Friday, 8 January 2016

Radio Interviews - The Do's and Don'ts

by Gillian Hamer

Up until a few weeks ago, the thought of sitting in a radio studio talking about my books, and even worse – myself – would have filled me with an ice-cold dread. But now, having my first local radio interview successfully tucked under my belt, I feel like a seasoned pro. 

However, I am glad that I took time to research radio interview advice online and discuss it with authors who had experience in the area. It helped me to prepare, control nerves, cut the waffle, focus on what was important and come across sincere, likeable and confident at the same time.

Of course, it very much depends on the style of the interview and format of the show. Some shows may have rigid question and answer guidelines. Whereas I was lucky to have a two-and-a-half-hour show to sit in on, with the first hour open to discussing my writing and my books, and the second hour more music led, with conversation about favourite tracks and links to the local area.

I came away happy and energised, ready to face any media-related challenge sent my way. And by collating my notes, I hope to pass on some helpful tips to authors who may find themselves in similar situations.

Gillian Hamer with host Rhys Mwyn at MonFM, Anglesey

Depending on the type of interview, much of the conversation is more than likely going to focus around whatever you are promoting at the time, eg your latest novel. Make sure you are in touch with the book, re-read it if necessary and think about selecting some quotes that you can use to highlight the story. Obviously you won’t want to give away every twist of the plot, but ensure the story is fresh in your mind and that you remember the name of your characters. Read segments aloud to ensure you’re happy with how they sound and that they show off your work in its best light. This has to be seen as a free advert for your writing, make sure you are polished to perfection and don’t mess it up!


Many of us hate the sound of our own voice, and not many of us have the natural skills to pull off a clear radio voice. Listen to some similar programmes beforehand, match the speed and timing of your voice against a professional, and try to match the rhythms that appeal to your own ear. Learn breathing techniques if you’re concerned that may be an issue. There are lots of tips online about voice techniques that may be worth a listen. If you have a list of questions in advance, practise the answers by reading aloud over and over until you’re happy not only with the responses, but happy with the sound of your own voice too! I would say that I found I needed to slow my talking right down, avoid repeating phrases, and try to inject a smile into your voice at the same time. Above all, be natural.


It may well be a good idea to research not only the interviewer but also the radio show. Do you know what slot you are expected to fill? Is the interview part of a series? Does the show have a target audience or message? If it is a literary based show, is it high-brow or relaxed? I’d suggest having a look at previous guests, read a bio of the show, download a podcast, or listen again online to a previous interview if available. Also, spend an hour researching the host of the show. Do you have any common ground that could be used to break the ice? Is there anything relevant in your books you could use as an opening topic? Any time spent on background work will doubtless pay dividends and no doubt it will be noticed and appreciated. 


One thing that worked well for me was the fact that I’d spent time and effort publicising the interview online via social media well in advance of the day. Not only did it get picked up by the radio station on Twitter and they began retweeting my links, I also had a personal thank you from the boss of the station who’d seen the pre-promotional work I’d put in. Not everyone is a Twitter professional, but remember that any publicity is good publicity in media circles, and if you link the right people, it’s not long before your single tweet can be seen by a huge audience. Choose a catchy hashtag and select local people who will spread the word. If you prefer Facebook, ask your friends to share your post with links and information about the interview, or join local based Facebook groups who will be able to tune in and promote your appearance there. It may even be worth paying for a Facebook ad to reach a wider audience.


Finally, despite all the background work, rehearsal time, and publicity … it’s vital to remember to relax and be yourself. Not only will it make the whole experience a lot more enjoyable, it will also help you come across well on the radio. Try to leave nerves in the car park and concentrate on staying calm and professional. If you’re tense, fake, forced or terrified, no one is going to sit and listen in their kitchens …. and you will have wasted a huge opportunity to get your name and your books out to a whole new audience of readers.

You can hear excerpts from Gillian's interview on MonFM via our media page HERE

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