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Radio is the Most Intimate Medium. Use It to Boost your Public Relations

Radio is the Most Intimate Medium. Use It to Boost your Public Relations Comedian Bob Newhart -- in his TV sitcom ages ago -- did what I consider to be the best routine ever about a hapless guy being interviewed on TV for the first time.

Before the interview, the female host assures him that he'll get softball questions about how he helps people as a psychiatrist. They joke around and make small talk before the show. But once the cameras are on, the interviewer fires off one blistering question after another, leaving Newhart confused, defensive, blushing and, finally, speechless.

It's hilarious when Newhart does it. Not so funny if it happens to you. Executives who want exposure on television -- but who have not had much experience in front of the camera -- should first consider landing a radio interview or two as a way to hone their voices and practice answering questions effectively live on the air. Radio should be part of your public relations activities.

There are two reasons. First, of course, radio is great exposure. Nothing has diminished the impact of radio as a means of delivering message. Particularly in drive time (radiospeak for "traffic jams), you have a captive audience.

Give them a reason to listen and they'll stick with you. Also, radio is an intimate medium that allows you to speak directly to the listener -- and paint a picture in their imagination about your issue, product or service -- with little distraction from visual images.

Second, it is a great way to build your media chops doing live, on-air interviews without the distractions of the television studio. They include lights, makeup, the stare of the camera, your posture and clothing, floor-manager signals and the need to appear rested and physically engaged -- even if it is 8 p.m. after a 12-hour workday.

Appearance counts for a lot on television. The way your clothing "reads" on camera, the size of the bags under your eyes, razor stubble, body language and the distractions of jewelry are a few pitfalls. And if you're like me, with a great face for radio, you'll especially welcome the opportunity to do an interview in shirtsleeves, late in the afternoon, and not worry that you look like Richard Nixon at the first televised presidential debate.

You should consider a few basic things before and during the interview:

Listen to the interviewer's program a few times before it's your day in the studio. Know the host's style -- and whether it is confrontational or supportive.

Call the interviewer to find out generally what kinds of questions you'll get.

Nail down your messages. Be prepared with three "must-say" messages, the things you will convey during the interview under any circumstances. Practice "bridging" to those messages.

Arrive a few minutes early so you are not running into the studio huffing and puffing. Get comfortable in the green room, practice your messages.

Relax. It will show in your voice at the interview.

Keep these guidelines in mind during the interview:

-- Radio provides a number of natural advantages for the interviewee. One of the most important is the freedom to look at detailed notes while on the air, something that would be a no-no on TV. Nothing takes the place of preparation -- knowing exactly what you want to say and having your key messages nailed down. But having notes in front of you -- as long as you don't read them verbatim -- ensures that you will not forget any of your key points.

-- Be interesting. Explain why what you have to say is of consequence to the listener. Use figures sparingly. Save the jargon and the reams of data for your next staff meeting.

-- Remember that the silence belongs to the interviewer, who will do whatever it takes to avoid "dead air." Listen carefully to the question, answer it succinctly and then shut up. Don't get trapped embellishing your answer unnecessarily -- or worse, boring the listeners by being windy -- just because the interviewer is silent for a few beats. This is much harder to do on television. When the interviewer is not talking, the camera is on you and, unless you're good at this stuff, you end up shifting around. Very awkward. Watch what anchors do before they go to commercial -- they just look straight into the camera and wait! Do the same.

-- If your schedule is tight, suggest a telephone interview. You can do a phoner from just about any quiet spot -- your home, office or hotel room on the road. Forget using the cell phone. Most radio programs will not let you use them because of the invariable poor reception.

Good luck!

About the Author:

Robert Deigh is president of RDC Communication/PR and author of the upcoming PR book "How Come No One Knows About Us?"(WBusinessBooks, May '08). For a free full chapter, "16 Ways to Come Up With Story Ideas That Will Attract Press," contact [email protected] www.rdccommunication.com

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