How To Show Up For Interviews with Al Cole
We are turning the tables and I will be interviewing a ten-year veteran broadcaster from CBS Radio, a nationally syndicated show. Not too long ago I was interviewed by him for his show and over the course of several phone calls, I decided to share his success paradigm with you. He is an author, a musician, and a keynote speaker. His own show is featured nationally on CBS, Fox News, NPR, C-SPAN, and the BBC. Welcome, Al Cole, to the show.
Mitch, this is exciting. It’s really a pleasure being with you again. Thank you for being a great guest on my show and reciprocating. I’m going to be a great guest on your show as well.
I got to just let the audience in on a little secret. Al first interviewed me and then we spoke after his show and then we spoke again. I would say that over the course of the last two months we’ve probably spoken three to five times and I consider Al a friend at this point. Readers, you are reading into just a couple of friends hanging out and chatting. How’s that sound, Al?
That sounds great and that’s the way it is. Come on with it. Ask me anything you want and I’m yours for the next 45 minutes or so.
Tell us about how you first got started. How did you get into this whole thing?
There are two different aspects that I can couple together and make it right but in life, they were the great parents of mine. I always credit them, my mom my dad, for bringing me up in the way that they did because they deeply were in love when we were kids, including my three sisters right now, and still are in love. They showed that love to me and also my three sisters and they tried to do everything they could to encourage us in that platitude that really was in our home a reality. Be the very best you can be, and when I wanted to learn this and learn that, they got me a great tutor. When I wanted to learn how to play some music, they got me a piano. That’s how I got started into the directions that I am living out now, that positivity direction for people with distinction.
The way that I got into CBS radio was actually through to the back door. A good friend of mine was an executive at CBS Radio and he was one of my biggest music fans actually. I had a band going in the LA area and he was a big fan of that and said, “Anytime that things get slow in the music industry as they do from time to time, you’ve got a gig at CBS. Even if you’ve got no experience in broadcasting, I’ll hire you,” and he did. At a certain point, things did get a little bit slow with management and I took them up on that. I rose through the ranks very quickly at CBS. Voice has always been a big thing for me, and also in communications. That was really my outreach to CBS and then I start training people there, a consultant and also one of the major broadcasters for a while with my own syndication, that’s really my backdoor into CBS radio.
What you did is you took advantage of a personal connection as opposed to going through the front door with resumes and all this other stuff. You just got right down to it because you knew somebody and they trusted you and they understood who you are. I know you say that your voice is your instrument and it is, but I think it’s also your personality. I love the way you come across and the way you handle people on your show. I felt like I was a superstar by the way you handled me and I thoroughly enjoyed our interview process. It’s just one of your qualities, you just have this genuine friendly quality about you. I think that that’s part of why you’ve been so successful.Your voice and personality is your instrument. Click To Tweet
It certainly is because, through my voice, my personality comes out. Personality can be expanded to emotionality or spirituality. The whole thing. It really started to blossom when I was a kid in Rhode Island. I actually credit Rhode Island with a lot of the personality because when I was a kid there were so many different socioeconomic groups that we hung out with, they are black, white. Some of the white elements that are not a lot around the country, a lot of Portuguese people, they were Hispanics, they were a lot of Italians and everything. We all congregate. We all went to school together and it wasn’t perfect, but it was more integrated than most other areas of the country. We lived together. We didn’t just live separately. There were rich people and poor people on the same street. Right from the start, I had this cosmopolitan bent where I felt comfortable around all different types of people. Why not? Let that beat into personality and I credit it to some extent, little Rhode for that.
I grew up in New York City and I grew up in a predominantly white middle-class neighborhood and there were very few people of color and very few outsiders into our community. When my daughter went to school, she went to school here in Marlborough, Massachusetts and we just, like you, had an entire range of folks from all over the world. I loved seeing her connect with people from all walks of life and learn about their culture and be invited into their homes. It’s just a wonderful part of living is the diversity that we all provide each other. It sounds like you’ve got that in spades back there in Rhode Island.
