How to do a radio interview for artists

This morning I had my first radio interview at CHSM1250 and MIX96.7 in Steinbach to promote my book signing and reading of Magic at the Museum tomorrow evening at the Jake Epp Library. These stations cover most of South-Eastern Manitoba and it was the morning show, which meant that hundreds of commuters would be listening is as they drove to work. I was incredibly nervous, but it ended up being more fun than I anticipated (and now I can't wait to do it again!).

A radio interview is like a conversation, but with legions of invisible people listening in. This is simultaneously comforting and unnerving; while you are recording it feels like there are only two people present, but rationally you know that there are many more silent participants in the exchange.

Interviews are excellent way of communicating your message or information about your products to the media. Marketing essentially means making people aware that a product exists and communicating its value and uniqueness to customers. The problem with promoting art over the radio is (obviously) that radio is an aural experience while art is visual. The best way to overcome this limitation is to paint word pictures to describe your work and use illustrative examples in your conversation. You want people to be able to visualize what you are talking about as they drive to work.

The interviewers Michelle Sawatzky and Corny Rempel made me feel immediately comfortable, so my nerves passed very quickly. However, no matter how comfortable you feel, it is still good to have a few guidelines to follow:

1. Have your talking points in front of you, concentrate on getting them across.

2. If it is live, find out how long it will be and how many commercial breaks or songs there are. Commercial breaks are great for planning the topics of the next segment with the interviewer.

3. Find out what kind of audience the show attracts, and pitch yourself appropriately.

4. Avoid talking fast (or too slow), and avoid saying too many ‘aahs’, ‘umms’ and ‘like, you-knows’. Avoid jargon. Annunciate, annunciate, annunciate.

5. Keep your voice even, warm and animated, you want the listeners to like you.

6. Radio stations are always on the lookout for good sound-bytes. See if you can record a promotional for the station saying something like, “Hi, I’m author Jane Heinrichs. Thanks for supporting the arts and listening to MIX96.7.” That way your name will frequently be heard, and you are also advertising the station. It is a win-win situation.

7. Always say thank-you to your host on air, and use his or her name.

8. Keep answers brief, but interesting. You don’t want your host going overtime.

9. Good interviews take practice, the best way to improve is through experience.

10. Send the producer or host a thank-you note afterwards.

Next time I would like to do a phone-in competition or giveaway to up viewer participation. Perhaps my next opportunity will be next summer when we do an official book launch at McNally Robinson Grant Park as well as several school visits and events.

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