Despite what you may have heard, radio isn’t dead.
The listenership of radio is surprisingly large. A 2019 Nielsen study found that 92% of adults listen to the radio every week. That’s a farther reach than any other platform, including TV, smartphones, and PCs.
On top of that, listeners are extremely loyal. They put their trust in their beloved radio hosts. That means that if you can get a host’s endorsement, you have a good chance of getting the audience’s attention.
Plus, local radio is still a great way to reach specific regional audiences.
We always tell Authors that when it comes to publishing a book, the riches are in the niches. The same goes for your book marketing efforts. The more directly you can speak to your ideal audience, the more effective your public relations efforts will be.
Publicity-wise, radio interviews can be an Author’s best friend. But I should point out: not all radio is NPR. When people think of radio interviews, their minds often go to a full NPR interview.
If you can get that, great. But it’s not necessary. Sometimes, getting a 2-minute segment on a local radio station can move the needle a lot more.
Whether you’re trying to get that 2-minutes of air time or you’re ultimately shooting for All Things Considered, this step-by-step guide will tell you what you need to know about getting a radio interview.
9 Steps to Getting a Radio Interview
1. Check Your Sound Quality
The first rule of radio is that you need good sound quality. Audiences don’t want to listen to staticky interviews with white noise or a shaky connection.
I’m putting this step first because if you don’t have a way to get good sound quality, there’s no point in pursuing radio shows.
Radio interviews are often conducted over a phone call. And radio producers often require a landline because that’s the most consistent way to guarantee stable sound quality.
Always ask the producer about their requirements beforehand. Don’t assume that you can use your cell phone or WiFi for radio interviews. Make sure you have access to a reliable phone line, or you’ll come across as unprofessional.
2. Find Your Audience
Is pursuing radio worth your time? The answer comes down to audience, audience, audience.
Think through who your target audience is. How are they consuming media, and where do they get their information?
Radio is great for issues or topics with broad interest. And local radio is a great option if your business is local.
But there are some circumstances where pursuing radio air time isn’t worth the time and effort.
For example, if you wrote a book for dentists, you’d be better off trying to book an interview in an industry magazine or on a podcast aimed at dentists. It’s highly unlikely that the thousands of listeners tuning in to any given radio program will care about dentistry at such a deep level. In this case, radio isn’t the best way to gain exposure within your professional field.
If you want to know more about a radio station’s listener demographics, you can look at the information they provide to potential advertisers. This will give you a solid sense of who’s actually listening and whether it’s worth your time.
3. Create a Winning Pitch
That’s also what you need to figure out in order to create a winning pitch. Why will this radio show’s listeners care about your ideas? And more importantly, what will they take away from the information you give them?
A winning pitch always includes something actionable for the listening audience. You should always be clear about what information you’ll provide listeners that they can apply to their own lives.
Also, I want to emphasize something important. Earlier, I said, “Why will listeners care about your ideas?” Notice, I didn’t say, “Why will they care about your book?”
Unless you’re specifically pitching a radio program about books, your pitch isn’t about your book. It’s about you, your ideas, and what you have to offer.
Your book gives you credibility, but it shouldn’t be the center of your pitch. Radio producers are looking for editorial content, not advertorial content. If it seems like you’re just looking to sell your book, instead of giving listeners valuable information, you’re not going to get booked.
If possible, you should also stress the timeliness of your pitch. Radio doesn’t have to be as timely as TV, but relevance will still help you sell a talk show host or radio producer on your ideas. Even if your book is evergreen content, pitching around a timely topic will give you a wider reach and appeal to more shows.
Keep that in mind as you research individual shows you want to appear on. Think about how your content can align with their current needs.
In your pitch, you can mention that you have audio clips, but don’t send any with your initial pitch. If they’re interested in having you come on the show, they’ll reach out for more information.
Radio stations tend to be pretty traditional. Keep that in mind when you’re drafting your pitch and corresponding with producers. This isn’t the place for your most controversial, cutting-edge material.
4. Consider Drafting a Press Release
Because radio tends to be a bit more “old school” or traditional in its approach, consider sending a press release with your pitch.