Every time I’ve traveled around the country and I’ve been to every state at some point with music and speaking and everything, little Rhode always comes back as one of my favorites around the country. Even if I compare it to LA and New York that I lived extensively in, still little Rhode is a great place and people don’t even know about Rhode Island. One of these days, I want to clue them in on good speeches on the upbringing of people in Rhode Island as opposed to Long Island. People are sometimes like, “Rhode Island, what part of Long Island is that?” They don’t get it, but we’re going to get it one of these days with little Rhode on the map.
Let’s talk about what you do because I think it’s fascinating that someone can literally come up the ranks in the way you have at the speed you did. Most importantly, what I really want to know is what did you learn about radio, about podcasting that we could help listeners improve the way they show up for interviews and maybe even the way they interview themselves. Where can we take this?
I’m going to shock everybody with the answer because it’s new material here. It’s nothing that I ever mentioned so far and people would think, “Coming from CBS Radio, of course, you understand broadcasting.” Of course, I do. The simple answer to your question is sales. Not too many people would even consider that. I’m going to expand on that to make a simple thing more complicated, more complex, and actually more understandable. When things got slow with the music, not only did I ultimately resort to CBS Radio but in between, I did a lot of sales. I didn’t wait on tables and that’s the traditional outlet, “Now I’m waiting on tables, waiting for my big break.” I went out there and found that I was great at sales and then telemarketing and I even set up shop of helping people to put their presentations together to talk in a way that was actually their best communicative aspects.
That is really the buttress here. I’m saying this to your audience right now, if you want to know how to podcast, if you want to know how to broadcast, don’t go to broadcasting school primarily. You can do that but a lot of times it’s going to be a waste of money. You don’t have to get a gig necessarily at whatever AM/FM station is down the street. You can teach yourself these days because of digital media and all of the advances there. You can set up shop yourself as long as you know some of the sales tools. First and foremost, who are you? That’s a deep sales question. A lot of people wouldn’t see it that way, but it is because the best salespeople on this planet, certainly in this country, are people who at least know who they are. In terms of the image that they’re portraying at that particular point when they are communicating whatever they’re selling.
They become not only the salesperson for that, they actually live out that beautiful story of whatever that product is. They understand that product, they make it come alive even if it’s a vacuum cleaner and that’s the thing. When you’re podcasting, you are extending whatever story of life it is within you in terms of communication, really sales communication. You’re selling yourself to that guest. If you want to make some money at podcasting, you’ve got to have guests on your show. In terms of the way that I do it, you can just talk for half an hour about whatever you want to talk about, but that’s probably not the way that you are really going to be successful with podcasting or some sort of streaming radio show. Usually, it’s guests, so you’re selling yourself to the guest with authenticity. That’s a big word here.
That authenticity is reverting back to what I said in the first place, knowing yourself, know thyself. Salespeople sometimes are some of the best philosophers in the world. Sometimes salespeople know other people the best way because they deal with all types of people. Sell yourself on yourself first. If you start to do that, now you can sell yourself on somebody else and you can have this gracious personality that goes out beaming in a very drawing way to people. People are going to come to you, they’re going to like you and they’re going to say, “Can I be on your podcast? I just really like where you are coming from.” That is a big source of success. It’s not the only one, but that is one that people don’t talk about and I just talked about it on your show.
I wanted to also point out, I love what you said. The thing about it though is before you learn to sell yourself, you have to first learn how to love yourself. I see that from the perspective. I know most of us love ourselves, but what I mean is to admire yourself. Actually, enjoy your own company. You love listening to your own voice, that’s the cool stuff. That’s what I love to see. When I meet somebody and I see them that way, I know that they’re going to be great on the radio because they’re beaming that self-love to everyone around them and then selling themselves is relatively easy. Do you agree with that?
I couldn’t agree more. Loving oneself is the key to why. I often put it this way, when we’re babies and that’s one of the biggest things that we have in common. Everybody’s born a baby. Nobody comes out at tenth grade or 25 years old, we’re all born babies. When that baby is born, the baby is all love. It looks around and says, “I’m here. I’m actually alive.” No. That’s the greatest blessing in all people, being alive at all. When you know that you’re alive and you made it from someplace else now into life, you thank life for that blessing. As you’re thinking of life, you’re saying, “I love you, life. I love to be alive.” That is self-love right there. That’s the key to self-love, knowing that number one, you are blessed to be here at all and second, knowing that everybody else went through that same process and everybody as a baby loved life just as much as you love like when you were a baby.
