Airtime Essentials

Airtime Essentials

Learn how to prepare for—and make the most of—media appearances.

During my past life as a television broadcaster I was amazed to see people turn into different versions of themselves when they knew the microphone was on, or even near them. In my current role at WCCO Radio, I’ve noticed some different things about humans in this very intimate setting.

The reality of today’s business culture means a media interview—wanted or unwanted—will probably cross your path before you retire. My suggestion to you: Make the most of it, but be prepared and intentional. Here are some lessons learned through personal experience.


First, some guests say, “Good question.” Not to brag, but I’d like to think all my questions are good, so don’t waste time telling me that. If the question is truly one you’ve never received, you might say something to that effect. But get on with it. The clock is ticking; you want to use as much airtime as you can on you.

Second, don’t rely on hydration at any broadcast studio. Bring your own water. I recommend water over soda or coffee. Why? Soda gloms up your voice box; so does the dairy in your latte. Your body is already in a bit of fight-or-flight mode, knowing you’re under the pressure of a live radio interview. Help yourself by sticking with nurturing liquids such as herbal teas and water. Plus, be sure to eat some protein within an hour of airtime. You don’t want the lack of calories to make your head light when you want to come across as a credible expert.

Third, think about what you want to say ahead of time. Identify your intent before you open your mouth. Do proper audience analysis so you have a sense of how to deliver in a manner your listeners will understand. If you really mess up (and know it), and you’re on tape versus live, go ahead and let the interviewer know you’d like to try that response again. Also, know that the interviewer wants you to succeed and wants to get information from you as clearly as possible. He or she will appreciate the self-editing when you have the luxury of a redo.

If you’re in a live interview situation for radio or television, don’t freak out if you misstate. Gracefully fix any misstep or move on to your next point. Staying calm is the best thing you can do. This is triple-true for cases when you or your business are under investigation or embroiled in controversy.


You have a lot of items to track when preparing for the lights of television. Whether you are on live TV or taped, vocal behavior and image play equally important roles. Try to avoid really dark or light clothing. Definitely avoid patterns or distracting accessories. Check your face for unwanted shine. If you’re seated for an interview, make sure your lower back can feel the back of the chair. That helps you know you’re not slouching, which is never a good look.

Hydration is important in this setting, too. Drink plenty of water the day before and morning of any television encounter. I also suggest simple vocal exercises like yawning and hissing (see “Your Voice: A Choice,” column from August 2013) to get your voice ready for TV.

If you want to be proactive and reach out to television outlets to share your expertise on various subjects, do audience analysis on those particular outlets. Watch their stories and find out how they cover news and features. Your chances of getting airtime are better when you have a sense of what makes a television reporter and their station tick.

Once you know you’ve landed the appearance, prepare. Understand you can’t wax philosophical. I recommend you practice eight- to 12-second responses to questions. Time on television flies, but you can learn how to stay on point and get a message delivered that will help you, your brand and your organization.


As excited as everyone gets about doing a television interview, getting quoted for a print or online publication has a big multiplier effect. Even television and radio outlets have an online presence. There, the beauty of a great quote lives on. You can share those articles on your own web pages, and social media, as well as with clients. Plus, most newsrooms feed to the Associated Press or other wire services. When you’re quoted in the Star Tribune, there’s a chance wire services will pick up that article. Now your quote has a chance of national or even global visibility.

Good quotes add color to the facts. You can probably recall some quotes you’ve read that made you think that expert really knew his stuff. One key to a good quote is to make sure you use powerful but concise language. Use great five-dollar words instead of 10-dollar or 20-dollar ones. Trust me, the subtextual message you send with concise commentary will make you seem smart and credible.

Good Media Begets More Media

If you haven’t already been interviewed in the media, put it on your goal list for the year. If you have, challenge yourself to bolster how you go about doing interviews to lift your brand to the next level. Media exposure is a marketing tool worth using.

Roshini Rajkumar is a communication coach, host of News & Views on WCCO Radio, and author of Communicate That! For additional communication tips, visit