I’m so thankful for the opportunity to talk to Parker J. Cole. Parker is a writer and podcaster. While many people limit their online activity to blogging, there are plenty of other area to stretch out into. In this interview, Parker gives some great advice on a number of topics, especially on how to do an interview. This is an area I’m trying to grown in myself. Ironically, I had to interview Parker in order to learn how to do interviews!
I would encourage you to check out Parker online at her website.
Please tell us a little about yourself and how your radio program began.
The fun bio of me is this: I’m a lover of the Lord and a former Mountain Dew and marshmallow addict who writes to fill the void the sugar left behind. It’s all about the sugar for me Steve..
The official one is that I am an author, speaker, and executive of the podcast network PJC Media. PJC Media focus on real talk about all areas of our lives from the arts to relationships, politics, current events, and more.
I write Christian romances and speculative fiction. I speak on topics related to diversity in Christian publishing, encouraging aspiring authors to write, discussing hard and sensitive topics in Christian fiction, and generally gabbing until people’s eyes glaze over.
The program began two and a half years before I even knew I would be doing this. I had met a man at an open house for a networking function. At the time, I had a virtual assistant business. He had a podcast show and wanted my help with some administrative assistance. That was all there was to the conversation. About a year later, my husband came home with a microphone. Just so you’ll know, my hubby is a techie and likes his gizmos and gadgets. So when he came home with this $150.00 microphone, I couldn’t believe it. “Why did you buy a microphone?”
“It was on sale.”
“No one in here is going to be on radio!”
“I got a rebate for $20.00.”
Steve, I can’t tell you how upset I was when I saw that thing. I kept staring at it like, “Why is it here?”
About eight months later, the Lord blessed me with the best agent on planet Earth. Her name is Vanessa and she has been with me through thick and thin. As we were discussing platform building, she suddenly reached out to me and say, “I think you should start a radio podcast.”
The only person I knew who had a podcast…was the guy I met a nearly two years ago. I reached out to him and the rest is history. In 2016, I started my own network and we now have five shows under the belt and looking to expand and add more.
Whoever says my God has a sense of humor was dead on the money.
Hmm…what does ‘dead on the money’ mean, Steve? Did like a lot people in the past fall dead on a lot of money so that it became a social idiom?
How has podcasting changed the way people produce and consume content?
Podcasting a great tool to get your content out to listeners. With a podcast, no matter where you are in the world, someone can listen to your content on a mobile device while they’re working out, walking, staring off into space, etc. We often talk about the drawback of handheld devices and how they help to cocoon and isolate people from each other. The other side of the coin is that podcasting helps to cement your listeners as well. If you want to listen to Steve’s apologetic broadcasts and similar content, you can do that. Podcasts put the listeners in control of what they want to hear. Dedicated listeners keep the podcast going.
How do you find people to interview on your show?
I drive a bulldozer through their houses and ask if they want to take a survey! Hahaha! No, honestly, because my audience is the Christian audience and people who like to read, I reach out to authors to interview. My own palate for reading is pretty wide (except books about taxes—I’d rather watch paint dry) so my show is open to Christian authors all over the world who write.
A steady refrain I have on my show is this question: Are we Christian authors or authors who are Christians? I don’t believe there is a right or wrong answer. I have had Christians on my show who don’t write Christian books. They write for the general market. I’ve had those who write specifically for the Christian audience.
Also, as an advocate of Christian books of all genres, I host authors who write in less accepted genres such as steampunk, horror, dystopian, AI, etc. Others have more spicier scenes, language, themes, and other elements. All of them have a place on my show. I’ve had different denominations on the show, ethnicities, fringe crowd, conservatives, liberals. Some of the guests I’ve had on my show I’ve disagreed with on non-essentials of the faith.
My statement of faith which I use for the show is the same statement of faith for the Christian Apologetics Alliance which I am an unofficial member.
What is the key to doing a good interview?
As a host, the key to doing a good interview is going with the flow. Let things happen naturally. You prepare for your topic or guest but let it flow. Don’t worry if your voice cracks, or you cough, sniff, chew bubble gum the first time you do. Over time, you’ll find your own way of doing things.
