AudioGreat breaks achieve a positive strategic goal back to the show. They communicate, both in content and presentation, something about the show plot. Breaks which score are real, relevant, and fun. They earn you valuable images. Here are some breaks by Reynolds Group shows which achieve this.
If you interview a musician in your format, please don’t talk with them only about their latest project. Make sure to tie them into the topic(s) of the day to get their take. Hawkeye and Katelyn, KSCS, Dallas had chance to talk with country superstar Sam Hunt. Set aside the real reason they got him (Sam was promoting something), they knew to make Sam even more relatable to the audience, the conversation had to be relevant to the day – which means exploring how the coronavirus has affected Sam’s life. In doing their due diligence, they found out that Sam’s wife had interest in installing a bidet in their house. So, they went there, as did Sam. Yes, they did get to the reason Sam came on. Hear not only how accessible this conversation makes him to the audience, but how fun it is to learn this about one of the format’s superstars. The audience wants vulnerability and to be let in – this did that! There is never a time in this conversation where Sam is not smiling, which makes it a great, entertaining conversation.
To truly resonate with the audience, we must understand where they are emotionally. We need to really connect with where their lives are in the middle of the coronoavirus crisis. In many respects, that’s easy if you have a life like them. Worlds get smaller when there is something like this. One of our jobs is to communicate to the audience who won’t call (98% of the them) that they are not alone in their experiences. Lots of phone calls do that. Let regular listeners come on to talk about what’s going on with them – their wins and frustrations – and that will talk to everyone else. This is a simple, but very powerful break from John and Tammy, KSON, San Diego, who let listeners come on who are over being stuck inside with their kids. Hear the raw emotion in the callers voices as they tell their stories and how John and Tammy connect with them to tell theirs – all leading to fun conversations that say to the audience, “we’re all in this together.”
With Tom Brady now leaving the New England Patriots, let’s revisit this theme day done by The TJ Show, AMP 103.3, Boston from the beginning of the season when the Pats started playing in the fall. Knowing the power of Tom Brady as a celebrity and the necessity as entertainers to tell stories, TJ, Loren, and Producer Matt decided to do Tommy Tales. Lots of of their listeners had occasion to meet Brady given his many years as the Patriots quarterback. We also knew that even if the listener had met him ten years ago, they’d relive it like it was yesterday. Stories are how we connect and define ourselves – the very best ones have details that make it come to life and keep it memorable. Any great song in your format is a story. Every reality show you watch on TV crafts a story around the compelling characters on the program. To move your fans to care more about you, you tell them stories. Here is a compilation of stories told about Tom Brady that should entertain all.
Here’s a break I bet you can’t do. When there is a topic as large as the coronavirus leaning on shows, it’s more important now than ever to remember two things: how listeners use us (the average P1 comes in twice per week for no longer than fifteen minutes) so they hear relatively little of your show. And that listeners are drawn to us, in large part, for relevance so you must do lots of it to affirm that image. We must avoid breaks right now with topics that are evergreen hold no space in the listeners’ lives. Christine from Christine and Salt, 965, TIC-FM, Hartford, speaks fluent Italian. So, they called Italy to check on how things are with the coronoavirus with the entire country on lock down. This ends up being a fun break around the biggest topic of the day that listeners would lean into, because it’s different and highlights an attribute of a cast member.
High level performers can creatively bring two Hot Topics together for presentation. Enter Two Men and a Mom, WRAL-FM, Raleigh who recognized something must be done with girl scout cookie sales, given they’re hanging out at the entrance to every grocery store. Often, we default to the standard ideas we’ve done before. If fun and focused on one scout and her story, that can actually work. These guys always push themselves for some new angle. So, they brought together that topic along with listeners knowledge of the TV show Shark Tank. They invited one girl scout to come on and pitch her cookies (that’s the standard idea) by placing her in The Cookie Tank to do the same (fresh angle). There’s nothing revolutionary about this break, but it’s an interesting frame because it leads to a production value that starts things that repositions it as fresh, fun, and real – the show plot – and sets us apart in the market from all the same old ideas being done by everyone else.
