Pitching Big Radio Program Notes

First off, a big thank you to our panelists and everyone who made it out to our February event! We were glad to see such an awesome turnout! For those of you who couldn’t make it, here are some of the learnings from that night.

 

Panelists

DAN ZOLL
SENIOR EDITOR, FORUM with Michael Krasny

CASE CONOVER
PRODUCER, WEST COAST LIVE

LESLIE ROSSMAN
CO-FOUNDER, OPEN BOOK PUBLICITY

Notes takes by Karma Bennett

 

The program began with general tips from Leslie:

•    Know the show
◦    What is the show’s audience? For example, can they handle racy shows in the Bible Belt?
◦    If the email says “perfect for viewers” it’s clear you weren’t writing for radio.
◦    know the format. An hour of content won’t fit in a five minute segment.
•    When you call, don’t “just one more thing” the producer
•    Do: “When’s a good time?”
•    National shows: give full disclosure on other shows booked.

Why is Radio Essential?
Leslie: Post 9-11 people couldn’t get around, they needed radio.
•    Diminishing print opportunities “Radio is one constant I’ve seen.”
•    The publisher isn’t going to send the author on a ten-city tour, but you can do radio from anywhere.
•    Radio sells books

What do they look for in a guest?
Cass’s show runs from two hours on Saturday from 10am to noon on 50 stations, mostly (but not all) on the West Coast. It’s live in front of an audience. It’s a variety show: comedians, scientists and authors. They always have a book signing.
•    Started out with only guests from the West Coast or Pacific Rim. They’ve broadened their focus, but still feature more West Coast authors.
•    Often cover novelists, food policy, tech and interesting people
•    Look at author more than the book: do they have a spark, a personality?
Dan’s show is Monday through Friday from 9am to 11am. The range of guests is eclectic.
•    Krasney is a former lit professor.
•    He prefers in studio guests, either local or on tour
•    Don’t often do debut authors because it’s tought to get phone calls. Even Joyce Carol Oates won’t get many.
•    Current trends
•    Good talkers
•    Don’t call Michael “Kraz”! That’s your tip from Mike Tyson.

How do you train an author for an interview?
•    Leslie: she refers them to a professional media trainer. But having sat in on those sessions, here’s a few tips:
◦    Find three points about your book you want to make.
◦    Be an active participant “Nobody interviews a book, they interview a person.”
◦    Question you don’t care to answer? Honor the question, but redirect like a politician. “That’s an interesting question but what I really found was…”
◦    Have anecdotes prepared.

The specifics of pitching radio
Dan:prefers email. He gets 1,000 emails a week. Feel free to call but not DURING THE SHOW.
•    Can subject line “have something that conveys why it’s a good fit for Fourm.”
•    Link to video or reputable review as evidence of a good talker.
•    National talk lined up can hurt you, at least it’s not a selling point. If you have national radio lined up, pitch a new angle like a debate.
•    On top of under the radar trends: food, family, all the way to hard news.
Cass:
•    Email is preferred, though “sorry that I can’t respond to every email.”
•    Go ahead and send the galley.
•    Re: public speaking “You’ve been preparing your whole life”. He doesn’t like talking points, more like coffee chat. Because “you want the conversation to be more of a one-time event, not a spiel.”

How do you feel about self-published or author pitches?
•    Cass: “Fine. Love it when authors pitch; it’s totally cool.”
•    Dan: Also fine, but like galleys, not e-galleys.
•    Leslie: Great that they (Dan and Cass) do, but so many don’t because the publicist can be forthright about whether they’re right for the show.

The Bare Essentials
•    Cass: familiarity with the show: that it’s Saturday morning and live.
•    Have a specific date in mind.
•    It’s pretty obvious when they get mass email. Those can work but usually don’t.
•    Dan: review, links to places they’ve talked, a local connection
•    Dan: Regarding length, would rather have bullet points he can scan.
•    Are they even coming to SF? Looks for that in the subject or high up.
•    Also why it’s relevant to us or our audience.
•    Cass: agrees with Dan. Wants to know:
•    when book’s coming out, when appearance is pertinent
•    Send a hard copy or galley
•    Why is this book amazing? Show us how much you love it.
•    Dan is fine with attachments (but not attached to them) 😉
•    Cass feels the same.

General tips from Leslie
She’s a little unorthodox—she starts with the mailing. Lot of people she works with will even put books from her aside.
•    She emails “Heads up, this is on its way,” THEN follows up.
•    People don’t want to be emailed then called right away.
•    Third she sends relevant back up materials, like another reviewer validating her POV.
Memorable pitches
The guests felt that only bad pitches tended to be memorable, because the good pitches were simple and direct. Even the bad pitches were mundane.
•    Cass recalls a publicist who sent SEVEN copies of a book. There’s a time to let go.”
•    Dan recalls a dog who ate kids Halloween candy—this has nothing to do with his show.

All about the dibbing system
Leslie explains: It’s the system by which national DC shows choose their guests. They dib so two programs aren’t doing the same feature.
•    NOT in the system: Fresh Air, Here and Now, WBUR’s On POint, Diane Rheme, Kojo
•    In the dibbing system: Tell Me More, Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation, Weekend Edition, All Things Considered
•    If the main dibber drags their feet too long, a coveted guest could get hosed. If that happens, repitch it. Then they will talk to their colleagues.
•    It’s trickier if someone dibs from the system and it’s also wanted by a non-dibber (e.g. Fresh Air) compete.

Radio Producers: Q&A from Audience
Where do you find experts for news stuff?
•    Dan: They keep a database of all past people who’ve been on the show.
•    Rely on Universities
•    Never deletes an email
•    Talk to the newsroom

How can a good talker convey that they’d be different than other shows they have booked in two weeks? Also, when to know if you’re talking too much.
•    Cass: On his show, the host will just cut you off.
•    Leslie: A great host will take back the show when they need to. “It’s so much worse if the responses are canned. Better to talk too much if it’s not so practiced and rehearsed that there’s nothing fresh.”
•    Cass agrees: best when it’s a conversation.
•    Dan: “I coach people to keep answers short.” Going on and on annoys his host. Eye contact is good. “Paul Krugman stared at the wall the whole time.” You can ask the hose how you did. “Getting a call back [to come on the show] is a good sign that you did OK.”

Is it OK to repitch?
•    Dan: “Don’t assume if you didn’t hear from us that we didn’t consider it.”
•    Cass: “Coming around again is fine, after that not so much.”

Lead time:
•    Dan: The 9am slot books sooner, though they do get last minute guests, especially if it’s news-y. The 10am slot usually books about a month in advance.
•    Cass: six month or 6-8 weeks, beyond that is too much. People get sick at the last minute so last-minute bookings do happen. Two months is ideal.

How best to pitch a comprehensive new age title with lots of content?
•    Cass: If there’s material online of interview to support reviews.
•    No radio/TV experience? Get someone to interview him on his site.
•    Dan: They don’t do much on that but Krasney does like that topic.

How to pitch a sexy/racy story, or what’s too sexy for your show?
•    Dan: Ours is a morning show so they have FCC requirements. Though Krasney doesn’t mind, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
•    Cass: here’s a good example where media training really helps. They had a show on breasts recently.