Impact – my experience on a radio interview

Georgina Collins has a PhD in Translation Studies and has completed an Early Career Fellowship in Warwick’s Institute of Advanced Study. She also teaches world literature for the Workers’ Educational Association and works as a freelance translator.

She writes: 

I was interviewed by Liz Kershaw on the breakfast show at BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire. The interview was about the launch of my book entitled The Other Half of History, which coincided with the opening of the Coventry International Festival of Literature.

My publisher approached a contact at BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire to see if they would interview me about my book. In approaching the radio station, the publisher highlighted three areas of importance:

1. That my book was the first bilingual anthology of Francophone African women’s poetry and as such represented the multicultural nature of Coventry

2. The timeliness of the book launch in coinciding with the literary festival

3. The importance of local BBC radio in supporting the work of local people

My Approach

Knowing your audience – I researched the radio show listeners so I could speak directly to them. I didn’t want to alienate people by targeting academic listeners who would only make up a very tiny proportion of the audience.

Considering questions – I know radio presenters prefer not to provide questions in advance as it can make the conversation stilted. It can also take the interviewee by surprise if the questioning takes an unexpected turn. Instead, I considered potential areas of questioning and the key facts or arguments I wished to get across.

Rehearsing – I practiced speaking about my research in layman’s terms, ie without using academic jargon or discipline-specific vocabulary or abbreviations.

Taking relevant items/information – for example, if you mention a book, they may ask you to read an extract, if you talk about a place, they may ask you for directions. I made sure I had a copy of my book and the press release about the launch.

Key Challenges

Nerves – I used to work as a radio presenter, but it is very different being on the other side of the desk as you aren’t the one in control. Having said that, as I knew my work so well, there were no problems answering any questions and I don’t think the nerves showed

Making research exciting and relevant – I had to think about the areas of my work that people could relate to and express them in an intriguing way. I think I managed to do this by talking about the unusual lives of many African women writers and the importance of African writing in Coventry.

Time – the interview was just a few minutes long, so one major challenge was to give a true overview of my work in a very limited period.

What I learned

There may be few niceties – you can be waiting for your interview for ages if there are changes in the schedule, and you may have little contact with producers or presenters until immediately before you go on air. Don’t allow this to bother you – it is the nature of producing a live radio show. And make sure you have asked producers any important questions in advance so you don’t need to on the day.

Create list of key facts – these are the main points you wish to communicate. Once you are in the process of being interviewed you may forget to mention them, so write them down and take them with you. In my case, I remembered just in time to say tell the audience. For example, how to attend the book launch, where the book can be bought…

It happens so quickly – the interview will probably only last a few minutes, so make sure you are clear, concise and get those key points across early on.

Record the interview – so that you can post it on your own webpage. Either ask a friend or the radio station. If you do the latter, ask immediately before or after the show as the station may wipe the material very quickly

 Have you had a radio interview experience on your research? Please share in comments – I’d love to read from you. 

Photo Credit: Curtis Kennington/Creative Commons 

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