Yesterday I did a short (8-minute) radio interview set up by my publishing house, and everything worked like it usually does for a radio piece. The “Women’s Radio Network” called the day before to do a pre-interview, where I got to find out more about their listening audience and what they were looking for. They said their audience was primarily professional women and their tone was upbeat, in order to motivate women in their careers and lives.
That sounded good. I am all about encouraging other women in their aspirations! So I focused my comments not so much on my own book Flunking Sainthood as on what it takes to be a professional author, how to get started, what publishers are looking for, etc.
Everything about the interview was routine, from the ads playing in the minute or so before I came on live to the quick final thank-you at the end, when the producer and I hung up the phone.
That’s when things started to get weird. I sat down at my desk to tweet out a link to the interview before it slipped my mind, but the network’s website link to “archived shows” got me only an error message, and even its livestream content did not appear to be working. Hmm.
Then I went to Twitter, and found that the network’s Twitter account only had 427 followers . . . and has not been updated with any new tweets since February 2013.
At that point I gave up on tweeting anything about it and just chalked it all up to experience: I had wasted a little time by doing this interview, but there weren’t any red flags. Maybe the Women’s Radio Network just didn’t see the value in social media? No big deal.
Then, about 15 or 20 minutes after the interview, my phone rang. It was someone named Scott, a very enthusiastic employee of the network. He wanted to call me to thank me for being on the “Open Forum” show and tell me what my “numbers” were.
“We’re going to interview about 20 people today, and only 2 or 3 of them will get called back. Our average rating is 2.5. Yours was a 5.2! That’s double the average. To give you a sense of what that means, you had 926,000 listeners.”
This phone call is when my bullshitometer started beeping. I’ve done a lot of radio interviews in 15 years of being a published author, and no professional radio organization has ever called back to tell me about my
“numbers.” (How would they even know, minutes after a piece had aired, what its listening audience was?)
“A lot of the time, people start listening, but they tune out halfway through,” Scott was saying. “But in your case, 89% of listeners stayed for the full 8 minutes. Now, we’ve talked with our national sponsors about you, and they want to book you for a full 30-minute interview.”
Oh, you’ve got to be kidding, I was thinking. Real radio producers don’t “talk with their national sponsors” after an interview. They’re busy booking and prepping for the next interview.
I said nothing.
But Scott was not done with the fleecing. Because I was so very good on the air, they were going to have my next interview be conducted by KC Armstrong, who used to work with Howard Stern. He has “millions of listeners every day,” Scott assured me. I could even choose the format for the half-hour show. If I wanted part of it to be a call-in show, he would arrange that. If I wanted it just to be me and KC, they could do that too.
But wait, there’s more! They would even issue a press release to promote my interview and distribute it to CNN, ABC, and NBC. And coincidentally, my timing was amazing, because they were running a promotional price on all this right now!
Of course you are, I thought. But what I said aloud — with admirable politeness, I might add — was that he would have to talk with my publishing house about scheduling any other interviews, and that I highly doubted that they would be on board, considering that radio interviews are free.
(And for the record, real radio stations also don’t let guests choose their own adventure in terms of show format, call you back after an interview with phony numbers about your ratings, or craft press releases that announce nothing more newsworthy than “Author X is appearing on our show!”)
Scott got off the phone pretty darn fast when I referred him to my publishing house. And today, out of curiosity, I did some research (which I should have done before). I talked to Kelly Hughes, an outstanding professional book publicist, and she had never even heard of this “radio network.” While we were on the phone she looked them up in Cision, which is like publicists’ Bible of media contacts, and they’re not even listed.
I also Googled the Women’s Radio Network to find I am not the first author or small business owner they have tried to snow:
- Novelist Virginia Gray writes of her experience here (and be sure to read the comments from many other people who have been taken in)
- Website designer and programmer Heather Goff describes something very similar here, with “Spotlite Radio” being a possible former name of this same business
- Complaintwire.org has a whole litany of accusations here
- The Better Business Bureau gives this organization an F
- And here are more horror stories on Yelp
Authors, stay away. This is not a legitimate radio station that empowers women . . . it is a fraudulent sham that wants to empty our pockets. Don’t even give them your phone number, because they will keep calling it.