Helpful Hints for Speaking on the Radio:
- Use a normal conversational tone of voice.
- Disconnect call waiting and other sources of background noise in your office.
- Turn the radio down (there is a short but confusing time delay).
- Have numbers for helpful resources (some callers will need a referral).
- Assume your audience is intelligent but with limited scientific knowledge.
- Keep in mind that the listeners are asking, “So what! Who cares! What’s in it for me”.
Of all the print and broadcast media, radio is the most ubiquitous and accessible. Cities that can barely support one daily newspaper may have as many as a dozen or more radio stations. No other medium lets you describe and promote your work to thousands of people while sitting at home in your pajamas. Producers at several hundred talk stations in the U.S. are constantly looking for compelling guests who have interesting information. They want to attract listeners and increase ratings. If you can package the story of your research in exciting, attention-getting language and tell people of benefits to them as a result of your work, then you can be an effective and sought-after radio talk show guest.
Radio time is available for public interest programming. Broadcasters voluntarily contribute the equivalent of $8 billion dollars worth of free air time for public service programming. It is estimated that everyday, more than 10,000 guests appear on approximately 6,000 radio talk or interview shows across America. Producers are always looking for interesting interview guests and most radio interviews are done by telephone, with no travel needed. Usually these programs are live, and include questions from call-in listeners. The talk radio audience is highly educated. Nearly half have graduated with a four-year college degree. In fact, research by the National Association of Broadcasters indicates that radio interview show listeners are 67% more likely to have a graduate degree than non-listeners.
It’s the producer rather than the host who books guests for these shows. An effective approach is to send the producer a copy of a book, article, or talk you have given or perhaps a news release or publicity piece that has been written about you or your work. Follow-up with a phone call. Keep an eye out for news of the day that may have some relationship to your work. Remember that these folks have a real challenge to fill daily air time with interesting guests. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to become an on-the-air expert.
Call-in Talk Radio
One of the primary fuels of the stubborn stigma surrounding alcohol and drug issues is erroneous folklore. And a major instrument of the spread of inaccurate, incomplete, or outdated information about addiction is the radio call-in show. The usual format is for the host to raise some controversial topic. Listeners are then invited to call in and share their opinions. It may seem undignified or even beneath the propriety of a research scientist to get involved in one of these dialogues. Yet a quick phone call to insert validated research into one of these confusing cross talks might just prevent further spread of incorrect or even harmful information.
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