If we started out that way, now how can we miss? Anytime in our adult life when we get depressed, we feel down, life may be worth nothing, we reflect on some of the love that we’ve given, some of the love that we’ve received, especially that baby image within us. That beautiful innocence of that baby who loved everything. Now, we say to ourselves, “Not only is life worth it, but I have a lot to share with other people who feel the same way.” Sometimes people who would feel the same way only they got into the doldrums just like we did and now we can serve others. We can help other people to get out of that doldrums, to get out of that really down spot. As we do that, we’re lifting ourselves up too. Self-love is a matter of service to others as well. It’s not just, “I love myself and that’s the end of it.” No, it’s only the beginning. Help other people to love themselves too is a way to love yourself even more and to know that we have a lot more in common than we have in difference.
Let’s take it to the next step here. We totally get it, when you say that the best part of who you are is by starting by loving yourself and then selling yourself and then selling others on who you are and why they should interview you. What about the interview itself? Do you have any tips? I’m sure you’ve interviewed, if not thousands of people, maybe tens of thousands. What stands out in your mind as some of the best ways to show up for an interview?When you're podcasting, you are extending whatever story of life is within you in terms of sales communication. Click To Tweet
An interview has to be structured in certain ways in order to sound professional. What you’re asking me is maybe, how do you structure an interview? First thing is the introduction is supremely important. I teach this stuff in my communications in business consulting and I have a whole slew of people who air their shows on my radio network, PeopleOfDistinction.org. My network is through Apple’s iTunes Radio Network under their professional news talk division, the biggest network in the world, they air CBS shows, BBC shows, NPR, C-SPAN, Fox News as well. I will say just to cram it in, if people want to get in touch with me, get in touch at AlColeHolic@Gmail.com. That comes from my CBS Radio listeners, they say, “Al, we love what you do in there. In fact, we’re hooked on it. We’re AlColeholics.”
Getting back into it here in terms of interview structure, that introduction is worth easily one-third of the interview. You’re putting your best foot forward. You should always introduce you and your information before you introduce the guest information. As you do that now, not only your listeners but that guest particularly is saying, “I’m impressed. Look at that. That guy is doing a lot of work.” Also, get your links out there. Then you put your second focus on your guest at that point and make sure that you do it in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re reading. You introduce your guest, you want to sound like an authority on your guest. You don’t want to read that person’s bio. You want to relate to that individual who is your guest now and also your audience that you’re a friend of this person. You understand this person, you can talk just as good as the guest can talk about him or herself.
You’re creating that beautiful connection, that professional relationship. That introduction is your opportunity to create a professional relationship among three parts. With yourself where you feel comfortable being you and talking about you in very integral ways without being egotistical about it and you’re also creating that beautiful relationship with your listeners. Your listeners are loving it and they say, “Al, you’re doing great work and your guest is doing great work too,” and then you’re creating that beautiful professional relationship with your guests as well. That’s the most important area because your guest is going to be the one that’s going to support you in your podcasting, not just because of a great interview, but maybe partnerships, maybe other things, other services that you offer. Maybe your guests will get involved in that.
It’s very important to now promote your guests throughout the show periodically. Talk about the links of your guests periodically. Talk about one other great thing that your guest is doing outside of just the product. That the main product is that standard, but also one or two other things that your guest is doing that maybe put you ahead of other podcasters because other podcasters aren’t talking that way. One of the things that you shouldn’t do and this is a big temptation to do, don’t use stock questions. Don’t let that guest send your assistant or even you some stock questions like, “Ask me this, ask me that.” That might sound logical. “You got to have stock questions.” Why do you have to have that? If you want to be authentic, if you want to be vibrant, if you want to be spontaneous, you don’t need stock questions. Let it come organically out of the conversation. Let it come from the heart and soul. Let it go where it’s going to go naturally. These are some of the things that make exceptional interviewers, but also exceptionally successful podcasters when they use it my way.
