How to Make a Radio Pitch
While it’s not the dominating medium it once was, radio can still be a valuable tool for marketing your business. To pitch a story idea or an interview opportunity, it’s important to pick the right stations, to target the right people, and to frame your approach in a way likely to resonate with both the station decision-makers and the listening audience.
Pick the right station. The radio market is fragmented and mostly targeted to specific audience segments. That’s not a bad thing, even though it means you’re unlikely to get a massive audience on any one spot on the dial. In all likelihood, your business is also geared toward specific audience segments. If you can find some overlap, you’re more likely to both make a convincing argument for your content and achieve the desired results once the item airs. A sports talk-radio show may not be the highest-rated in town, but if you're promoting your new baseball training video, it might be the perfect fit. A country station or classical music show could reach a different audience segment, and provide better opportunities for different products.
Generate an idea. Remember that your pitch can’t just be an ad for your product or service. Stations are unlikely to air a simple ad under the guise of news programming -- but the personnel there are also likely overworked enough to listen to an idea that’s going to fill airtime, engage and inform the audience, and not require much legwork on their part. Make sure the idea is one that is going to catch their interest quickly, and that your pitch gets to the point in a hurry. If you're a specialty sports store, you might find that an anecdote about how a local high school team's batting average went up 100 points after it started using your training aid could be worth a segment. A gardening store with the idea for a story about growing pumpkins could find a very receptive audience among stations around Halloween.
Send your pitch to the folks who make the decisions about what gets on the air. In most cases, that’s the producer or program manager. The hosts are the wrong target except at very small stations in which the same people handle both duties. Make sure you’ve listened to the station to sound informed when you make your pitch. If one of the hosts has been joking about his failed high school baseball career, you might be able to convince his program manager that using some of your products might help him finally get the ball out of the infield during the station's softball games, which could lead to some on-air dialogue.
Make the station's job easy. When making your pitch, include a list of discussion points and offer to provide sample interview questions. If you’re promoting a product, make sure to send a sample along. For example, if you're pitching that story about growing pumpkins, you could seed it with both technical questions ("How long do pumpkins take to grow? Are they so easy that even I can do it?") with time-sensitive or fun topics ("What kind of pumpkin makes the best jack-o-lantern? What's the biggest pumpkin you have for sale right now?"). This makes it simple for the producer to envision how the story might sound on the air.
Be concise. Whether you choose to send an e-mail or make a call, get to the point quickly. If you wait too long to reveal your hook, you’re not going to catch the big fish. No radio program manager or producer has the time to read your five-page essay on why baseball is the national pastime or how pumpkins came to be associated with fall holidays. Tell them quickly why your pitch is worth reporting on.
Be flexible and dependable. The nature of radio programming means nothing is ever set in stone. You might not hear from your radio station for days, then get a call asking if you can be available in 10 minutes. Or you might have something arranged in advance only to get bumped by breaking news or something that the producers suddenly found irresistible. Be ready to talk whenever they call, whether it's about baseball training advice or pumpkin-growing tips.
Follow up after the interview with the program manager, producer and host as appropriate. This makes it more likely that when the same subject comes up again later, they'll remember who you are and call you to be their expert.