Next steps: promoting your practice on the radio

Have you thought about promoting your practice on the local radio? There are lots of chances to mention eyecare, particularly if you can contact the radio station with a topical link. Read on to find out more.

Start by looking for a reason to contact the radio station. This could be a national awareness event such as National Eye Health Week or a global one, like World Sight Day. Alternatively, you could drop your local station an email mentioning that you could offer tips for parents in the run up to back to school time, or advice on how to stay eye-safe around fireworks.

Make sure your topic is timely: radio stations only plan a short way ahead so you could get in touch a week in advance. Choose a show where you know that they feature local news and experts, and find the email of a named contact: the producer is often the best target. Email them outlining why the station should cover this topic and how you could help the listeners. Don’t include attachments: presenters and producers get inundated with emails so they won’t open them. Follow up with a phone call, but avoid calling at ‘five minutes to’ the hour as that’s when they’ll be running their news bulletins.

Most stations won’t book interviews until the day before, so there may be very little time to prepare. When approaching stations it is always worth thinking in advance about what you might say. Jo Sutherland MCIPR is an Account Director at Magenta Associates PR. She says, “Practice some questions and answers in advance.” It isn’t hard to work out the likely questions, based on your initial written approach. Practice ensures that you get your main messages across: pick three main messages, no more. One of these should be a ‘call to action’ – what people can do if they want to find out more, for example. If you prepare by writing down your answers, try not to read from your notes during interviews as presenters will prefer you to speak naturally.”

According to Jo Sutherland, “There are two main types of radio interviews, Live and Pre-Recorded. Live interviews tend to be more conversational and free flowing, whereas Pre-Recorded interviews are recorded by the presenter or newsreader and are typically shorter where they are fishing for sound bites to be used in the news bulletins. If it’s a pre-recorded interview, don’t be afraid to start again if you say the wrong thing.”

Once you know what station you are speaking on, Sutherland advises, “Talk in terms of the station’s audience and location. Radio stations require a certain amount of local content to meet OfCom obligations, and if you talk about your story in relation to their audience and name check their region, city, towns etc, they will want to talk to you more.” This could mean taking national data on the number of people at risk of an eye disease, for example, and applying that to your local population. Do your research in advance and these sort of facts can be included in your initial contact to increase the chance that the radio station will see your story as relevant and local.

If you worry that you will be asked something off topic, Jo Sutherland suggests: “Be assertive. If the interviewer asks something you don’t want to answer or can’t answer, steer the answer to what you want to talk about e.g. ‘That is an important issue, and what I’d particularly like to stress is that…’” She adds, “Be aware that the interviewers are there to talk about the story in relation to their audience and not there to advertise your company. This is especially true on BBC stations and it’s important that you make any product or brand mentions as unobtrusive as possible.

“The best chance to talk about your company will usually arise during the latter questions, which concentrate on the ‘solution’. Use these opportunities but don’t be over-commercial, or it is likely to be edited out. Prepare a concise ‘sound bite’ [a short catchy sentence] and make it relevant to the solution of the problem to help you wrap up your interview. Avoid using telephone numbers and mention a website address, without the ‘www’, when prompted by the radio presenter in questions like, ‘Where can we find out more information?’”

Finally, Jo advises, “Relax and be yourself. Enjoy the experience and don’t get too worked up.” It’s a good plan not to concentrate too hard on the fact that you are speaking on radio. Jo continues, “Think of it as a phone conversation with just one person and you’ll do much better. Regional presenters are not Jeremy Paxman they are just looking for a local angle on your story.” So, if you speak to the host as you would to a friendly, but uninformed, stranger you meet at a cocktail party or sat next to on a plane, you’ll be fine. If you can genuinely interest the host in your topic, you will also interest the audience.