It’s important to understand and own a brand of humor – and one that is reflective of the cast on the show. Where Gallagher smashes watermelons and Chris Rock focuses on black culture and Jerry Seinfeld is the great observationalist, what is your brand of humor and how do you reinforce it around your plot? Mark and NeanderPaul, KSLX, Phoenix bill themselves on-air as “smart guys, stupid show”. That’s their plot. The humor is heady, but dumb, communicating that they truly do operate on a different level. There was a local story about the Mesa library and their late fees for overdue books. Add in that weekend’s Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and they mashed the two for a silly phone in bit that had those laughing feeling like they were the only ones getting the joke. Make sure your humor is on-brand to what your show is about.
Back when I was on the air, our station consultant impressed upon me how important it was that I love the same TV shows as the audience. So he suggested that I gush about Melrose Place and Beverly Hills 90210 each week. We know that that’s bullshit, right? Why can’t I just be me, I would always ask. The audience knows if you’re faking it so your job each show is to just be yourself, hoping the audience falls in love with that person! TJ from The TJ Show, AMP 103.3, Boston doesn’t much care for The Bachelor. He certainly has a working knowledge of it, but we never, ever, ever ask him to fake a love for a show (or anything) that isn’t really there. A few Sundays ago at church, while in conversation, he found out that his pastor is off-the-charts in love with the program. Seeing the opportunity in this, TJ put his pastor on to get all of that energy, which allowed TJ to stake his spot in the conversation while grounded in authenticity. You cannot question one’s honest take on a topic – you can just explore it and look for the opposite (i.e. his pastor’s love of the show) that allows you to stay true to who you are.
I can’t emphasize enough that if you have fun with a topic, especially one cut from today’s headlines, that it opens the break up to the person least interested in the topic you’re discussing. The Super Bowl was a quite universal topic two weeks ago. And there were lots of angles, as I am sure you approached it. Hawkeye from Hawkeye in the Morning, KSCS, Dallas has a most entertaining wife who is as comfortable being honest on the show as he and his partner, Connect K, are. Madeline knows little about football and knew not much more about the Super Bowl. So instead of the typical diet of sub-topics, one that they did was playing audio of Hawkeye talking with her about the game. Listeners are draw to honesty and inside honesty is the most natural sense of humor. Hear his effortless back and forth with her on this break and then see your relationship in their relationship. This hits many levels: character development, a reflection of a topic of the day, and it’s fun.
Your win is bigger when the audience knows you – and connects with your life and is moved to feel something. The audience for Karson and Kennedy, MIX 104.1, Boston knows that Karson’s wife, Lana, plays an on-going role in the show (she is quite funny and always puts him in check, which is endearing). So it was appropriate months ago that they also learned that Lana had been diagnosed with breast cancer. They have been involved along every step so they can root for both of them. On Lana’s last day of radiation, she came on the show so all could celebrate the moment. This could be serious and even one-dimensional without prep. But this show knows it can play with multiple emotions, especially given their deep history on the station and their significant relationship with their audience. It’s quite touching and celebratory – but…listen to the mischief Karson and the team introduce to also make it fun with some audio Lana had no idea would be played. This break is an A+ for all those reasons, and many more.
Who has A.D.D.? I hope all of our hands went up! We all want to be entertained and for it to happen quickly. The team at Two Men and a Mom, WRAL-FM, Raleigh spend extra time designing breaks with this in mind. It’s not necessarily about break length (although shorter is better than longer, the design of what you’re going to do is paramount). Listen to this relatable content and then hear how the break is designed so the listener never gets bored. There was a big local story where the coach of UNC basketball publicly dissed his team. Coming out of music, they got right to content with the audio clip of the coach everyone had heard. No fluff up front – content first! Then reflection conversation from the cast where you will hear the anchor pivot away from sports to the more relatable topic of disrespecting those you work with. Then, a call from a listener telling a very passionate story about a co-worker she thought was worthless. All of it fun. What helps this even further is that in their allotted time, the break had great pacing and never rested in one spot for too long because they prepped it that way.