As a guest, the key to doing a good interview is to be prepared but also be open to the unexpected. Some people don’t think quick on the feet like others, that’s fine. If you’re thrown off during the interview, you can still salvage it by saying, “Not sure how to answer that but let me think on it and we can come back to it.” Or, if there’s a topic you don’t want to discuss, let the host know BEFORE the show unless it’s something thrown in during the course of the discussion. You can ask for a list of questions or topics before you do the interview or you can send what you want the host to ask or question you on.
Have your friends and family support you whether you’re the host or the guest. Nothing like having your own cheerleaders.
For both hosts and guests, this the last thing: be yourself. Everyone will appreciate you being who God created you to be.
What do you see as a common mistake by people doing interviews?
Steve, you ever been to a party but the host already ate up the food before you got there? Rude, right? I mean, I was looking forward to the buffalo chicken wings and I’m left with the celery from vegetable tray!
The same thing can be said when a host takes over the show with an invited guest. The guest is the star – let them talk. Else, why did you ask them onto your show in the first place?
Another thing I’ve seen, and this is a mistake I’ve done myself, is having a lot of guests on the show. Once and for all time, I interviewed four people on my show. It was difficult keeping track of them as well as making sure everyone had a chance to speak. As I am doing a podcast where all of my guests are on the phone, then I limit it to one, max two people.
Now, in my experience, this scenario of having a lot of people on the show works better if the host and the guests are face to face like you see in brick and mortar radio stations with all the equipment dangling in front of their faces. You can get a good vibe going, people can bounce back and forth on it, etc. However, in my opinion, if your guests are mainly audio and long distance, no more than two.
I was part of an interview once where the host, and I kid you not, had 20 people on the phone. I literally only said ONE THING. I felt it was a disservice to everyone. Had I known that, I would have declined the invitation.
A mistake I’ve seen is when the guest’s answers are too short.
“Parker, how do you feel about the situation in X?”
Where’s the dialogue? This is your chance to let YOUR voice be heard. YOUR opinions stated. Don’t get whispery now! For those that don’t do well with thinking quick on their feet, be proactive about the questions. Send a nice healthy list to the host. Even if you don’t get to them all, you can get through some. I’ve had guests write out all their answers to the questions they send me or I send them, and we just go off the list. We just make sure we talk naturally.
As mom always says, make sure you’re a good guest, too. Give the host ample time to dialogue with you as well. Be respectful of time constraints. Don’t just take over. I was on a podcast recently and the host invited me to read a selection from one of my books for 5- 8 minutes so I just read for about 2 minutes. I could have gone the entire time allotment but I was also aware of time constraints and the other guest who would be reading from her book.
Think about it: the host is allowing you to share your ideas on their platform. If you hog all that time, it’s being a bit overbearing. That’s like going to the party and eating up all the food, belching, and then heading out the door.
Question: if someone did that to you, would invite them to your house again?
Also, call in or arrive early for your interview. Don’t push the time envelope too much.
What do you do when the interview is not going well? How do you get back on track?
As a host, I’ve had to cut in on long winded guests, deal with the phone hanging up, a testy caller calling into to debate, prank calls, and technical difficulties.
You simply go with the flow. For long-winded guests, you interrupt them politely. “Parker, let me cut in right here because we have to go to a break but hold that thought.”
With technical difficulties, you apologize for them and do the best you can. If you can’t, it’s not the end of the world. You’ll be able to do another show at another date.
Kids in the background, dogs barking, ambulance, hey—life’s meant to be a surprise! Don’t let the small things that won’t matter tomorrow take up too much of your time. Most people I know do try to prepare ahead of time so this doesn’t happen all that often but I try to prepare for it by being attentive.
On the technical side, what kind of equipment or software should person starting a podcast get at the beginning?
Invest in a good microphone and headset. You don’t have to go overboard in pricing but you always want to make sure your sound is top notch. The brand I have is a Yeti microphone but there other studio mikes you can choose from. After all, you’re competing for listeners. Don’t try to do the show in your bathroom where we can hear the echo.
Steve, that may sound weird but I’ve been in shows where I can tell!
Also get a pop filter. It helps to minimize the sound of popping. I have full lips so my ‘p’s always sounds ‘puhs’! Not ‘Parker’ but “Puharker!” hahaha! I always laugh at myself.
If you’ve only got link in your pockets, you can make your own. My hubby made a pop filter for me with just a wire, nylon stocking, and a hoop ring.