MEDIA TRAINING FOR AUTHORS - PART TWO - RADIO AND MEDIA COMBAT
by Theresa Meyers
President, Blue Moon Communications
WHY PURSUE RADIO?
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.
GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS
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.
LEARNING THE RULES OF 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.