Readers, we are talking to the amazing Al Cole, syndicated CBS Radio host who is sharing his wisdom on creating great interviews. Let’s switch roles here. You talked about being the show host, which is great. How about being the one interviewed? You’ve had boring people on your show. You’ve had exciting people on your show like me. Give us the tips that make this really work great if you’re going to be interviewed on a show.
When I’m interviewed in such as now, I’m interviewed on your show, I’m totally open. I let it flow the way it’s going to flow. I can serve any question and I don’t care what you ask me. That doesn’t mean necessarily that I’m going to be as responsive to every single question, but whatever question any interviewer asks me when I’m on his or her show, I can manage and one of the reasons why I can manage it is I know my brand. You’ve heard that term before, brand. Everybody wants to have some brand, but you don’t really understand the meaning of that term in many cases. That brand is integral to who you are, how you love yourself and who you know yourself to be from that point of view that we talked about earlier in the show, from that point of view of, “I’ve been there, done that with me.”
I love the fact that I’m alive in the first place. Gratitude is a great branding area. If you are grateful for anything that you’re accomplishing, people can toss questions at you left and right and you can serve those. You’re saying, “I’m just dealing with positivity right now. I’m dealing with the reality of I’m living a nice, blissful life.” Even sometimes when we go downhill every once in a while, we know the downhill is not the end of that hill. It’s going to go back uphill because now the experiential comes in and we say, “Sometimes it’s good to feel some of those valleys because in feeling some of those valleys, now we can relate to the peaks as well.” Those potential peaks are going to come back and we can say, “Everybody’s been there, done that with the low points as well.”
I don’t even mind being asked some of the low points in my life and I’ll answer that to the best of my ability and a short answer. When one is comfortable with oneself, when one knows who one is professionally I’m talking about, but also personally. When you know that whatever question you’re going to be asked, of course, you can answer that because you feel comfortable with who you are. It’s very easy to be interviewed and the same with being an interviewer. You expect that the person that you’re interviewing to be comfortable with him or herself and even if they’re not, you make them comfortable with themselves. In the same way that you feel comfortable with yourself. Comfortability is the real key. Notice that I didn’t really say that word right because I’ve never been able to say it right, but it’s the perfect word, comfortability.
You said it perfectly. I totally understood it and I’m sure our readers did too. It’s interesting. I never broke it down that way or thought about it much myself. As a radio podcast host, I’m on a lot, but I’m also on podcasts as a guest a lot. I approach every one of these shows with thrill and delight. I don’t care if their audience is 25 people, I still love the experience of getting to know somebody, talking to them and relating to them one on one for half hour, 45 minutes or whatever the case may be because I don’t even know how much people talk to each other anymore these days. I just think it’s great to have these types of open friendly conversations and where we are imparting value. That’s the next big thing.
In this show, I’ve actually asked you and you responded beautifully several times to showing up with tools and tips if you will for our audience to do a better job on their own interviews and I really value that. Before we jump away from this topic to the next topic, the idea of delivering value. Are you a person who’s a big fan of trying to cram as much value as you can into an interview or do you like to just tease people with a couple of wisdom tips and make them come back for more?Loving oneself is the key to why. Click To Tweet
It depends on how one is defining value. One always wants to have as much value in anything that they do. It’s a matter of economics here. The value in economics might be different aspects. They might be flipped coins at the same thing. I would never use that term value because I don’t know what it really means pertaining to talk shows. I do know economics and economics means, how much bang am I getting from my buck here? That’s in the real world, that’s out there. Am I making enough to pay the bills? Really, there’s a cutoff. Am I making too much money because it’s straying me away from some of the things that I really value or getting back to that sort of value?
In a talk show, economy means a lot. Instead of using that term value, I’m going to use the word economy. In talk shows, you want to economize in terms of getting the most meat, if we want to put it that way, the most trust out of any particular segment of that show. Segments are a little bit different from every single word. You can make mistakes with words every once in a while. You can say, “Ah” and “Um,” every once in a while and that it’s going to mean that you’re not getting all of the value of your word selection out at any particular point. In the end, if you’re thinking of it as one section at a time, “I’m going to make an explication. I’m going to explain what I want to explain in one minute or a minute and a half or two minutes, whichever is operative here.”
