Thursday, April 24, 2008

How long is long enough on radio?

I must confess that I have always scoffed at authors who suggest that a 30 minute radio interview just isn't enough time. It might fly by if you are taking five minutes to answer each question, I reasoned—get to the point and enjoy both segments you’ve been given; after all, you only get three minutes on TV.

However, after doing two radio interviews over the past two weeks I am starting to think that my clients may have been right all along. Not only did I leave the interviews wishing we had covered more ground…but I had an hour. That’s right, four complete segments.

How wrong I was.

The program I was on, KOOP-FM’s Writing on the Air, is Austin’s leading literary radio program—the result of a gifted group of hosts, including Lee Davis, Dillon McKinsey, Dora Robinson, Nelin Hudani & Khotan Shahbazi-Harmon and a very eccentric, artsy environment in which to broadcast. Any publicists that have authors touring through Austin should keep the show on their radar.

Senior publicist Tolly Moseley joined me in the interview and the two of us spent the hour discussing topics ranging from the changing state of book publicity to where Austin currently sits on the proverbial publishing map.

As publicists, we specialize in packaging information in bite size nuggets—fit for consumption by on-the-go media members looking for a reason not to read the pitch. We encourage our authors to communicate on the air in the same manner by focusing on sound bytes and answering each question succinctly. Tolly and I did that both times we were on the program but still seemed to run short of time.

As a publicist, I'm not excited about admiting that I couldn't cover all the ground I wanted to cover in an hour. So, what happened?

It's clear that the topic of book publicity is one that can’t be covered in an hour—or that’s what most publicists would claim. That belief sounds oddly familiar to the feedback I get from authors who insist that getting completely through any topic on the air is difficult.

Point taken.

There are certainly ways to make time work to your advantage. Our best clients make more out of 15 minutes of airtime than normal guests do in an hour. They do this by getting to the point quickly when they can. On the other hand, when an answer simply requires more time, they point listeners back to their web site where additional resources are available free. In doing so, they free up airtime for the host’s next question and drive traffic to their site.

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