Have Something To Promote? How To Approach Traditional Media (Part 1)

If you are an entrepreneur chances are you have something you desperately want the world to know about. Your job is to do the best you can with promotion, wrapping yourself in tinfoil so to speak, holding up a 9 iron in the middle of a lightning storm and hoping your idea gets struck by a bolt of electricity. If you are like me, you don’t have a venture capitalist to fund your next advertising campaign, so you need to get creative. Traditional media (television, radio, magazines and newspapers) can be the small entrepreneur’s friend, but you have to know what to do and what not to do when it comes to promoting yourself or your product.

I spent many years as a radio host for recognizable radio brands like KISSFM and I received a mountain of promotional materials every week. I would get CD’s, emails from local bands, books with press releases, Facebook messages from new businesses, emails from big businesses and free food delivered to the studio from local restaurants or new ventures. All of them were looking for mentions or interviews on the air. I learned, from the hosts point of view, what I liked, what I would toss in the bin immediately and worst of all, what annoyed me. I also spent time (very brief) on television and as a travel journalist I put a good amount of time into looking for interesting things to feature on the show.

Having just published a new book I have been spending time promoting the project, not with a broad sweep of press releases, but with surgical precision. This saves me, a small publisher, the most precious commodity of all, time. Over the past few months, I have landed mentions in USA Today, Deseret News National, 850 KOA in Denver, Day Break USA (Nationally Syndicated Radio Show) and more. So how do you land interviews and when you do, how do you interview well? A good interview means the host liked you, you see a spike in sales or inquiries and in the future the host/journalist may remember you when they are thinking about writing or talking about your subject again. You are indeed the expert on X so if you nail the first interview you may be asked back.

RADIO – How To Land An Interview and Excel:

