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.
Oftentimes, we hear from talent that length of break equals its value. In other words, the longer the break, the more they got done. This is wrong many times. A shorter break plays to listeners’ attention spans, which compels all of us to prep harder to earn images and strategic wins. Here’s a new feature from Two Men and a Mom, WRAL-FM, Raleigh called Know This or Sing the Chorus. Great new features sometimes come from quirky names. Bryan Lord’s wife is a teacher at an area school and he went to their yearly talent show. Finding both a willing and fun fellow attendee, Bryan played around with him to do this version of the feature. Listen to this break below and see if you don’t agree that the show accomplished the following seven items in this break: it was topical (the trivia question was about a Christmas tree); it was local (Bryan talked about where his wife is a teacher); there was character development (I learned Bryan is married); it was music-based (listeners tend to evaluate having fun around the music higher); it was a different way to present content (so the show is perceived as fresh and new); it was fun; it was short (everything accomplished here was done in under three minutes).
We’re entering the season where radio stations and shows do their annual community service projects to rally the listeners to give back. One of the most unique is what we do on The Josie Dye Show with Matt and Carlin, Indie 88, Toronto. Each year, there are 5000 homeless people on the streets of Toronto. What do the shelters need? Socks so the homeless don’t get frostbite. In two years time, the show has rallied its listeners to donate over 320,000 pair of socks which are turned over to the shelters. To kick things off this year, the station put on an event called Heroes for the Homeless, where we honored those workers who’ve dedicated their lives to help these less fortunate people. This last week, they gathered the group for dinner and some speeches. Here is a break from their show the day after, with a story told by someone who was once homeless, but now lives every day to help others who have no where to sleep at night. Listen as this gentleman tells his most powerful story to move the room, and spur the audience to jump start this year’s campaign. Make me feel for the cause and listeners will step up to help – our name for anyone who helps this year (Heroes for the Homeless) is aspirational and positive.
Craft an edgy story with five lies and convince a listener to call their mom and tell it to her and you have a weekly benchmark called Five Lies to Tell Your Mom. In search of a new appointment for Mojo in the Morning, Channel 955, Detroit a few years ago, we developed this weekly bit that highlights the relationship one listener has with their mother. Offline, the show creates a short story with five bold, but believable lies. They then conference call the listener with their mother and, without the mom knowing they are also on the line, they listen in as the story is told and the mother reacts. They record this one week out to make it good – which affords the show the time to coach the listener on the story and then for editing and post production. In some ways, this is a train wreck (in a good way) the audience would never see themselves doing, but love eavesdropping on because the stories you concoct can be as bold as you like to capture the audience’s attention.
It’s really important when a cast member tells a story about any experience they have (or will have) that you include the other people in the story in telling it on the show. Dana and Jayson, KBZT, San Diego understand to make stories full and complete that using your break time with other colorful characters helps the story come alive even more and, it gives the principles (them) more to play with. Jayson was moving. A relatable, common occurrence. What kind of person is Jayson during this chore? How did he take care of those who helped? What is their take on Jayson and his emotional state during a task no one likes? There are so many questions – don’t limit yourself to just your perspective (or the one perspective of the person who endured it). Add drama through twists and turns, by inviting in others who’ll add some level of tension that will make the story more fun to tell and more fun to hear.
Houses divided, where each spouse roots for a different team in a sports rivalry, is an easy relationships topic that adds a special layer of emotion for your audience. One of the classic football rivalries is the yearly Bears-Packers game, because both teams are fairly close to one another and each has a fan base deeply loyal. It’s easy to get into these kinds of conversations on the show when these games happen, and you should do that. Sherman and Tingle, WDRV (The Drive), Chicago (one of whom backs the Packers and the other who prefers the Bears) took it one step further the morning after the game. With a Packers win, they asked the audience if it was inappropriate for Packers fans to gloat by wearing their Green Bay jerseys to work to celebrate the win, and rub it in to Bears fans in the office. The resulting phone calls, mostly from Packers fans believing there was nothing wrong with doing that, results in some very local content, and breaks that radiate the rivalry and passion, giving both sides an opportunity to relate, take a position, and have fun (even if they lost).
