How To Get Radio-Active PR For Your Non-Profit Cause: Part Three of Three


How does one stay calm, relaxed, and focused while being interviewed on the radio?

I've been both a guest and a host, and I've heard the nervousness in the voices of many callers, and seen it in the eyes of some first-time guests.

But I also know that it goes away with experience-even though that might be small comfort to newcomers who have the jitters. But until you have that experience, here are some tips for making the most of your time on the air.

Make the Media Your Friend

"One of the big problems is that people see the media as adversaries," says Joe Merica of the Merica, Burch and Dickerson public-relations firm in Las Vegas. "We tell our clients that the media are their friends. An interview is an opportunity to share your company's views with the public." It is just as much an opportunity for the nonprofit service provider. Seize the opportunity. Prepare for it. Let it work for you.

Breathe Deeply.

You have probably heard this advice a million times, but honestly, it works. Before going on the air, inhale a few times very deeply, close your eyes for a moment, roll your head slowly around and relax your muscles-let them fall limp for a moment. Then tell yourself that this is just a conversation with a host and perhaps a caller or two talk to them as friends, not as a demanding, judgmental audience.

And keep the big picture in mind: If you are going on the air to talk about a worthwhile philanthropy, that powerful purpose should give you a special confidence and keep your thoughts focused on what it is you want to get across. When you're thinking about how important your message is, you don't have as much time and energy to spend thinking that ought to be nervous.

Media consultant Peggy Klaus uses an interesting metaphor. She counsels her clients to think of the microphone as a fan of theirs. "I tell them to imagine someone they love and who loves them is sitting there just dying to get the information, she says. This helps elevate the enthusiasm in the voice."

Learn to Be Brief

"Radio obviously focuses very directly on what you say," says reporter Sharon Katchen with KFWB radio in Los Angeles. "Your words and the sound of your voice define you for the radio listener whereas appearances can be more central to the impression left with people watching you on television."

For this reason, one of the central pointers for radio interviews is learn to be brief and to the point. "Radio demands that you cut the fat out of your language," says Katchen. "Make it lean and lively-get in with a point quickly and get out, and on to the next point."

Learn to Use Sound Bites

Perhaps more difficult than simply being brief, the electronic media demand that be witty in what you say. There is a well, known phrase for this type of word-nimbleness: It's called talking in sound bites. These are phrases that encapsulate a big thought in a small, memorable kernel.

A politician who wants his budget plan to make a lasting impression doesn't say, "We're going to survey the appropriations schedule with an eye to increasing efficiencies, maximizing economies, and identifying and hopefully reducing areas of redundancy and overspending." He says, "We're going to perform liposuction on the budget."

Susan J. Douglas is a Hampshire College professor, media critic for The Progressive, and author of "Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media." She is also something of a master of sound-biting, an art that helps her promote her book and her feminist philosophy. Here are a few of her sound bites.

? Concerning the mega hit book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: "It sounds to me like a big apology for men not taking out the garbage-women have to try to understand men, they all came down from a spaceship."

? On the thin, waifish look that became popular for a time in modeling: "The image we're all supposed to conform to is that of a thirteen-year, old anorexic. I don't begrudge Kate Moss the chance to make some money, but go eat some pizzas. My God."

? Concerning her five-year-old daughter: "She's still angry that a girl didn't free Willy."

Learning to speak in this kind of colorful language is not easy for many people. The approach to take is to think how you can convey your message in shorthand, with a sassy zing. "You can be more discursive and detailed when you're doing a print interview," says Sharon Katchen, "Because there is room for more facts to be spread over the page, and the reader has time to ponder them. In contrast, quickness and brightness are the keys on radio."

Roger Ailes, chairman of Ailes Communications, Inc., and a communications consultant to corporations and their CEOs, illustrates the point by setting side by side several thoughts expressed in two ways: one way is deadly boring-the other, filled with life. Which would you rather hear?


A. The two leading ways to achieve success are improving upon existing technology and finding a means of evading a larger obligation.

B. To construct an amalgam, you have to be willing to split open its component parts.

c. Capital will not produce great pleasure, but it will remunerate a large research staff to examine the questions proposed for a solution.


A. "The two leading recipes for success are building a better mousetrap and finding a bigger loophole." EDGAR A. SCHOAFF

B. "To make an omelet, you have to be willing to break a few eggs." ROBERT PENN WARREN

C. "Money won't buy happiness but it will pay the salaries of a large research staff to study the problem." BILL VAUGHN

Tell Stories

Another key to radio savvy is to be able to tell your message in the form of a story. We all love stories; we all urged our parents to tell us stories when we were little, and the human urge to hear a good story never goes away. Struggling smaller charities often have great stories to tell, but just as often aren't getting their stories out on the modem electronic media.

Whenever possible, you should therefore seek to find a personal story to relate in your radio time. Keep your story short, but make it as moving and emotional as possible.


Here are final pointers for dealing with radio stations, adapted from the National Association of Broadcasters and the Defense Information School, as reported by Kenneth Jarvis, executive director of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

? Accept suggestions from any radio station people you deal with. Remember, they are experts in a field that is alien to you. Listen to what they say.

? Planning an appeal for funds or support? Check with the station first. Many have a policy against this type of program or broadcast. Also check your local statutes for the legal requirements for fund-raising. Many require that your organization be licensed before beginning a fund drive.

? Treat all stations fairly and equally. Do not favor one station, even if the others do not favor you.

? Respond cheerfully and completely to any station's request information, advice, or assistance.

? Keep a file of the "hot line" number for each station-a number that is to be used for providing news and giving telephone "beeper" reports. A beeper is so- called because of the beep sound required on all recorded telephone messages, including recordings made over the telephone for later replay over the air.

? The best people for you to know at radio or television stations are the public- service director, the program director or manager, and the news director. Whether you are trying to get time on a program, spot announcement, or hard news or feature story, the backing and support of the station manager is invaluable.

The program director (or public service director) in turn is ultimately responsible for finding a place in the broadcast day for such programs or announcements.

Accept the fact that no matter how important your chairperson or board thinks a particular story is, it must stand on its own merits-being newsworthy to the audience the station serves-and that decision rests with the news director.

Michael Levine is the founder of the prominent public relations firm Levine Communications Office, based in Los Angeles. He is the author of Guerrilla PR, 7 Life Lessons from Noah's Ark: How to Survive a Flood in Your Own Life. is a resource for people that want to get famous in the media, without going broke.

Do you need a provocative, dynamic, and memorable keynote speaker? Send an email to [email protected] to check on Michaels scheduling availability.

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