What if you could talk your way to new customers, enhance your credibility and add value for your current clients—all for less money? Hello, talk radio. If you have the gift of gab and can hone it to the talk radio market, you may have found a niche that will set your business on fire.
Your options are many, particularly if you have an established relationship with the media. If you aren’t already consistently sending press releases to radio stations and other local news media, start! Keep current on research and tie it to your local programs and services. There is never a time when people aren’t thinking about fitness. If you provide a consistent and reliable stream of newsworthy information to the media and their listeners, odds are that eventually your phone will ring.
What better way to reach (potentially) thousands of people you otherwise would never have met? It’s a nonthreatening way for a new audience to get to know you and gain information about what you do. Yes, social networking is the rage and a YouTube video can do some of the same. The difference is that talk radio is a live, informal conversation with your audience. It features your warmth and personality through voice.
Are you ready to commit more time and energy to exposure in your local market? Consider proposing a weekly show of short duration. Set yourself up as the guest expert, host or co-host with a radio personality who will staff the controls and help you with smooth transitions, wrap-ups and commercial breaks. A 30-minute show is a good start. You’ll leave listeners wanting more, as opposed to having to search for content to fill a longer amount of time.
Create a proposal for the station manager that follows the outline of a book proposal. Write it in the third person and be detail-oriented. Remember, you’re showing that manager what kind of a guest, co-host or host you’ll be! As you write, think of the questions you’ll need to answer: Does the show make sense to the station manager? Will it make money? Will it generate interested advertisers to offset airtime costs? Will it add value and increase listenership? Think of the station manager, as well as the listeners, as potential clients. Show them the benefits of the service. Describe thoroughly the reasons why your proposal is timely, unique and a good fit for the station.
Overview. Describe the show and audience. Tell how you’ll solve a problem that listeners have. Provide national and local statistics. Write about the show in real time: “Inside Fitness will provide current health news information and give the listener practical, useful tips. Each weekly 30-minute spot will feature a guest interview to highlight the key points and bring the topic to life from a personal viewpoint. The guests will include local experts, clients offering testimonials, and event spokespersons.”
Why You? This is a chance to blow your horn. Let the station manager see clearly why no one else can match what you have to offer. Play up your strengths. Don’t worry if you don’t have as much professional experience as someone else. If you have unique insights into the fitness industry, unique ties with the medical community or recognition as a local expert, include examples of these. Address your ability to write and talk. Show your track record. If you have experience in front of the microphone or a live camera, this is where you mention it.
Competition. Know what choices local listeners already have. Is there another station doing what you want to do? If so, how are you different? Is there anything remotely similar to what you propose? Make sure you’ve done your homework and are familiar with any sister stations owned by the same company. Seek out information from websites and then make some calls to the stations. An assistant or intern at the station may be able to bring you up to speed about sister stations or whether your program content overlaps with existing shows.
Marketing. Research the demographics. If you are an advertiser with the station, you should already have this information or be able to access it through your ad representative. Note that if you pitch your proposal to multiple stations, it needs to be customized for each. Take the time to make the changes; you can’t create “one size fits all.” This is personal too!
Promotion. Address how you will help promote the show. Will you use e-mail, business cards, brochures and sales mailers to invite people to tune in to your program? Will you list the show on your website or as a crawl (a scrolling advertisement across the screen) on your TV commercial? Will you offer to do live shows from your club or studio? Will you provide banners on the outside or inside of your facility? How about any direct mail piece you send? The more exposure and promotion you provide, the more appealing your proposal becomes. List the number of clients you have, as they are potentially the most dedicated listeners you’ll have.
Outline. If you’re proposing a weekly show, include 3 months’ worth of topics and guests. Describe each topic and its slant, as well as the credentials or background of the corresponding guest. For a minimum of one show, script the introduction, related background to be covered, key points you want to bring out and a list of questions for that show. Similar to including at least one full chapter of a book proposal, this allows the station manager to see how you will prepare, what your format and plan for the show are—and that you have thoroughly thought about your project.
Resumé. Complete the proposal by attaching your resumé, even though you’ve already described your qualifications and the reasons why you are the perfect match for this project.
Send or hand-deliver the proposal directly to the station manager. If you have a friend at the station or a co-host in mind, make sure that person is on board and will go to bat for you. Follow up within 2 or 3 days and request a meeting to discuss the benefits and details. Continue to call until you get a response. Remember, you’re always talking to a potential customer. Don’t take a lack of response for an answer!
Once you’re ready to negotiate, anything goes. Be willing to start as a guest for a single show or series pilot. Your exposure will be invaluable. Create an agreement between you and the radio station right from the beginning, no matter how you proceed. Approach your show idea like any business deal. That said, don’t hesitate to emphasize to the station manager that, in addition to the business reasons, it’s also the right thing to do. Our nation needs health solutions. People need to hear your solutions!
Please scroll to the top of this page to hear talk radio tips in action! Listen to four clips of author Debra Atkinson interviewing former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack regarding fitness.
Create a more interesting proposal by considering a particular angle. For example, approach a quarter or an entire year with an “exercise and medicine” twist. Feature an expert from the medical community each week, and go over exercises specifically geared toward prevention or treatment of a different chronic disease. Or tie each month into a theme—resolutions and behavior-change for January, heart health for February, breast and other cancer coverage for October, etc. Check Chase’s Calendar of Events (holiday/special event reference calendar) for days or months for some lesser-known events.
With radio, guests can phone from anywhere. Keeping time zones in mind, the show could be either live or pretaped. Is there a topic you can cover that’s recently been in the spotlight due to a bestseller? Contact the book’s author. If your market is big enough, you could get the author on the show. Then notify local bookstores to ensure that they have copies in stock so you can send listeners to those stores.
If the radio station can’t feasibly add your show to their slate, examine your advertising budget and consider allocating some of those dollars toward buying radio time—something like an infomercial. Or work a deal to trade radio time for staff memberships or services at your business. Put on your negotiating hat and look for solutions. You could pay the station to air your show, then turn around and sell the ad time that runs during your show to compatible, noncompeting vendors. Shoe stores, massage therapists, spas and salons that you already do referral business with might love to advertise in these spots, targeting their customer demographic. Offer to have them on as expert guests, or broadcast live from their stores to sweeten the pot.
Before you even hit the air, you’ll need a strong radio presence to win over the station manager. Follow these tips, and practice them. Trainers often like to elaborate, as it helps when cuing clients. So you’ve learned to say the same thing in different ways. On the radio, however, that can come across like a run-on sentence with no point.
- Make laser-like statements.
- Pause briefly between sentences.
- Use “encouragers”—nod, ask “How so?”—to keep guests telling their stories.
- Follow this singer/actor tip: Repeat various consonants to warm up your tongue. It will help you speak more clearly. Ta-ta-ta-ta, da-da-da-da, tickita-tacketa-ticketa-tacketa, and so on.
- Ask your interviewee open-ended questions.
- Keep control of the interview. If your guest begins asking the questions, look for an opening and make a summary of what has been said to turn it in the direction you wish to go.
- Practice making smooth transitions from one area to another. “We’ve been talking about your prerace training. Let’s talk about race day. What was going through your head?”
- Wait your turn. If you interrupt on the air, a frustrated listener hears chaos.
- When you do get on the air, consider standing up. Your voice will reflect a higher energy level.
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