You’re able to get in, make a good introduction to expand on it very well and get out predictably. Most people will spend too much time talking rather than too little talking. Even if they’re talking about something of real value, you could say that they’re not economizing right because they’re just going on and on a little bit too long. They already made their point a minute ago and they didn’t know it. Economy is really the key here to get in, make your point, get out in a very predictable way, so the other person knows that, “It’s my turn to speak.” That is one of the most important things to learn, economizing when it comes down to talk. I’m just infusing economization.
Thanks for explaining that. Let’s shift gears. You are a multifaceted individual and there’s an element of what you do that I really like. It’s called People of Distinction. Can you tell us a little bit about your project and how that’s working?
That’s the name that I gave my show. Ultimately, my business is Al Cole Enterprises but People of Distinction is one of the subdivisions of my business. I had to think long and hard about that. It didn’t come just to me instantly. I come from a background at CBS Radio. I had also my own syndication at one point called Love Tips. I was known for romance and still am, not as much as I was at CBS Radio. I was known as Mr. Romance because I guess my voice had a lot to do with it. My listening audience didn’t have to always be women particularly, but even the guys because I would stress love, I would just stress caring in what I ever did.
It’s because of my eyes. I’m a black guy but I have blue eyes. I was known as Mr. Romance for a long time at CBS Radio. One of the results of that was that I’ve learned a certain handle on my voice and certain delivery that I should be doing if I wanted to be romantic in a holistic way. It wasn’t just sexuality, but it was sensuality and it wasn’t just sensuality, but it was spirituality. We’re leading up to something right now. Even before People of Distinction, I was doing podcasts that were pretty much on the subject of women’s sexuality and romance.
At a certain point, I said to myself, “I can’t keep this up,” because it’s a very limited market. I want to talk to a lot of women. I want to talk occasionally about sexuality. I want to talk very expansively about romance in terms of love. What do I do in order to broaden my market? Another big word here and I said, “I want to have everybody that I want to have on my show, business people, spiritual people, doctors, lawyers, everything. They would be people with distinction. Al, did you realize what you said? People of distinction.” It just came out after a lot of rumination. That’s how it really developed, People of Distinction. It wasn’t right away.
It was after I had gotten into the podcasting area and said, “I have to expand from this because I don’t want to have a limited market.” The market in my case is not my listeners so much. They are my guests. That’s how I make money in podcasting or streaming radio. That’s how you do it these days. Believe me, in digital media, don’t expect your listeners to pay the bills for you. Sometimes, depending on the podcasting you do, but it’s usually limited. It’s usually the guests that come to your show that enter into some business professional partnerships, relationships with you. They support what you do and you support what they do. People of Distinction is perfect. Anybody can come on a show and be designated a person of distinction. That’s how it all originated.
By the way, the whole idea of monetizing a podcast, we’ve had other guests that talked about it before. The most important element that we talk about and what you just heard Al say, and it’s the way I monetize my podcast is by building relationships with guests. That’s what Al does, that’s what I do. If you’re a podcaster, that’s what you’re doing too. It’s only those very few that creates super big audiences for many years that can monetize their listeners. When that happens, that’s wonderful, but it’s rare. It’s not really where the money comes from. Al, we’re going to switch gears one more time here and we’re going to get to something really important. The reason I think this is important is although you are a person who people can get to know easily, this question helps others really see who you are. Who, in all of space and time, would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch or an intense conversation with?Even sometimes when we go downhill, we know the downhill is not the end of that hill. Click To Tweet
I’m going to shock people, and shock is just one way to put it. This is offbeat. Nobody would expect this. I would love to have walking the park again with some of the beautiful women that I’ve known. I’m not putting it in just one-person sense. I’m not saying, “One person, who would that be?” I’m not even talking about a big star. I don’t think that way. I think in terms of my life, I think in terms of the beautiful times that I’ve had in my life, love doesn’t end when the relationship ends. That’s one of the things, Mr. Romance got out CBS Radio. Answering your question here, there had been many beautiful women that I’ve known throughout my life. I’ve been blessed.
