Straight From The Producers Mouth:Don’t Take My Word For it!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sharing with you my personal experiences and observations about using radio as part of your media strategy for your clients, bosses etc. and helping you make your client a better candidate for air time. This week, I thought I would let you hear from my colleagues.

The nuts and bolts of pitching, contacting and getting interviews is all pretty standard fare, so this time I thought I would ask two very simple questions from three of the finest producers in the country:  “What do you look for in a guest on your program?” and “What makes one guest better than another?” You’ll find a common thread in their answers. I also have some of the most helpful hints from one of radio’s most respected producers that will certainly give you some headway when navigating your way on to the radio, TV and beyond.

Question One: What do you look for in a guest on your program?”

Katherine Kelly: (Producer, Sirius/XM’s Oprah Radio): I look for who is currently hot in the news of course – but I also try to look for someone that I would want to hear interviewed.  I try to put myself in the listeners’ seat and ask if I would be interested in what a certain guest would have to say.

Lisa Kosty: (Longtime morning show host, producer Lisa Dent and Ramblin’ Ray, US-99 Chicago): I look for people who are relevant in our culture, not necessarily people I admire. For example I hate Snooki, but EVERYONE is talking about her.  We also find local characters pretty amusing.

Melissa Bunting: Executive Producer “The Breakfast Show with MadDog and Maura,” Virgin Radio, Toronto. (Full disclosure: Melissa was my producer for five years; I consider her one of the best): Are they conversational? Not boring? Engaging? Do they freak out when the microphone is on? If they take questions from listeners, they need to know how to get in and out quickly while giving forth information. Nice voice, good rapport with people. Not negative sounding. Key words: current, relevant, conversational, engaging.

Question Two: “What makes one guest better than the other?”

Katherine: A guest who has something to say isn’t necessarily a guest who will say it.  Someone who will actually answer questions and give more information than you originally asked for is always primo as opposed to those that answer with one word.

Lisa: Often, what makes them better is how they are TODAY, which you can’t predict.  I have had some guests who were WONDERFUL in prior years, and now they just seem bored.  Vice versa is true as well…i.e. Keith Urban… it was hard to get him to open up.  Now that he’s in love and life is great, he’s an open book and he’s FUN.

Melissa: I think also you want feedback from people. If they appear on your show, and you get feedback from people who want to hear from them again, that’s positive. Is the topic relatable to the audience?

Key words: have something to say, fun, want to hear them again, relatable to the audience.

I was discussing the subject of what makes a good guest with Pete Herrick (“Yankee Pete” from the syndicated “Ace and T.J. Show” based in Charlotte). Pete is among the nation’s top five producers and I found his responses so important, I included them all verbatim.

1. Do research on the hosts that are interviewing you.  Read their bios, Google them, know something about them and find a unique trait that relates to your topic so you can engage them while you’re on the air with them.

2. Let the hosts sell your product.  It sounds like a commercial when you mention your show, book, website, etc.  The hosts are professionals, they’ll re-set you as a guest and they’ll do the selling for you.

3.  Communicate clearly with the producer(s) ahead of time. Ask if you can assist them with any teasing.  For example, “in 30 minutes, has this guy actually met bigfoot?”  “At this time tomorrow, we’re going to have the ONE thing that you need to be watching out for with your pre-teen daughter, and you’ll be shocked.”  Help the producer with a hook, even if it’s not the main topic of your interview.

4. Be on a land-line and don’t ever use a speaker-phone.  Sit up (lying down is a regular thing with guests who are up early to do east-coast phone tours).  Have a bottle of water handy in case you need it.

5. Don’t stress if the hosts go off topic. Encourage it.  Listeners are very familiar with the show, that’s why they listen, if they’re being funny or “random”, the listeners are engaged and will stick around.

6.  Know ahead of time if there are words/topics that are off-limits.  Not that you’re planning on cussing up a storm, but “pissed off” or “ass” or “bitch” are fine for some shows, but they’re cause for hitting the dump button on other shows…know the show that you’re guesting on.

7.  Keep your answers to 30 seconds or under. Make them compelling, and consider ending your answers with a question for the host to solicit a reaction or response from them.

I know this doesn’t answer all of your questions but is definitely gives you a clearer picture of what we media-types are looking for in a guest. As a parting thought, I’d like to share with you one outstanding testimonial on my previous assertion that radio should still be an important partner in your marketing plans.

John Weber: (Vice-President, Network Programs and Services, Premiere Radio Networks, New York.) John is the man responsible for booking and organizing hundreds of book and interview tours for radio:

“We do a lot of work with book publicists, and they tell me, across the board, NOTHING sells a book like radio.   When we do a radio tour with an author, attendance goes up at area book signings and there’s almost always a jump in sales on Amazon!  So one should never underestimate the impact of radio, especially major market stations!  Stations in all formats generally participate, so it’s not just news/talk, its morning shows of all flavors…”

Next time, I will give you some insight about a small piece of electronics that changed how we all execute media interviews forever. This is information that NO ONE in media coaching is warning you about. Knowing how to work with this monster will only benefit you and your clients!

Be Brilliant!

Skip Mahaffey in an award-winning broadcaster, Media Coach/Consultant and Author of Adventures With My Father: Childhood Recollections of Divorce, Dysfunction and the Summer of Love. Skip is available for consultation by calling 813-388-1035 or email:

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