jugular-journalist easily and effectively. There are tricks to this and once you learn them, you'll begin to watch television and listen to radio in a whole new way. Part of the reason is because you'll recognize and understand what radio guests are doing. Part of it is because you'll begin critiquing their interview without even realizing it at first.

Here are a few of the strategies (add these to the ones we talked about in part one such as the two-step) that will make any radio show or hardball interview easier for you.
· KNOW THE CULTURE of the show and be prepared to handle it. Since you know Howard wants to know if you modeled for the cover or practiced the sex scenes in your book, make sure you have an answer for him. Anticipate the tough questions. Pretend for a moment that you're the host and come up with the most obnoxious, pushy questions you can. If you can think of ways to handle that with the following tools and the ones you learn from last time, you'll be well on your way.

· VERBAL KARATE - give back as good as you get. It goes something like this. If the host says your book is all about sex, you turn around and say, "Well don't you like sex?" When you do that you end up making the host look uptight, anti-sexual and anti-romantic. Rather than defending yourself, shoot a question right back at the interviewer. While this works well for people who can handle confrontation, you may not want to take this route if you're not thick-skinned.

· VERBAL AKIDIO - this is a little softer approach that verbal Karate. It takes the power they launch at you and adds to it to divert the hit away from you. As an example, Roberts suggests the following. "If somebody says romance is demeaning to women, you respond by saying 'Then why are they buying it to the tune of one billion dollars a year? Are you saying you know better for women than they do? Are you licensed to make judgments for women that you believe they can't make for themselves? Are you telling me we have a billion dollars worth of masochists out there and they are all signing up for humiliation?" It's just as important to ask questions as a guest as it is to answer them. A good rhetorical question, well placed allows you to control the interview.

· PLAY THE SKEPTIC - Another strategy that works well is to become skeptical. Whatever they don't believe, you don't believe more. If the host says, "I can't believe that women read romances for more than the sex!" You reply, "You don't believe it! I don't believe it! It was the first thing I turned to when I picked up my first romance, but then I flipped to the first page and got hooked by the great characters and story, the plot…." And you continue from there.

· PLAY THE WITNESS - rather than acting as an expert, give your views as someone from the front lines and insist that you don't have the expertise you're just sharing what you've seen or know. This is where the reader testimonial is invaluable. The host may say, "You're not a relationship expert!" You say, "You're right. I'm not. But there was this letter I received from a lady who said she had just about given up on a 14 year marriage, she said she read her husband one of the confrontation scenes in the book where the woman tells the hero what she wants from a relationship and her husband was shocked. She said that was the turning point for them…"

If you're wary of radio because interviews make you nervous, allow me to offer this advice. Know your stuff and anticipate the likely objections. That will go a long way towards reducing nervousness. Even more important than that is to get yourself into what Tony Robbins would call your peak state. Get calm by taking controlled deep breaths. Practice calming yourself so you can focus.

Now here's a pop quiz. Which would you dress up for, a phone interview or a studio interview? Most people are surprised they learn that it's more important to dress for the phone. Why? When you're at home you have to queue yourself to what makes you feel fantastic and gives you confidence. It comes through in the voice. Other things you can do include standing up and smiling when you talk. These actions will also effect your speech. It also helps to get to know your interviewer first. Try chatting with someone off the air a few minutes before the interview so you're not hitting the ground cold.

What is the single biggest mistake most radio interviewees make? They talk too much. Some of the worst interviewees are members of the national speakers association. They confuse talk radio with a podium speech. This is not a forum where a monologue works. Once you're on the air, a really good interview guest will interview the interviewer. It needs to be a back and forth conversation. A lot of people think they have to be polished instead of human. If you have to error, do it on the human side.

As with all media, the best preparation you can get is from a reliable professional, but don't sell yourself short. With these tools you can be effective, but it does require practice. Do it on the phone. Play act with a good friend and let them interview you. Above all be aware that you'll need to start small. If you try cutting your teeth in a big market like Los Angeles, you're likely to loose some teeth. Start in a smaller market like San Antonio first.

One of the things you will get asked at some point is "What's your book about?" Work on condensing your description until you can do it in less than a minute. With radio remember to key into how you're speaking, because all the audience has to create an impression of you is your voice and they way you talk. Stand up and walk around if you need to during the interview to give yourself confidence.

Remember also that perception is reality. Even if you are a good person, if you come across cold, unfriendly, or quiet, that is what will be remembered.

Practice, practice, practice.

home | public relations | articles
fiction how I work | clients | rates | contact | sitemap