However, those figures pale in comparison to the reach of your average AM/FM radio program. With 93 percent of the U.S. tuning in, radio is still one of the leading broadcast platforms for reach, topping both television and smartphone usage.
With an infinite number of programs dedicated to topics both large and small, radio can provide a great way for PR pros to gain access to different audiences.
We sat down with two experts, a radio producer and a PR professional, to learn more about earning radio coverage. Ed Easton Jr. fields a variety of pitches in his role as News Producer for 1010 WINS and has worked in radio for 11 years. Lauren Hackett is the Senior Vice President of Global Communications at The Economist and has demonstrated success in pitching her company to radio shows.
How radio is unique
One of the biggest differences between radio and other broadcast media is on-air time allotment. Some radio shows may feature guests on the air anywhere from 15 minutes to a full hour, compared to the short timespan you often get on TV.
“Part of the reason we do so much radio at The Economist is because radio lets you spend more time than TV on a particular issue or topic,” explains Hackett. “This lends itself well to our content, which tends to be a long-form analysis of global issues.”
Now that radio is heading in a digital direction, your feature may live in an online archive for years, always accessible to the general public.
Another big difference between radio and print publications is how much your spokesperson matters.
“You definitely want a specific person to interview for radio,” says Easton Jr. “For example, if you’re pitching a big event coming up, we want to speak to whoever is in charge or the person being promoted at the event. You need a reason for the audience to tune in.”
Not only does the who matter, but that person’s personality is also a big factor in whether or not the broadcast will be successful.
Many times print reporters will conduct email interviews with PR pros and spokespeople. Not only does this save time in coordinating a time to chat, it also gives the interviewee additional time to think about their response.
When you’re being interviewed live on the radio, there’s a lot less time to think about your message. Your spokesperson needs to be prepared to deliver their message on the fly. Hackett advises, “Make the investment in getting people media training. There’s no substitute for practice.”
Some things stay the same
One thing that doesn’t differ between radio and other media is how important it is to have all your ducks in a row before sending your pitch. Easton Jr. says, “I would always prefer to have all the details upfront and make sure they are 100 percent accurate. We do a lot of investigative work. It’s a pet peeve of mine when a pitch is missing information or misleading. It completely kills the momentum of the conversation.”
So how can you make sure that your next pitch for radio is in tip-top shape? Our experts shared these five tips:
1. Do your research and listen to the programs.
You don’t want to waste your time or the time of the person receiving your pitch. Do your research in advance to make sure your message is hitting the right stations. Take the time to understand how a program works and how it’s structured. Get to know the on-air personality a little bit in advance.
“Since I started working for the Economist, I listen to NPR every morning and am constantly flipping between CNBC and MSNBC as well. You really need to put aside your personal media tastes to make sure you are understanding who your brand is and which stations fit them,” offers Hackett.
2. Know the external audience.
Knowing who listens goes hand-in-hand with doing your research and should seem like a no-brainer to a trained PR professional. If you’re pitching radio, it’s crucial to be mindful of the station you’re pitching and how you can personalize your story idea to fit their audience.
Easton Jr. recommends, “Be mindful that no matter what pitches are thrown our way, the story has to make sense for the station’s demographic and mission.”
He adds, “So many times I see a story and I realize it could be perfect for another station. So many PR people do the copy/paste. You wish they would tailor it more to the station and producer to get their message across appropriately.”
3. Organize all your information up front.
Life for a reporter or news producer is so much easier when they have all of the information they’ll need ready to go the moment you pitch. If you aren’t able to answer all their questions up front, it’s important to make sure you follow up in a timely manner.
As a PR pro pitching radio, the follow-through is everything. Easton Jr. cautions, “Be mindful about who you’re promoting. If you say you’re going to have an NBA basketball player, make sure they are ready to go. Last minute changes on air aren’t good. It just doesn’t have the same value if you find another source.”
News producers on radio shows will want to know as much as they can in advance about what your spokesperson will be sharing. Hackett says, “It’s important for bookers and producers to know what they’re getting. They want to know the point of view the guest will be taking.”
4. Find the right spokespeople within your organization.
What the station is looking for can really vary depending on their audience and the pitch itself.
Sometimes it can just be a general want. Hackett notes, “Many of my colleagues find that more and more producers are asking for female voices and female faces.”
No matter who you get to do the speaking, you need to make sure they are properly prepared.
“If someone raises their hand and says ‘I’ll do media,’ you have to run with that. There’s no point in forcing people to do it,” Hackett explains. “If you’ve got a big announcement, be specific on practicing around that announcement. Go through the tough questions now so you can answer them later.”
5. Try to have your own audio available.
If you’re able to pull it together, having pre-packaged assets available for stations to use can be super helpful. It’s another way to provide additional assistance to the producer on the show that will help them tell your story.
Providing your own audio also gives you that little bit of extra control over your message, which is always valuable in the earned media realm.
Some stations will use it and others won’t. It’s still a great thing to have at your disposal.
Don’t give up
Whether it’s organizing a great pitch up front, thoroughly preparing your spokesperson or providing radio-ready audio files, doing prep work up front is pivotal in achieving success pitching for radio.
“Not every outlet will want your story, but all of that goes into building our lists out, doing the research and making sure you understand the program you’re pitching and what types of guests they like to have on.” Hackett says. “We go where there’s opportunity as much as possible, but also try to create opportunity as much as we can.”
Have you had success pitching for radio? Share your experience in the comments.
Jessica Lawlor is the features editor for the Muck Rack blog and handles content initiatives and social media for Muck Rack. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.