Small Business Trends Radio

Want To Sell? You Must Show Up.

Woody Allen once said that 80 per cent of success is showing up. And to succeed in business as well as show business: you must show up.


Radio Row at an exhibition show.

Your Business Blogger was observing (and trying to stay out of the way of) a radio and blogger row a few weeks ago. We were lucky — guests and hosts seem to link up with minimal scheduling challenges.

But this is becoming more unusual.

Your Business Blogger is learning of a most disturbing trend: Guests who don’t show.

In sales training 101, the first step is always to establish rapport. But it starts before that, of course: First, You must get the appointment and Second, you must Show Up.

Smart small business owners know that part of the good marketing equation is pushing the broadest reach. Radio and TV are still effective.

But it seems that some business leaders are not bothering to do this basic marketing and not showing up for a scheduled appearance. Something will come up — something always does — and the small business owner does not show up for the radio or TV interview.

The broadcast interview has two purposes. For the host, it is ratings and revenue. For the guest, it is a display of your expertise: a pitch for the small business; an infomercial.

Your pubic relations consultant is well compensated to get you in the starting gate groomed and ready to go. But after your PR pro’s get you an invitation to the track you must take the bit and give your sound bite.

If you cannot take the hassle of the harness, stay in the barn. Radio and TV are for the race horses, the big dogs.

It is not for the weak of heart.

And the no-show guest always has good reasons. It is the tyranny of the urgent pushing out the important. And dealing with some routine business emergency is easier to handle than the fear of facing a microphone.

Public speaking always causes anxiety — if you are not nervous, you are too complacent. Adrenaline is a good chemical.

And can make for good business. The small business owner better be the company’s most passionate pitchman — and better be able, available and willing to step onto the race track; into the arena and sell.

If you are invited to be a guest on radio or TV, understand that it is a very rare privilege and should be accepted and better be honored.

Don’t let the host say, “Our schedule guest, President of Wonderful Widgets had a quarterly report to finish and thought that a spreadsheet was more important than Mega Media and cancelled….The Jerk.”

You, the small business owner must always show up for the radio or TV interview.

This does not go both ways. Even though you RSVP’ed and showed up and kept your appointment with destiny, Mega Media outlet is not bound by the same rules.

This is not fair.

This is show business.

You must show up. If you are not sure you want to play in the big league, then fire your PR guru and rein in your marketing department. Do not commit to an interview, then change your mind.

Your Business Blogger has been on both sides of the interviewing/reporting equation and has had to deal with reluctant business owners.

So. Here’s the secret. Never before published! — The unwritten rules of journalism in radio and TV. Knowing them will make it easier to decline the interview. And save everyone a lot of time.

1) Even odds that you will be cancelled or bumped.

Your Business Blogger was watching his favorite client, Charmaine, on the set at CNN early in the Clinton years. Miked, Make-up’ed, with the big mo. Then a whispered commotion behind the cameras, Gil Davis walks in, the lawyer for Paula Jones.

The producer cuts to a break…

In 55 seconds the crew stripped off the mike and helped Charmaine off the chair and tossed her bodily off the set into the street. They were not being rude; they simply had a better offer.

When the cameras were back on, Gil Davis, Esq., was in the chair. To the viewers Charmaine had morphed into Gil. But no matter — a clunky segue way was sluiced, and CNN was off and running; interviewing a bigger “get” as guests are so commoditized.

2) The interview may not run.

Technical problems, changing events, your segment could be edited down or out or set aside for sometime later. If your interview was generic, it may indeed be run later — saved as an “evergreen.” But you may never know when it airs except when your mother or a client calls.

If you have enough juice, you can insist on only doing live interviews — which is the best format that ensures airing. CNN will conduct a segment live, then re-air it a number of times during the day.

3) Expect to be ambushed.

You thought you were going to talk about your terrific sales from last quarter. But your first question is about the pedophile on your payroll. The big leagues like blood and big stories. If it bleeds, it leads and all that.

If there is something awful going on in your small business or industry, get your PR pro to coach you on crisis responses.

And there is always something, somewhere going wrong in your company.

4) Interviews will take half a day.

We once had an early morning interview ABC’s Good Morning America. There was no way we were going to load all those kids and drive to a studio in the middle of the night. So the network sent out a satellite truck. Cables and wires and equipment and cameras and lighting and sound and technicians. It was, well, quite a production. For a few seconds of air time.

You must balance the cost of you time for those few seconds. Run the time funnel.

5) No one may remember what you said.

Charmaine once did C-SPAN debating another young woman. They were seated in front of a table. The other woman was wearing a very short skirt (not that I noticed) and had very long legs… and you get the picture.

Few watching the interview were listening. The viewers were…distracted, I suppose.

And sometimes the host simply likes to talk, and is usually more entertaining than you anyway. And finally,

6) The radio or TV producer will cancel you.

I have personal experience of a guest who was bumped no less than five — not that we were counting — 5 times by CNN before her first appearance. After each cancellation we swore never again. The disrespect! The humiliation! But we always jumped and slobbered at the next call.

And so should you.

They can cancel you. You cannot cancel them.

Now that you know how awful radio and TV is, do not accept a booking unless you are sure you wish to undergo the extra work, the time sink and possible humiliation.

Stay in the barn and leave the big sales to the big dogs.

But if you want the big exposure of the big time, for the big show, show up.

Welcome to show business. And the red carpet.


5 Responses to “Want To Sell? You Must Show Up.”

  1. J.C. Payne Says:

    As a radio news and talk show producer, I am very appreciative of your perspective whether or not to take the interview, knowing that the needs of the broadcast can change in a moment. For me, while the seasoned guest trying to sell a book or promote an event understands where in the hierarchy of needs they stand, the mom & pop small business owner doesn’t get the free publicity very often, and we don’t get the stories that come naturally from the mom & pop that we get from the CEO of major corporations. I do our best not to bump anyone once set up, but breaking news and last minute availabilities of major figures (not to mention a passing whim or last minute lack of interest from a host) means being flexible, and I do my best to get any guest rebooked as soon as possible, and not let the guest with the evergreen topic feel like he’s not worth coverage.

    The funny thing about bookings from the booker’s perspective is the people who do decline right off the bat. The excuses given by folk who do have the time to spare but just don’t want to fool with giving there side of a story or getting a little free publicity is amazing.

  2. Chris Says:

    This is so true, Jack. The invitation is a rare privilege and should be treated as such. To even think of canceling on such an opportunity astounds me. Even more astounding – the trivial matters that some give a higher priority to – other than an appearance on TV or radio!

  3. Jack Says:

    J.C., I think you got it right — there are very few instances where a business leader would turn down a media appearance.

    Not all producers have your professionalism and courtesy on bumping guests. Charmaine was once bumped for The World’s Ugliest Dog:

    Thanks again,


  4. Jack Says:

    JC, even as we went to print last week, we (the royal ‘we’) got bumped again – This time by O’Reilly at FOX. See:


  5. 6 Reasons Not To Show Up For Your Radio Or TV Appearance - Management Training of DC Says:

    […] This is a modified cross post from Small Business Trends Radio. […]

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