Big Interview? Engage The Host And The Audience Will Take Care Of Itself

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It’s finally happened! You’ve been working on your publicity efforts, trying to land a radio or TV interview, and now the show is scheduled. Since this is what you wanted, why are you starting to nervously ask yourself: What have I done?

Jitters! Stage fright! Call it what you will, it’s perfectly normal to get a case of the nerves when you start thinking about your interview and realize that thousands – perhaps millions – of people will be hanging on your every word!

How will little old you ever be able to engage such a large audience?!

I understand exactly where you’re coming from. I’ve gone through those same jitters myself, yet managed to get beyond the anxiety, as I explain in my upcoming book Gaining the Publicity Edge. But let me offer a quick retelling here of how I settled my nerves and achieved interview success.

In my case, when my first book Celebritize Yourself came out, I was fortunate to get a little media coaching from a good friend, Lee Habeeb, a talk radio producer who was co-creator of The Laura Ingraham Show and media coach to Salem Radio Network’s national talk radio hosts (e.g. Hugh Hewitt, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager and Michael Medved).

As I look back on the time I spent with him and all the wonderful advice he provided, I’ve realized that one particular piece of Lee’s wisdom proved especially helpful. “Don’t worry about engaging the audience,” he said. “That’s the host’s job! The audience regularly tunes in to the show, so the host already has engaged them. They aren’t your concern.”

My job, Lee continued, was to engage one person and one person only – the host!

It was a revelation! Since then, when providing media coaching to others, I like to include that wonderful lesson that Lee taught me. Engage the host!

That sounds simple enough, but it also raises an important question: Just how do you go about doing that? Let me share a few tips to help you accomplish this mission when your next interview is scheduled:

  • Research the show. Learn everything you can about the TV or radio show in advance. Listen to or watch a few previous shows to get a feel for what kind of show it is, the rhythm of the show and how it’s structured. Is the show news-oriented? Is it entertainment-oriented? Are guests given ample time to expound on their message, or does everything happen quickly? Researching a show is much easier to do these days because so many of the shows are archived online.
  • Learn about the host. Who is this person who will be interviewing you? Find out whatever you can. A good starting point might be the host’s bio that’s on the show’s website, but you can also look up articles about them. What are their likes and dislikes? What about family? Hobbies? Years ago, I was on a promotional tour with Robert “Bud” McFarlane, who served as President Reagan’s National Security Advisor. We were on our way to Don Imus’ studio, where McFarlane would be interviewed by Imus, someone he knew nothing about. Bud pulled out several pages of notes his staff had prepared about Imus. By the time we arrived, Bud knew about Imus’ brother, his dog and other tidbits of information that would help him engage his acerbic host and win over his audience in the process!
  • Mirror the host’s tone. Once the interview begins, you need to be aware of what kind of emotion the host is bringing to the conversation and you should try to match that. If you follow the host’s tone, he or she will naturally have a positive reaction to you. So if the host takes an oh-so serious approach, you should respond in an equally serious manner. If the host expresses excitement for your topic, your voice should display similar excitement. Is the host jovial? Then you should be, too. If your tone is out of synch with the host, you will disengage the audience because the host will become disengaged.

By the way, although these tips are about engaging a radio or TV show host, the techniques also can be used if you’re preparing for an interview with a journalist for a print publication.

Research the types of articles the journalist typically writes and find out whatever you can about the journalist’s background. Then, as with the broadcast hosts, mirror that journalist’s tone. Are they in a hurry because of a deadline? Then be succinct with your answers. Are they more laid back because they are working on a feature story or a long-range project and have more time? Then you can feel free to elaborate.

Engage the host – or the journalist – and the audience will take care of itself.

Engagingly yours,


P.S. If you’d like professional help getting coverage in the press, or being interviewed on radio and TV, give us a call. We’ve been providing this service to clients for 29 years. We also offer a comprehensive social media marketing program for select clients, where we do it all for you.  If you’re interested in our help, please call us at 727-443-7115 Ext. 0. We’d love to hear from you!


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