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5 Golden Rules for doing a good local radio interview

BBC local radio radio norfolk2Local radio is a great British institution and widely listened to. My first job as a journalist was with BBC Radio Norfolk and I have many fond memories. This week I have been training an ‘expert’ to handle local radio interviews and it has prompted me to pull together these Golden Rules.

1. No business, technical or financial language

I know we go on about this all the time and think it is also important to speak to technical trade press in as simple a way as possible but it is very, very important on local radio. If you use professional lingo you will likely be cut short and not be invited back.

2. Give useful information

You will rarely, if ever, be invited on to local radio to advertise your product. But you will be invited to share useful information. Journalists accept that a bit of subtle branding is the price they often pay in return for an entertaining and informative speaker. So, if you want to sell your ISA (individual savings account) you may be able to negotiate a slot explaining what an ISA is, why it is relevant and why everyone thinks about ISA’s at the turn of the financial year. What do I mean by subtle branding? You could say ‘there are lots of good rates out there this year, for example, ours is 3.2%’. But you should not say: ‘we have the best rate in the market, transfer your money to us’.

BBC world Service credit23. Make it local

Journalists working on local (and regional) radio need to make every story relevant to their audience. Look for ways to mention local towns, local high streets (e.g. we have a branch in St Peters Place in Norwich) or local personalities. If you are talking about research, ask your experts to pull out some regional trends or anomalies. This can be challenging if you do a radio day – lots of interviews back to back – but the trick is to have something locally relevant for each interview.

4. Be prepared to join the party

Some but not all local radio shows mix current affairs with a jovial party atmosphere. You can get asked about your holiday, your funny accent or your thoughts on a new runway at Heathrow. The best guests are able to answer such questions with a light touch but without getting into trouble and then wait for their own subject to be introduced properly.

5. Keep it short and sweet

Your local radio interview is likely to be three minutes or less. It may even be two minutes. As a rule of thumb your answers in a BBC local radio interview should be 40 seconds long, in a commercial radio interview more like 20 seconds. Of course you should not sit there with a stopwatch but just be aware that you will have to be able to get the story into a very short amount of time. The only way we know to do this well is to prepare what you want to say and rehearse it before an interview.

Local radio is fun and a great training ground if you want to go on to be a fully fledged media tart.

Photo Radio Studio Licence:creative comms from flickr


1 reply
  1. Robert Matthews
    Robert Matthews says:

    Really helpful. As it happens, I did an interview on local radio last week, and points 2,3 and 4 came up.

    It was with Today FM in Ireland, but I was in Oxford – so all the questions related to the situation over there, not here ! Managed to come up with some vaguely relevant “local” examples, but could have been better.

    Also, my “slot” was for 10AM, but didn’t start until 10-20AM, and I was kept on the line listening to someone being interviewed about the death of an actor in Father Ted (which I’ve never seen).

    Listening to the “banter” was really helpful, though, as it reminded me to keep it all light, bright and breezy.


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