Categorized | Communication

Be a dream guest on talk radio

Your expert opinion can turn listeners into customers    

By Marsha Friedman    

The most difficult thing about being a public relations professional is correcting a client’s perceptions aboutRetro Microphone the field of PR itself. PR people are depicted in the movies as “spin doctors,” stretching the truth or lying outright to present their clients in the best possible light.

That characterization couldn’t be further from the truth, and not because the portrayals are exaggerated and phony, but rather, because they proceed from the false assumption that a PR agent’s work is just about “selling” his client. The truth is, public relations is a marketing tool that is most effective when it isn’t trying to sell anything. At the heart and soul of any good PR effort is the desire to provide the news media with a story worth telling, plain and simple.

The hard truth that a PR agency has to help clients understand is that journalists and TV news people and radio talk-show hosts don’t care about selling your book, your product, your story or your messages.

What they do care about is serving their readers, viewers, and listeners with information and entertainment that keep them tuned in and paying attention. The more eyes and ears that are focused on their shows and publications means more advertising dollars for those organizations. And that is the “bottom line” in those industries.

If you snag a spot on a talk radio show, the best way to have a successful interview, then, is to forget you are selling something and work your marketing efforts around the goal of being the perfect interviewee. (The same advice applies to being interviewed in print or on television.)

The key tactics to this strategy are:

• Don’t position yourself as an author or executive. Instead, position yourself as an expert in your topic or your industry. Don’t try to sell anything other than your depth of knowledge and your ability to help answer key questions about some aspect of your topic that may have been in the news recently. For instance, if you are a realtor, talk about escaping foreclosures. A stockbroker? Talk about how to manage your own portfolio. A plumber? Ways to conserve water.

Experts on just about any topic can look at the newspaper and find stories related to their expertise. Find that news story and shape your interview pitch around it, and include the fact that you have expertise in the field.

• Make the host your friend. Talk candidly and openly about your topic in relationship to the current events surrounding it, and engage the host. In a recent interview, Lee Habeeb, co-creator of The Laura Ingraham Show and media coach to many of today’s top talk radio hosts, said, “The most important audience is the host. If you can engage the host, you will have engaged his audience.

For example, the only reason most people gather around The Savage Nation is because they’re interested in what Michael Savage has to say and what he is interested in. So by proxy, you don’t have to worry about entertaining Michael’s audience; you simply have to engage and entertain Michael.”

• Don’t sell. Stay on topic during the interview and, when appropriate, mention the free material on your Web site that could benefit the host’s listeners. If you engage the host, give a great interview, and offer helpful information, you don’t have to worry about selling anything. The host will do it for you. He (or she) will make sure the audience knows you are an expert. He will give out your Web site; he’ll mention the name of your book; or he’ll talk about the value of your product. He’ll do the promotion for you.

• Have a Web site that does more than sell your product. If you are an author, provide free “tips articles” that explain your topic or your viewpoint in an informational manner. If you are selling a product, create free reports or articles for your site that lay out the problem your product solves— again, in an educational tone.

How does this help your business?

Simple. One of the primary points of sale for almost every industry today is the Internet. Your Web site is your virtual storefront or sales team, and companies pay big money for search engine marketing ads that are designed to drive traffic to your site. With your free report, you can drive radio listeners to your site in a noncommercial way that doesn’t lead them to believe you are selling anything. All it does is make you look smart.

The host, tired of people using their shows to promote themselves, appreciates you not sounding like an infomercial and even urges his loyal audience to visit your site. If you are really good, the host may even ask you back another time.

And you achieved all this simply by resisting the instinct to “sell,” and instead refocused your efforts toward helping the radio host offer listeners a good show!

Marsha Friedman is  the CEO of EMSI Public Relations ( She also hosts a national weekly radio talk show, The Family Round Table, and is author of the book, Celebritize Yourself. She can be contacted at

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