EMSI Public Relations
makes good talk radio? Often, it’s a good argument – just the
lot of first-time guests hope
They hear shock jocks like Howard
Stern or commentator Bill O’Reilly try to skewer interviewees
with pointed questions and they want no part of it.
“Please find me talk show hosts who
agree with my point of view,” our clients frequently ask.
The trouble with that is, preaching to
the choir doesn’t make for memorable entertainment in most show
formats. And if the audience doesn’t remember you, what have you
I’ve been on both sides of the
microphone, so I understand the value of a robust debate – and
the trepidation of guests afraid they’ll be lobbed a live
grenade instead of a polite question. But people go head-to-head
with talk show hosts every day and emerge smiling with all their
body parts intact. How? They’re prepared.
I asked our senior campaign manager,
Alex Hinojosa, to help prepare you with some tricks for holding
your own – and even gaining the advantage – when a show host
decides to stir things up during an interview. Alex is
especially well-qualified; he’s been that snarky talk show host
on national and major-market shows for more than 15 years.
Here’s what he had to say:
• Make it a conversation.
During the interview, don’t picture yourself on a stage
as a voice blaring from car stereo speakers. Instead, picture
yourself having a conversation with the host. Talk to him or her
like you’re sitting in your living room together. Believe me;if
you feel like you’re being attacked, it makes it much easier to
react naturally. I’ve had many clients tell me that once they
understood this, interviews were a piece of cake no matter what
the host pulled.
• Boil down your thoughts
to three to five general bullet points. These will be the
messages you want to get across, the information that will be
the most valuable to the listeners. (Note: I know the message
most valuable to you is “buy my book/product,” but a sales pitch
is not what the audience wants to hear. Give them something they
can use, learn from or laugh about and they’ll be more likely to
remember you.) Write your bullet points on a piece of paper and
have it in front of you during the interview. That way, if you
blank or get sidetracked, you can quickly get right back on your
• If you don’t know, don’t
bluff. If a host asks a question you can’t answer or
cites a report, event orstatistic you’re not familiar with, be
honest and say so. Then go right back to your bullet points and
steer the conversation to your message.
• Any information publically
available about you is fair game. Google search your
name and see what pops up: Anything you can easily find, the
show host can, too. He or she may ask about information in your
bio (“So, you worked for BP Oil. Have they always been
completely irresponsible?”). Or the DUI from 10 years ago, found
in a Google search, may come up. You won’t be caught off guard
if you’ve thought about the possibilities.
• Get some media coaching.
Look for someone with plenty of experience as a show host and if
you’re worried about particular questions, ask for help
preparing answers. The coach can give you a good idea what to
expect, run through a mock interviewand give you tips to polish
your delivery. If you feel at all insecure, media coaching will
boost your confidence and you’ll sound much more relaxed during
that first interview.
Alex makes it sound easy, doesn’t he?
And it is – if you remember the three P’s: preparation, practice
Where does passion come in, you ask?
That’s how strongly you feel about your message. We tell our
clients to focus on what’s closest to their hearts when they’re
on the air and they’ll have no problem delivering their message,
or defending it.
Now that you’re ready for radio, get
out there and enjoy it. And, if you happen to get in an on-air
debate, remember, that’s entertainment!
Marsha Friedman is a 21-year veteran of the
public relations industry. She is the CEO of
a national firm that provides PR strategy
and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors
and professional firms.
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