Many of these women I haven’t seen for a long time and might never ever see again in this life. I would love to be able to see so many of those women again, have lunch with them and even ask this question to them that men are scared to death to ask usually at any point except maybe later on in the relationship. How did you really see me the first time you saw me? When did you know that you wanted to enter into some sexual intrigue with me? That I did at any particular point that really started to turn you on? This is an integral stuff. I’m not talking about some superstar that I’d like to spend dinner with or something like that. The superstars are good for one thing. They are good for whatever product they’re putting out there.
If they’re great at putting music together, they’re great at putting music. That doesn’t mean that I’m interested in their minds and spending a lot of time talking to them and having coffee except if I want to make a buck off of them. Let’s be honest here. The people that you want to spend that intimate time with should be people who maybe you have to spend intimate time with and didn’t ask everything that you wanted to at that point. How about your mother? How about your father? How about your sisters or your brothers? How about your kids? These are the ones that you want to spend a walk in the park with. These are the ones that you want to ask those special questions that maybe you were too busy to ever ask in your life. That’s People of Distinction’s ways of putting the answers. I think you get it too, Mitch.
The grand finale, the change the world question. What is it that you are doing or would like to do that truly has the potential to literally change the world?
I don’t really think it exists in the same way on another planet. This is coming from left field. Get used to it with People of Distinction talk here. No matter what show I’m on, the biggest tragedy of this planet is starvation, hunger. Nobody should die of hunger when we all know that people need food to live. “Where’s that going? Where are you going with that?” I’m going here. The main thing that I could do for this world and I would love to do for this world is to end hunger. You’ve got a backdoor of that stuff in the same way that I said I backdoored it into CBS radio. It’s very difficult to go out there and with the placards and banners and everything and the marching steps and say, “I want to end hunger.”
We do it in different ways. You get involved in groups, maybe have your own very successful podcast and maybe you’re talking about that subject every once in a while. You’re educating yourself and then you’re going out into the community every once in a while when you speak. You don’t make a big thing, but you get to it every once in a while. Maybe homelessness, maybe some of the really socio-active topics that the people sometimes shy away from. More and more in our society, we know that we need that stuff. Let’s end hunger, ultimately. Let’s end poverty, ultimately. If you want to see me as some political force right now or person making a political statement, you can do that, but we know that this is not just political.
This is our everyday situation. Half of us are scared to death of losing our position in life. It’s because of money. That’s the biggest aspect here. I’m not saying anything good or bad against money. I’m just saying it as a straight-out fact. We’re a little bit too money-oriented in this world and in this particular country, this society. That leads to so many other problems that we have. Half of the time we get divorced because of money matters and then we started arguing and chipping at each other and now it becomes personal. Let’s get our priorities straight. Let’s get our value straight. We talked about a few values. The biggest value of all is, how do we put enough love in our lives that is not there to begin with? How do we go from our jobs that we probably only half like, to maybe our social situations and love situations with the people who we really do care about and spend more time on those things?
Love considerations rather than the humdrum of what we don’t want to be bothered with because we’ve got to make a buck. That would be my biggest contribution to this world, changing the money system to a love system. Maybe next year you can ask me how I can do that. Maybe next year you’ll be part of it, but right now I don’t know exactly how we do that, but yes, that would be the biggest contribution I could make. To help people live according to that little baby that I talked about earlier who looks around and says, “I love everything. I am so blessed to be here. I don’t even want to hurt anybody.” Let’s end hunger, let’s end hurt in our society. I want to be a voice for the suffering people and believe me, we’re all suffering. That’s another answer for you, Mitch.
The thing that I heard you say besides the beautiful words that you used in the way you described the problem, the most important thing to me is I heard that you want to do this every day, that people who truly change the world are those who are involved in it every single day. A little bit here, a little bit there, and then maybe at some point if it’s truly a focus, it becomes your core issue and then you get behind it with all of your heart and all of your heart and all of your time. What you said there was perfect because that’s how all of us can change the world a little at a time. Al, you have been such a fun guest. I really appreciate having you on the show. Thank you for showing up as the absolute incredible Al Cole that I expected you to do and you did. It was great chatting with you. I can’t wait until we get a chance to talk again next.
Thank you so much. This has been my pleasure, Mitch.