Chip MacGregor

November 24, 2014

ASK THE AGENT: How can I make radio interviews effective?


I recently had an author ask me about radio interviews. He’s working with a publishing house that has a great relationship with a couple of radio networks, and tends to push its authors to do a lot of talk radio. He wrote to ask me, “What advice would you offer a speaker who is suddenly being asked to do a bunch of radio interviews?”

I’ve got six principles to suggest…

First, learn to tell your stories briefly. Radio is fast-moving, and they aren’t going to let you tell a five-minute story. Listeners want stories, but they want them quick and to-the-point. So practice beforehand, and have several stories that illustrate your points to share with listeners.

Second, no matter what the host asks, tell your stories. Look, if you’ve done a book on “saving money to pay for your child’s college education,” you pretty much know what the host is going to ask. With every interview, the hosts are going to ask questions about two things: YOU and YOUR BOOK. So a lot of media trainers will give you this advice: Ignore the question and tell your story.

Third, don’t expect the host to have read your book. Either you or your publisher will have sent the host a series of seven to ten questions to ask in the interview. Some will just go down the list of questions. Others will take it and make it their own. But always remember this bit of advice: There are two kinds of hosts – those who haven’t read your book, and those who don’t know how to read. None of them will have actually read your book.

Fourth, be friendly, even if the host is a jerk. Some hosts like to spend all the time talking about themselves. Some want to be shock-jocks and challenge you. I once had a terrible experience with a very popular radio talk show host who wanted to keep arguing about Hillary Clinton, even though my book had almost nothing to do with her. If you watch a lot of Fox or MSNBC, you’ll find a lot of yelling… but that doesn’t work well on radio. People simply turn it off. If you want them to remember your book, be winsome.

Fifth, understand that most interviews are either 5 to 8 minutes, 11 to 15 minutes, or 24 to 30 minutes long. Find out which type of interview they’re scheduling, so that you can prepare. The short interviews just want a couple bang-up stories and ordering information. The medium sized interviews want some personal info added in. And the longer interviews want you to interact with the hosts.

Sixth, if you can set up your own radio blitz, by all means do so. You can start between 6 and 7 AM on the east coast, set up an interview every 15 to 30 minutes, and move west, where drive time ends between 9 and 10 Pacific time. That gives you a block of 6 to 7 hours you can fill, back to back. And you can do it again on the drive-home, starting at 4 PM on the east coast and going until 6:30 or 7 PM on the west coast. I once did that for three days straight, and got nearly a hundred short interviews for my book. (A radio booker charged me $600 to set this up.) It takes stamina (and a strong voice), but gets the word out fast and heavy.

If you’ve done a lot of radio interviews, what advice would you suggest to authors?

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  • Gary Neal Hansen says:

    If it is not the “Chip MacGregor Three Day Blitz” (amazing to consider) find the station’s live stream on the Internet so you know whether it is going to be thoughtful conversation, happy chatter, or shock-jock barrage.

    And say “Thank you”‘afterward, and express interest in coming back again. I’ve developed a nice relationship with one show’s hosts and was back on today for the fourth time or so.

    Fun to know Cec Murphey reads your blog!

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Yes, Gary. Good suggestion. Especially about saying “thank you” after. (And OF COURSE Cec reads my blog. So does Billy Graham. And the Pope. And the Dalai Lama, I think…)

  • Lynette Sowell says:

    I love doing radio! My first summer job was in radio.

    A few more tips, especially for those who get a little nervous (I still do!): Speak more slowly than you usually would. I don’t mean…to…drag…it…out. But if you’re nervous going onto the show to begin with, nerves can make someone speak faster — and more higher pitched than usual. So take your time. They’re not going anywhere and neither are you. Time will go quickly, so just go with the flow and don’t get frantic.

    Have some water handy and know how to disable call waiting etc. on your phone. Trust me, your throat WILL tickle and everyone WILL start calling the very SECOND you go live. Or within a few seconds.

  • Cec Murphey says:

    First, prepare 10-12 questions and send them to the person who is going to interview you along with the book and any other information. The host may not use the questions, but they are there. My experience is that good hosts usually start with one or two questions you send and then move into their own areas.
    Second, Prepare open-ended questions. Don’t ask questions that call for yes or no responses.
    Third, if the host asks an odd question or one you don’t think is significant, you can say, “That’s a good question, but first let me say. . .” then you say what you want. No hosts, even the cranky ones, have ever gone back to the original question for my interviews.
    Fourth, I want to shout an affirmation to Chip’s comment to tell brief stories. That becomes the heart of your interview AND it makes you a memorable guest.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      For those who don’t know, this would be Cecll Murphy, who has published about a hundred books, and sold millions of copies. The man knows what he is talking about. Thanks for the good suggestions, Cec!

  • Another tip: Have any website URLS or other detailed information written out in case you need to reference it. I was interviewed on radio about a magazine article I’d written but didn’t have the URL for the magazine. Now I’d be able to point them to a link from my own website, but at that point I didn’t have the reference info I needed in my head.

    Good tips!

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