Interviewing For Radio: What You Need To Know

Written by: Cassandra Bailey

We believe that your job as a spokesperson in an interview is not just to answer questions – it is to deliver your most important strategic messages.  There is no media where that is harder than radio.

Research by Albert T. Mehrabian from the University of California shows us that how you look communicates a tremendous amount to others – whether TV viewers or print reporters.  In radio, you do not have the advantage of facial expressions, hand gestures, or other physical attributes to communicate your message.  Your words, tone, speed, and inflection are everything.

There are three primary types of radio interviews:

Sound Bites

This is a quick interview where the reporter is trying to get 1-2 quotes from a spokesperson for a news story.  The reporter is looking for someone who can add perspective to something that is happening in the news.  The best spokespeople will be experts in the field or on the event and be able to speak precisely.  You will likely be interviewed on location or over the phone.  You should have one, single message to deliver.  Each sound bite should be 4-5 seconds.


This is a short story on a topic that may last a few minutes.  It will focus on a topic or event that a reporter is writing a story on.  A few people may be interviewed for the story, and each person plays a different role.  Most interviews will happen in person.  You should have no more than 2 messages you want to communicate to add to the depth of the story.  Each sound bite should be approximately 10 seconds.

Long-Form Interview

This is an opportunity for an interviewer, not a reporter, to dive into a subject and have a real conversation.  There may be one or two guests at a time, but it’s unlikely there will be more.  It could happen in studio or over the phone.  You should plan to deliver no more than 3 messages. In this case, you should have stories and data points to support your messages.  Sound bites should be 30-60 second each.  Be sure to lead the interviewer into the next question you’d like her to ask. The best spokespeople will make this type of radio opportunity seem like a conversation between friends.

Before you start interviewing for radio, understand clearly what type it is, what role you play in the story, and what messages you want to deliver on behalf of your company or nonprofit.  Then stick to the subject, speak clearly and simply, and help the reporter do her job.  Do this frequently, and you’ll become a regular on the radio.

Need help with media training for radio, print, digital, or broadcast?  Contact our PR team here.

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