In this week’s post we asked the team from Today FM’s The Last Word for their insights into how they decide what to cover on the show and ways to deal with the white knuckle terror of your first radio interview.  Next week we ask the team about press releases, Matt Cooper’s favourite and least favourite topics for discussion and how to get in touch if you want to contribute to a discussion that concerns you or your organisation.You can also read The Last Word’s own blog here and we have also posted a great behind the scenes video from the team at the end of the post.

How do you decide on what topics to cover on The Last Word?

The provisional running order of items is decided at our editorial meeting in the mid-morning. This is obviously subject to change should there be any breaking news or a reason to replace one item with another later in the day. The topics are usually drawn from the news of the day, papers and topics that we will have been working on ourselves. Our focus is always on picking topical stories that are relevant to our audience, their lives, their interests and, often, their pockets.

How far in advance are these planned?

It depends – some of the items are put together on the day, especially news items. While some other discussion pieces or features can be days or weeks in the planning.

How do you source interviewees for your programme?

Most of our guests come from our own contacts book, people we have used before on the show and the relevant newsmakers. However others come from pr pitches or events that might be taking place in the area. Some of our guests are also listeners who have emailed us with an interesting opinion or story to tell.

What makes you consider someone as a go-to expert?

I think talking to them on the phone beforehand and gaining a sense of their depth of knowledge and ability to put across a point in an easy & accessible manner is crucial. A well-written succinct press release will attract your attention but the best way to gauge whether or not an expert will work well on radio is to talk directly to them.
Ideally an ‘expert’ will be chatty, informative, have a bit of personality and make the subject accessible and interesting for the average Joe Soap.

What would you advise someone appearing on radio for the first time?

Come into studio. Relax. Trust your brain to do the work.
Being in studio makes it much easier to participate- you forget about being on radio, you are a person in a room with a presenter telling your story.
You have to relax otherwise the tension will stunt your contribution and make you unintelligible. Amazing amounts of people are fluid and cogent on the phone before hand but freeze on air.
Trusting your brain means you won’t freeze, you will back yourself and the knowledge you have and get your point across.
Also – don’t answer in a yes/no fashion. Keep talking and elucidating.

What makes a radio interviewee memorable?

It is so indeterminate I think. It can be anything from clarity of vision, strength of personality, turn of phrase to the depth of knowledge and passion of belief. A guest is best when they force the listener to take a position, agree or disagree but do it with a bit of wit and charm. Beyond those vagaries the most memorable guests are truly one-offs, making it very hard to give a typology.   Often they resonate with our listeners on an emotional rather than an intellectual level, making you feel as much as think about the topic.