How To Manage Client Interviews On-Air

Sales managers have become increasingly aggressive in promising client interviews. And man, they can kill a show. Sponsors are important, and budgets are stressed, but if the segment sounds like an extended commercial, it doesn’t help the advertiser or the host. It just drives listeners away. Fortunately, with a bit of discipline and creativity, you can manage the damage.

To justify an advertising buy, clients (many of whom have no presentation or communication skills) are getting guest slots. Many account executives agree to an appearance before discussing it with producers, hosts, and managers, which puts programmers in an awkward position. There are many things wrong with this scenario, but this article won’t solve internal problems. So, let’s assume that if you’ve read this far, it’s an issue at your station and attack the problem by establishing ground rules.

Fact: Sponsors are important, but they’re usually not entertaining.

Fact: Interviews are generally a tune-out, even if the guest is compelling. Few personalities are great with guests.

Managing the damage starts by being a proactive programmer. If you’ve already fought and lost the battle over client interviews, smile your most genuine smile, and go to the DOS and GM and tell them:

I know we need the revenue, and client interviews are something we have to do. So I want to make sure they sound great and deliver the best possible response for our advertising partners.

I know that will hurt, so practice it in a mirror before saying it publicly. Now that you’ve connected with the management team by speaking their language introduce guidelines and expectations.

Guidelines For Client Interviews

Scheduling: Set a limit, just as there is a limit on the number of commercials. Identify how many are tolerable, and agree on the length of the guest appearance. Never violate those standards,

Record all Client Interviews: Make no exceptions. Never take the interview live. Ever. Draw a line in the sand and demand that live appearances can not happen. There are many practical reasons outlined here.

All Interviews Are Video: This trick flatters the client and adds perceived value while managing expectations and marketing your personality brand. A video segment impresses the client and shows how enthusiastic the station is about the segment. The client feels like a star. Then, give the finished (edited) video to the client as an embed code so they can put it on their website to expose your personality to a larger market. Be sure to remind the client that making a video interview available on-demand expands the reach of their appearance because it’s not limited to those who happen to be listening when they’re on-air.

Preparation: The content may not be ideal, but even weak guests can be interesting if prepped. Provide the client with a checklist and pre-appearance form. It must be completed and returned at least 24 hours before recording the interview. If not, the interview must be rescheduled. Providing “homework” helps clients focus their thoughts and attention and allows personalities to plan how to tell the story. You’ll also find that some guests don’t want to be on, which may be the extra nudge that gets them to cancel (the appearance, but not the advertising).

Protecting The On-Air Product

The programming goal is to prevent weak content from chasing away listeners, and if you follow these guidelines, you can do that because it gives you control over the content. Here are some recommendations:

Edit What You Use: If you’ve promised xx minutes on-air, give them that, but no more. Edit it.

Repurpose It: Convince the client that it would be better for them to promote the online video on-air rather than play it on-air. Making it available on-demand reaches a larger potential audience. You could then run promos or liners to direct traffic to the video interview.

Information Segments: If you have regular news or community segments, edit the most interesting comments into sound bites and feature them for a day or two. Promote the on-demand video to get more information. The client receives more mentions and exposure to a larger audience, and you protect the product!


These ideas won’t stop client interviews but may help. The key is to get in front of the problem and show that you are an enthusiastic and cooperative team player who wants to support the revenue team and serve the audience’s interests.

Pic designed by Freepik.

Tracy Johnson is a talent coach and programming consultant. He’s the President/CEO of Tracy Johnson Media Group. His book Morning Radio has been described as The Bible of Personality Radio and has been used by personalities worldwide.

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