Small Business Trends Radio

Tricks for the Media Interviewer

bullet_hole_focusonthefamily_yoest.jpg The bullet hole is still in the wall. A reminder that interviewing can be lethal.

Alert Reader Steve Rucinski at Small Business CEO read Mastering the Mic for Sound Management from last week’s column. And suggested we review tricks for the other side; the interviewer side of the mic.

And to avoid bloodshed.

This week a Fox reporter was beaten bloody doing an interview. A few years ago a Denver DJ was murdered. The list of murdered radio personalities is quite long. Larry King is not on the list.

Anyway, Your Business Blogger decided to research radio interview techniques and dispatched the Wife and The Dude to Colorado Springs to get background on what it takes to entertain twenty million listeners a week at the Focus on the Family radio program.

dude_focus_radio.jpgThe Dude at the dials. Be sure to catch his blog post.

The smart interviewer is always aware that all that counts is ratings and revenue. The interview is a vehicle to get numbers. Here’s how.

Why are we here? I once had a press secretary who was a pro. She had the skills to deftly make connections between content, current events and the needs of a particular audience. She constructed “The Hook” and sold it. The rarest of skills which are in high demand. I can no longer afford her.

Script out the intro. Better yet, have the guest draft out the two-minute introduction.

Calm the guest. Remind her that she’s a source — a resource, for your vast listening audience. Not a target.

Flash Report. Have the guest write sample questions. Our goal is to help people. Delectare et docere, to please and to instruct. Leave the ‘gotcha game’ to the mainstream media. And stick with scripted pre-questions as much as possible.

Short and Sweet. Begin questions with Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Keep these six honest serving-men, and you will be well served. As Rudyard Kipling was. They taught me all I knew.

My favorite question to the guest is, “What does that mean?” Professional interviewers usually know the answer. But use this question to have the guest explain something to the audience. I ask because I usually don’t know. Another question is, “Tell me about…” A non-directive interview technique designed to prompt the guest to tell a story. Do the questions you want early in the interview, in case you run out of time.

High energy is overrated. You, the professional interviewer, will be more nervous than the interviewee. This can be countered by relaxing. Get your mantra motor. Calm and slow and boring is not bad for a questioner. Problematic in a guest. But the audience really wants to listen to the energized experts on your show. Not you the interviewer. They want Larry King to shut up. (I ran into King at the CNN studios a time or two. No, he doesn’t have any bullet holes in his office.)

Surround Sound. Be careful of the on-the-road interview, when you are away from your comfy digs. Background noise is distracting (restaurants) and unpredictable (ambulance sirens).

Ask only one, single question at a time. Multiples get confusing.

Remember, your guest is appearing on your show for one reason: to communicate her message. You have the guest on for one reason: money (that ratings thing again).

Finally, never get angry. You might get a bullet… in your wall.

One Response to “Tricks for the Media Interviewer”

  1. Jack Yoest Says:

    Chris, sadly, you are right about the gotcha game. TV journalists, like their print counterparts, live by, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Even if the reporter must do the cutting.


    Thank you for your comment,

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