  • Who to Contact: Typically a radio station has DJ’s (the people you hear talking on the air) and promotions/marketing staff. So who are you supposed to contact? Your best bet is to contact a jock AND promotions staff. Your message and approach will however be different.
    • DJ’s – When you go on a radio station’s website you will typically see 4 time shifts listed and the jocks that host those shows. Your best bet is to contact the morning show only (usually 5 am – 10 am). Why? Because they are the most likely to interview you on air. They have more time to talk and consequently more time to fill. The other shifts (midday 10 am – 3 pm), afternoon (4 pm – 7 pm) and night (7 – midnight) normally feature music and therefore are not going to pause Lady Gaga to chat with you about your new book or business. Talk radio can be different so feel free to contact the morning and afternoon show hosts. It is also likely that most shifts that are not morning shows, are not local hosts. They are voice tracked (recorded and sent from a city far away from where the radio station is actually broadcasting). Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if a show is local so start in your home town and state and google the jocks name. If they show up in other cities, they may be voice tracked.
    • Promotions Staff – The person you are looking for normally has the job title of promotions director. If you have a prize, contest or event you would like the station to promote then this is the person to contact. I am sure you have heard a station giving away concert tickets before right? This is the result of a record label contacting the promotions staff to give away free tickets in exchange for mentions on the air. Simply contact the promotions staff with your prize idea and wait for a reply. The promotions director information is usually easy to find on a radio station’s website. The bigger the prize the more likely you are to get on the air. The prize also should fit the radio station’s demographic. As a morning show host and afternoon drive host I gave away things like corn maze tours, movie tickets, concert tickets, free spa days, trips to Mexico and even cars. By the way, giving away a book is not normally a good fit for this. The value is simply too low. If you are promoting a book your best bet is to contact a DJ (see below).
  • The Pitch, Getting On Air Mentions and Nailing the Interview 
    • Best Way to Contact a DJ: Email or contact form on the website. Most DJ’s read every single email that they receive (I know I certainly did) so if you give them the right message, they will read it, and reply. In bigger cities you may only be able to find contact information for the producer of the show which can also be helpful. If you convince the producer you should be on air, you are golden.
    • Best Way to Annoy a DJ: Never call the request line and pitch a dj. Never show up in person either. During their shift they are busy fielding phone calls from listeners who are requesting songs, or commenting on a specific topic that the show is currently talking about. One acceptation is if you call on a topic that you are an expert on, then plug your business very briefly. For example you hear a DJ on the radio talking about the horrible wildfires in the area, and they solicit phone calls, have you had experience with a fire? What precautions are you taking to protect your home? Call 888-XXX-XXXX now! You happen to own a landscaping business and call up the show to offer official advice about how landscaping can protect your home. You will probably get to plug the name of your business.
    • What to Say or How to Pitch a DJ and Land Air Time: Let’s journey into the mind of a morning show radio host. They are constantly looking for content and topics that they think will be interesting to their demographic or audience. Your job is to email a great CONTENT idea for the jock. Think about how your product and a radio topic would be interesting to that DJ’s audience, then make your pitch. The email should be short and sweet and get right to the point. They don’t care how hard you have worked, about special sales, and on and on and on. Your email should be no more than a few paragraphs and after your signature, provide links to your business/blog/book etc … They care about the content and why it will be interesting to their audience and NOTHING ELSE. I loved it when I received a book in the mail with a concise press release and sample interview questions. These questions gave me a great idea of what the interview would look like and if it fit my audience.
    • Example: What does a good pitch look like? I will use KISSFM for example. This radio station’s demographic is 18 – 34 year old females. The music caters to this audience and the morning show topics cater to this audience. So doing a bit of research before hand to match your product’s demographic to the station’s demographic can be a great start. Every Halloween I wanted to create a haunted type of theme for my morning show. About a month before Halloween I received an email from a psychic who had a new book. She offered to give my listeners free psychic readings over the phone. She did not directly ask me to promote her book which is key. Don’t annoy someone you don’t know by asking them directly to promote you. This is a sort of unwritten rule that you should follow. I thought it was a great idea and replied to her email asking her to be a guest on my show. The listeners loved it. My phones blew up. They did not stop ringing and all 10 of my phone lines were full for hours. She was good. She made people cry by relaying messages from their dead relatives, live on the air, which I loved. It was great content and kept my listeners engaged. My job was to get ratings, and this was good. She not only got a book mention from me every time I introduced her (I wanted my audience to know she was an expert and a book legitimized her) but she told me in a thank you email that she had quadrupled her business from listeners who got her information from the show and called for a later reading, which they of course had to pay for. Guess who I called every Halloween after that? She got 3 years worth of free advertising and I got great content that my listeners looked forward to.
    • Think about your product and how that product can make great content for a DJ. Do you have a small batch tea company? During cold season pitch an interview about how to get rid of a cold quickly. Do you sell mattresses? Pitch an interview about the 10 commandments of getting a good nights sleep. Do make jam? During the fall pitch an idea (to a radio station with an older demographic) about how to preserve popular local garden veggies/fruits and make jam. I hope this gets your mind moving in the right direction.
    • Nailing The Interview: So you have landed an interview. Congratulations! You have made it this far and the day of your radio debut is near. You must be nervous. What should you expect? Most interviews will be recorded so rest assured that if you cough, sneeze, or stumble the producer or jock will be able to edit that out. However, some interviews will be live so you need to be ready. You may be on the air for 3 minutes, or 10. If you included suggested or sample interview questions in your pitch, practice the answers out loud to yourself. Your goal is to be concise, to the point and entertaining. Don’t ramble and don’t give single word answers. Try to sound friendly. I do this by always making sure I am smiling while I talk. This is a trick radio personalities use to make them sound excited and nice. Simply smile before speaking. Normally the jock will give you a chance to promote your book/product/business at the end of the interview by asking, so where can we find out more? Have the answer ready. Most of the time they will simply plug it for you and say thank you for joining us. It is always nice to send a thank you email to the producer and/or jock after the interview, simply thanking them for having you on.


Step 1: Target Radio Stations You Think Your Customers Love
Step 2: Draft Your Pitch With Great Content Ideas. Remember Content Is What Matters. What is the Entertainment Value of Your Pitch?
Step 3: Email DJ’s and/or the Promotions Director
Step 4: Nail Your Interview
Step 5: Repeat

We will talk about TV and Newspapers in Part 2 which I will post next week. Want to be notified? Subscribe to the blog.


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