Twitter at 2 a.m.? What WAS I thinking?

My PR students may be interested in knowing how I prepped for a one hour live interview on 850 KOA radio in Denver on Wednesday, March 22. People who know me well will want to know how I prepped for this interview because it was from 2-3 a.m. Dallas time. They know I’m usually in bed by 10:30 because I’m an early riser. Oh well, we PR people are good soldiers. We do what we have to do for the cause.

The producer’s call came at 3:30 as I was walking over to the student union to meet a music professor friend for coffee. At this time of year she’s up to her eyeballs in juries and recitals, and I’m up to my eyeballs grading student writing. Thirty minute breaks are necessary for our sanity.

The producer had received a very nice, very flattering dispatch from UNT’s PR department touting me as an “expert” on Twitter, available to talk about it, and describing my use of it in the classroom. This advisory included an incredibly eloquent quote by me, caught when I was well-rested and in a good mood.

The scenario was intriguing: The show is called “After Midnight with Rick Barber” and it has a million listeners. It’s available via webcast, and because it’s a Clear Channel station, they have wide reach. This is a good opportunity to promote the University of North Texas and the Mayborn School of Journalism. But 2 am? That’s deep into my regular REM time.

But Steve, the jovial producer, had me at “This radio host just doesn’t ‘get’ Twitter.” I’m in, big time. I LOVE talking to Twitter haters, Twitter agnostics, Twitter wafflers and Twitter doubters big-time. Sure, I’ll stay up past my bedtime to talk to your guy about something I started out hating and for which I am now an evangelist. Do I call you, or will you call me?

After exchanged emails nailed down all the details, my work began. I’ve done live, one hour interviews before, but they were always in studio, where I could see the host, and at a civilized hour. Wait, there was the one I did on a hunting and fishing show (when I worked for a conservation organization) at 5 am an hour’s drive from home. But I digress….No matter how “expert” you are, you have to prep for something like this, or you’re a fool. I’m representing the university, even if it’s in another time zone when only insomniacs are listening. So the first thing I did was research the station, and the host. I ‘liked’ the station on Facebook and started following them on Twitter.

News Radio KOA 850 AM is a news/talk station that is also the official station of the Denver Broncos. Their broadcast lineup includes Rush Limbaugh, which is important to know, because that tells me a lot about their audience. Their network news is Fox News Radio. Looking at the rest of their lineup, I can tell they like humor. Good, I’m OK with that. I also catch up on local news, which, if appropriate, I can refer to during the interview. Colorado is struggling with major brush fires right now.

The next thing I do is try to find info on Rick Barber, which in this case is not easy. The guy doesn’t have much of an online profile, which is not surprising if he’s not a Twitter fan. The station’s website could provide more biographical info, but I’ve got to work with what I’ve got. A Facebook search tells me he graduated from high school in 1964 (so he’s my brother’s age) and has been a radio host in Denver since 1982. He has undergraduate degrees in journalism and anthropology, which makes me think he’s an interesting guy. He’s from Providence, RI and likes classical music and jazz. I think he likes golf, but he doesn’t really have much on his page. I know all this because his Facebook security settings are wide open.

I listen to their local newscast—pretty standard fare—and the evening talk show host rant about how our president is a Marxist.

So, now that I have an idea of the tone of this station, I check for some updates on Twitter, related to its 5th birthday, and refresh my memory on some general social media statistics. I’m trying to anticipate the questions, and listening to the people calling in to the earlier programs helps me prepare for the potential for late-night nuttiness.

And I have another Diet Coke.

Then I prepare a little bullet point sheet, print off a couple of favorite blog posts about Twitter and social media so I can quote them, and review a PowerPoint I showed in class about Twitter. I also Tweeted my progress to my students and asked them for input, which was wide-ranging.

It always pays to be over-prepared, especially when it’s a situation you’re unfamiliar with. This is not a taped interview of 5-10 minutes in length, this is an open-ended live late-night minefield, and while world peace or a cure for cancer is not at stake, I don’t want to embarrass the university or the Mayborn School of Journalism. So I decide it’s also worth reviewing a blog post I wrote in March, 2009 about prepping for a late night TV appearance. No, this guy’s not Letterman, but he’s been on the air for a long time in a major media market and undoubtedly has a following. I can’t take any chances.

So now, as the evening news is winding down I’m getting comfy and switching gears to get a little brain break before the fun begins. I’m armed with the stats I want to use, and will have both the desktop and laptop computers fired up for real-time Googling and live Tweeting as needed. I’m looking forward to this, and will post an update after I’ve finished the show—and gotten some sleep!

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