Riding the Airwaves
Do you want to raise awareness of a product, service or issue, but lack the deep pockets required for a nationwide advertising campaign? Or perhaps you're looking for the kind of credibility advertising can't buy. By conducting your own PR radio tour, you can win the publicity you need, generate millions of gross impressions to promote your business and even establish yourself as an expert in your field. Just follow these six steps:
1. Set a PR goal. What do you want to achieve with your radio tour? Suppose your firm specialized in diagnosing and treating "sick buildings." Your goal would be to become recognized as a national expert on remedying indoor air pollution. Or imagine that you've created a child recovery program that helps ensure the safe return of lost children. You could present important safety tips on the radio with the goal of raising awareness of your program among parents.
2. Target the right media. Simply choose the right format (generally news and information rather than music) and geographical region. You can pitch your story to just the stations in your local area, to those in the top 25 markets, or to networks that allow you to reach numerous markets. Decide exactly whom you're trying to reach, and then find the best stations by using sites such as www.radio-locator.com, where you can search by format. Visit each station's website to identify which shows to pitch, and contact them by phone to get the names of the producers and find out whether they prefer to receive alerts by fax or e-mail.
3. Develop your message. The trick to pitching and delivering a great radio interview is to focus on information the listeners really want. To create an effective media hook, lead with statistics or facts that make your story newsworthy or of special interest. Your top priority is to provide information that benefits listeners while weaving in your own principal PR themes. For a successful radio tour that consistently communicates your key themes and messages, write a short, one-paragraph message platform--in essence, a rough script. In addition, prepare answers to typical questions, and have someone test you until your delivery is smooth and conversational.
4. Write a media alert. Like a press release, an alert has contact information at the top and a headline based on your hook that draws the producers and radio show hosts into your story. These are followed by one or two paragraphs that explain the issue or topic and why it's important. Finally, the alert introduces you (the expert) with a short overview of your credentials and announces your availability for interviews.
5. Pitch the stations. If you or someone on your staff is skilled at making sales calls, you'll find that securing bookings for radio appearances isn't much different. You can send your alert by fax or e-mail, depending on what each producer prefers. But send only as many at once as you can comfortably follow up on by telephone within 24 hours. When you call, focus on your hook--explain why the issue or topic is of special interest--and close for an interview.
6. Deliver great interviews. This is the easy part. Most interviewers will draw all their questions from your alert and any substantiating materials you send them. And no matter what you're asked, you should always be able to bridge back to the central points in your platform. Bridging describes giving an answer that links one subject to another. Since most interviews are taped and then edited for broadcast, keeping your answers short and concise will help ensure that your key messages survive intact and that you successfully achieve your PR goal.