On the air

Using talkback radio to spread your message

The popularity of talkback radio has soared over the past few years and it is now a widely-used medium for discussion and debate of political and social issues. There is no doubt that talkback provides a great way to influence individual and community attitudes and perceptions. It is also regularly monitored by politicians so it can provide a good way of getting your message across to political leaders if you are having difficulties getting meetings with them!

Target your station

Talkback radio is presented in a wide variety of styles and covers a diverse range of issues. Different talkback shows have different styles – some will focus on serious discussion of current issues, others offer the opportunity to share about personal experiences, while others are more provocative and attract callers with stronger, sometimes controversial, views.

Try to match your issue with the most appropriate talkback show. As a general rule, morning and drive-time radio programs often include news and current affairs issues.

Do some research

If you can, spend some time listening to the show before you call in. Does the host have a strong opinion on your issue? How long is each caller given to speak? How many calls does the host accept on a particular issue? Do they provide an opportunity during the program for listeners to call in about any issue of their choosing?

Be prepared

Jot down a couple of key points that you want to make, or have a few relevant facts and figures in front of you. However, be careful not to sound like you are reading a speech.

Make your points quickly and clearly

Depending on the show, you might have anything between ten seconds and a couple of minutes on air. Given this limited time, you need to have clear, simple and interesting arguments with no more than three key points. Try to avoid jargon and acronyms.

While it is important to keep your tone conversational, don’t waste time asking the host how their day has been!

Keep focused

You will often be put on hold for some time before the host gets to you. This is not the time to start daydreaming! Re-read your key points and be ready for the host to pick up your call.

Keep it personal

People are interested in hearing how an issue impacts you and them. Try to give personal or local examples.

Don’t take the bait

It is often the job of the host to create controversy on his or her show. This may be done by making fun of, or even abusing, callers. If you experience this, try to keep a level head, a friendly tone and stick to your arguments. Remember, if you smile, you will actually sound friendlier!

Slow down

Many of us start talking faster when we are nervous. Make a special effort to try to slow down. It might help to imagine you are simply having a conversation with a friend about the issue.

Wrapping it up

It’s always better to wrap up quickly, rather than get cut off by the host because you have talked too long. Try to end your call on a positive note or a strong point. This will help to leave a lasting impression in the minds of listeners.