Press releases are brief documents that cover the most important aspects of your ideas. The purpose of a press release is to convince someone that you’re worth air time.
Journalists, hosts, and producers often use press releases as the basis for their coverage. That means it should be catchy and interesting. This isn’t the place for a humdrum summary.
The release should focus on the following points:
- The news angle (What makes the topic worthy of air time?)
- A brief description, including any notable endorsements
- A short Author bio
- Contact information, including your Author website, LinkedIn profile, and a link to buy the book
- A call to action (What do you want to happen after someone reads your press release? Do you want a full segment on the show? A brief mention? A sound bite?)
Write the press release specifically with radio stations in mind. Include it in your initial outreach.
You can find more information on how to write a press release here.
5. Put Together Your Media Kit
The first step of reaching out to a radio station is sending your pitch and press release.
If they express interest and reach out to you, you should be prepared to send them a full media kit. Don’t send this with your initial outreach.
A media kit is a collection of resources the media might want to use in preparing for an interview, promoting your book, coming up with interesting questions to ask you, or sharing your upcoming appearance on social media.
- your book cover
- Author photos
- a pdf of your book
- a “key ideas” doc
- the book description and basic info about the book (e.g., ISBN, publisher, page count, etc.)
- your Author bio
- sample social media posts
- audio clips from your previous media appearances that convey how good you are in an audio format (Don’t just link them. Provide 15-20 second clips to download.)
- a video trailer (optional)
- a pronunciation file for your name (optional)
For more information, see our post on building a media kit.
6. Start with Local Radio
Even if your ultimate radio goal is an NPR interview, you probably want to start small and work your way toward that.
A really compelling pitch might work right off the bat, but your chances are slim.
Start with local radio, build your media kit, and get comfortable speaking on-air. Research local stations, hosts, and programs that might be a good fit for your topic.
NPR has local stations all over the place, so those may be a better place to start than pitching Terry Gross or Ira Glass for your first interview.
7. Look at Satellite Radio and Other Alternatives
Don’t just limit yourself to regular radio outlets. Also look into satellite radio options, like Sirius radio programs.
These tend to serve niche audiences, so you should do your research to find the right fit. That’s especially true if your message or pitch isn’t intended for the masses.
Also, don’t rule out podcasts. Podcast interviews tend to be longer, running anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
Appearing on a small podcast can be a good way to prove yourself and get some great audio clips so you can pitch larger outlets. You can find our guide to landing podcast interviews here.
It’s worth noting that the line between radio and podcasts is starting to blur. For example, you can listen to NPR’s All Things Considered on the radio, but you can also download it as a podcast.
Your local NPR stations may have podcasts, too, so put in a little research to see which programs are offered via podcast. Hybrid podcast/radio appearances are a great way to reach an extended audience.
8. Find the Right Contacts
Once you know where you’re pitching, finding the right contacts shouldn’t be too difficult.
You’re not going to go through the radio host directly. Instead, you’re looking for the radio show’s producers.
Radio producer email addresses tend to be publicly available because a large part of their job is vetting pitches to be on the show. A good place to start is the website of the radio station or the radio show you want to be featured on. If you can’t find the information you need there, you may want to check LinkedIn.
If you still feel like you need tips for making yourself stand out to a producer, you can find out more about outreach in this post.
9. Consider Buying a Radio Tour Package
Some public relations agencies offer radio interview tours. These consist of 15-20 interviews with local affiliates, recorded back-to-back.
These are paid opportunities, and they can be expensive ($5,000 or more).
Before you seek these opportunities out, consider whether these kinds of appearances will help you reach the right audience and meet your larger goals.
How valuable is radio to you? How many new leads are you likely to get? And how much are those leads worth to you?
If you decide to proceed, be forewarned. Your pitch still has to be compelling. Even when you’re buying radio spots, you won’t generate any interest if you have a bad pitch.
One option for Authors looking for a radio tour package is 4 Media Group. They also offer satellite media tours. Their pricing is based on the number of interviews you book.