A Public Radio Insider’s Top Six Tips for Podcast Interviews

Podcasting allows your nonprofit to reach new audiences who like to listen to content while doing other things, such as driving, running errands, or walking the dog. Almost one out of five Americans listen to podcasts, about as many as the number of people who use Twitter.

Podcasts can also help your nonprofit achieve your organizational goals. The Stanford Social Innovation Review, for example, does a great job at engaging a core segment of its target audience by offering free shows that give nonprofits access to valuable ideas.

Focused conversation is one of the best ways to draw experts out and, not surprisingly, interviews play an important part in many podcasts. Here at Prichard, we’ve created two shows  featuring interviews with experts: SmartCast, a six-part series of conversations with social change communicators, and Find Your Dream Job, a weekly program from our sister organization Mac’s List that helps listeners find meaningful work that makes a difference.

Good interviews don’t happen by accident. They require planning and preparation. Here are six principles we follow at Prichard that we learned from John Sepulvado, our producer at “Find Your Dream Job,” and a veteran public radio host and former CNN reporter.

Talk In Advance

Schedule a 10-minute pre-interview with all your guests to review the format of your show and get an idea of what you’ll talk about. Don’t make your listener suffer through discovery with you. This also allows you to spend more time on the topics that matter most to your audience.

Keep Your Lines Brief

Make the sentences for your show’s scripts short. A good trick for doing this when you write for audio: replace a comma with a period and start a new sentence. And when you write a question, ask yourself this: “How can I say this in seven words or less?”

Encourage Conversation

Your remarks should be short and punchy. This allows for more give and take with guests and makes the conversation flow. You don’t want your guest speaking for more than a 60 or 90 seconds. Limit your own comments and questions to less than a minute.

Tell Stories

Encourage your guests to illustrates ideas with stories. Anecdotes stay with us and are a great way to make a point. Good examples of podcasts that rely on stories include RadioLab and The Moth. Work hard to identify anecdotes when you do your pre-interview.

Own Your Reading

Preparation makes all the difference when reading a script. One of John’s favorite tricks: Put your tongue at the roof of your mouth and read your copy before you record. You’ll be amazed by how much this improves your delivery.

Other tips from John for reading on air: Smile when you talk. You sound warmer. Don’t eat peanut butter, chocolate, milk or anything that leaves a coat on your tongue. Avoid smoking, beer and whiskey.

Pick the Cool Stuff, Delete the Rest

If you have an interview that is only good for 10 minutes, use only 10 minutes. Don’t stretch out your recording to 20 minutes just because you talked that long. Your most important goal is to offer interesting content, which is the key to engaging readers so they’ll come back for more.

Does your nonprofit have its own podcast or is considering launching its own show? Read the first in a three-part series on audio storytelling on the Prichard blog and my social change podcast playlist.  Looking for more advice about how to start your own podcast? Check out the Showrunner podcast.

Mac Prichard

Mac started Prichard Communications in 2007 to serve nonprofits, foundations and public agencies after a long career working in the public and nonprofit sectors and with elected officials. Mac lives in Portland’s Ladd’s Addition where he is often spotted taking Instagram photos while walking his dog Kai, a Weimaraner.

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