Great shows are in the moment and perishable. Sometimes the edgier topics (like the Trump-Ukraine controversy) need some innovation to tie into without angering either (or both) sides, claiming you took a position on politics they don’t agree with. Enter Christine and Salt, 96.5 TIC-FM, Hartford who easily acknowledged that the phrase “quiz pro quo” is in our lexicon. Everyone’s hearing it. So it’s fair game to create content around it. How to tie into it without being political, though? They came up with a fun game call the Quiz Pro Quo. They described things that could happen that rhymes with the phrase to give out a prize. Listen to this break – they never mention Trump, Ukraine, impeachment, or even politics. They acknowledged the phrase and do their version of it. Hear the fun they have – and imagine the fun listeners are having, too, hearing this silliness. All around a Hot Topic, which is highly important to do. They could have done something generic or evergreen – but they went topical. The more you are doing your version of these well-known topics, the more perishable your show will be. And that’s a good thing.
What works in today’s radio is telling stories and being real. Wacky radio bits are way less effective than ever. What’s it like when two admitted shop-o-holics enable each other on a shopping spree while in New York? David, Sue, and Kendra, Magic 106.7, Boston have terrific chemistry as a team – you can feel that as you listen to this break below. Sue and Kendra, super shoppers, went to New York City for a station function and happened upon a store they like mere moments before they were to be at a meeting. Not ones to pass up that chance, they went in and shopped like crazy. What stands out in this break, besides the fun vibe, is that the story has tons of details for David to poke around about as they tell him what they did. Relatable to many women, this story is universal because its thesis and humor transcend age and gender appeal. They’re almost giddy with what they got away with. They let David in on the shenanigans and played with each other with a great self-deprecating sense of humor. This is a great break about real life – a well told story with its colorful facts – to connect with and entertain listeners who were tuned in at that time.
A morning show recently suggested they don’t do interviews because interviews don’t work in PPM. That’s an absolute to me so I challenged them. Bad interviews don’t work as I’ve written on these pages. Enter Hawkeye and Katelyn, KSCS, Dallas who presented the perfect opportunity to disprove that theory. The show was just a few weeks away from Katelyn’s wedding. So, we decided to do some character development around that fact. Hawkeye gathered as many artist interviews as he could (the list is a who’s who: Dan and Shay, Garth, Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, Kelsey Ballerini to name a few). Along with a quick interview, he then pitched at each (without them knowing it was coming) that he would give them $750 if they would perform at Katelyn’s wedding. This would be his gift to her. We wanted to hear how the artists reacted the offer. As you’d expect, every artist turned him down. The fun came in listeners anticipating that moment. The discomfort, and its subsequent humor, turned this from a regular Q&A into something both fun and strategic for character development. Here is a recap break the show did on Katelyn’s first day back after the weekend ceremony. They added Hawkeye’s voided check done throughout as a visual for social media, which you can see here.
When you’re out and have a local experience, it always helps in the telling of your story when you gather audio from those who are having fun with you. Bryan Lord from Two Men and a Mom, WRAL-FM, Raleigh went to see the “It” sequel the weekend it was released. His impetus landed on two fronts: it was a Hot Topic and he has interest in the movie. Knowing that fewer people would see the movie than not, Bryan looked for audio from others there to help him tell his story on Monday morning – and do so in a way for the vast majority of the audience who hadn’t seen the movie but are aware of the franchise. He had to look no further than a fellow movie-goer who hated it, didn’t think it was close to the book, and wanted her money back as she left the theater. Many people would just note this and tell this story. Bryan talked with her and got all that passion on their show, making me feel like I was in the theater lobby with him. He also broadened the topic, assuring that I didn’t have to see the movie (or even know much about it) to follow along and be entertained by the break
If Dancing With the Stars offered you Sean Spicer for an interview, would you take it? Or, because he’s politics and associated with the president, would you turn it down? If you took it, what would you ask him? Great shows are in the moment – they do content that two weeks from now feels stale. Sean Spicer and Dancing With the Stars are “the moment”. Christine and Salt, 96.5 TIC-FM, Hartford were offered the interview and accepted. Their first question was asking if he knows how to spell “impeachment”, allowing Spicer to show his sense of humor. They then explored his job, if he’d ever met Melissa McCarthy who played him on Saturday Night Live, and then the outrageous outfits they’re making him wear on the show. The best part of all of this is that they leaned into the interview and saw its potential to grab the audience, instead of being worried about how it could harm them. Be about “the now” with your show – know the big topics and what your take is on them to do the most relevant, contemporary program. All the media around that you compete with are about what’s going on right now in the news and pop culture – and while some judgement will need to be used (not everything fits), talk through how you might do something so you stand out in the marketplace.