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.
One of the many things listeners are drawn to in a morning show is their chemistry. You cannot fake chemistry – it’s the foundation for the show’s genuineness and authenticity. Much like the significant relationships you have in your own life, the relationships between cast members is a draw for listeners, too. Many perceive they do not have this in their own lives so they are aspirational and wish to belong to yours. One of the daily benchmarks on The Cruz Show, Power 106, Los Angeles, is R U Down, a prank one listener plays on a friend with the show as the conduit, to see if they’ll consent to doing something outrageous for them. Here’s one where the show pranked a new co-worker. Multiple cast members, as well as PD Jimmy Steal, played a role in this. It’s the chemistry you hear which is the element that makes listeners feel comfortable and like they belong in your the family.
Strategic character develop is always a critical effort for any show. Part of the foundation for any successful program is how well the audience knows you. Which compels a certain authenticity and vulnerability. Oftentimes, character development is accomplished by the stories you tell about yourself that give the audience a peek into your life so they can connect with you. Other times, it’s your honest take on the topics of the day that inform them who you are. On Spencer’s Neighborhood, 106.5 The Arch, St. Louis, Brando interviewed his cute daughter Amelia, asking her questions about…him. Thus positioning him thru her eyes. This is strategic character development done another way.
There is great character development when a cast member puts their parent on the show. Immediately, you become their kid (not a DJ or “radio personality”) because of the conversation. Always wanting to show his mischievous side, TJ from The TJ Show, AMP 103.3, Boston decided to send something inappropriate to his mother through Amazon. Ever the craftsman, TJ understands what elements need to be in place to create compelling audio and a conversation with conflict that can be aired so the listener not only feels a part of the scenario, but is entertained in the process, wanting to hear how it will end. Listen to not only what TJ concocts, but how he presents this. The thesis of the conflict appears in the first 20 seconds of the break to hook you (the audience knows everything in the set up so they only need to focus on his mother’s reactions), the approach is novel and unique, you can relate to it, you want to know how it will be resolved, and how TJ uses FaceTime audio to advance the narrative.
Music-based features resonate with listeners. Which is why Rob and Joss, Froggy 92.9, Santa Rosa, CA do a weekly feature called “Write a Song Wednesday”. They choose a topic (in this case Star Wars) and tap into it comedically by asking listeners to suggest lines for the song. A local musician then puts together a short tune using listener’s funny suggestions. The nice addition to the feature, considering it was Christmas-time, was that the team decided to parody “Santa Baby” and make a song called “Vader Baby”. These songs are always short (60-75 seconds), have a listener component to them, and work to a goal of creating some fun.
Bring me there. When you tell your story, make me feel like I am in the room with you. We’ve all been in the predicament where we buy something from a vending machine and it gets stuck and does not release. There was an suspended crunch bar in the kitchen vending machine and Stacey K and Jonah, HOT 101.7, Santa Rosa, CA were determined to set it free. Only thing is, they had to wait for the vending machine guy to show up to do it. Every effort to rock the machine to do so failed. Recording the audio of the crunch bar’s liberation and then delivering it to the person who originally purchased it made me feel like I was there with them as the story was told on the air. It also made the narrative funnier and more connective.
Do you know the lyrics of the Christmas songs you’ve played a thousand times on the air? Kelly from Arnold on Bud and Broadway, WIL, St. Louis obviously doesn’t. Singing “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” to herself in the studio, the team noted her lack of knowledge of the words. So…this became a break. It highlights the team’s relevance and sense of humor. They challenged Kelly and the room to know the next lines after the song starts. This is great use of audio and a very organic break with tons of laughter and self-deprecating humor from everyone. This break opened other possibilities – like the team having to do Christmas carols on the spot for the audience, showing again how don’t know the lyrics of the world’s biggest holiday songs.
Audio helps you tell a story. When planning your breaks, part of the prep process should be to see if audio exists to help place your commentary and observations in context (i.e. when talking about something you saw on TV, that audio helps bring in those who didn’t see the show – which is a majority of those listening). Likewise, ask what audio might exist that will heighten the entertainment factor of the break. Rob and Joss, Froggy, 92.9, Santa Rosa, CA got into a discussion of Joss’s love of holiday decorating and the topic of her mother came up. The team is also a couple, which the audience knows, which gives Rob license to have fun with Joss’s mother in the conversation. Here, but briefly, Rob uses the wicked witch of the west music from The Wizard of Oz solely to put more energy and laughter in the break, thus helping the story-telling and creating more fun.
Self-deprecating humor is a huge attribute to get the audience to root for you. David Letterman and Howard Stern, in part, built their empires on the persona that they weren’t good enough, smart enough, or funny enough to be popular. That made them even more authentic and positioned them as the kind of personalities you root for because they are confident and comfortable enough to make fun of themselves. Here’s an idea you can bank for next Halloween. The Cruz Show, Power 106, Los Angeles, showed kids pictures of the cast and asked them which person on the program was so ugly, they didn’t need a Halloween mask. Kids have no filter and, as you know, are brutally honest. What comes (towards the end of this short break below) are funny reactions that endear the audience to each cast member as they’re chosen.
We control how people feel about our brand. It’s in our power, based on how we do our content, to communicate the vibe and emotion listeners leave with. After the Trump win, The Cruz Show, Power 106, Los Angeles, processed very carefully if they wanted their fans to hear a break the morning after the election unhappy and with despair or hopeful, despite the election not going their way as a radio station targeting Hispanics listeners. They had the power to be negative or lack hope. They went in the opposite direction taking calls, even from Hispanic Trump fans, to let people know their voice is heard on the show even if they disagree and that, most importantly, they wanted them to be positive. In controlling the emotion, as expressly shown and and stated in this break, they leave their P1s with a message that ultimately builds who they are as people. This is strategically created radio.
Fun benchmarks serve two main purposes for a show: they help develop significant “fun” images. Shows cannot win if they’re not perceived as fun by their audience. This is one of the chief reasons listeners turn you on – there is no show that can win without this image. The other benefit of a terrific benchmark is that it creates an appointment into the show for listeners. Considering PPM is a game of occasions, unique and fun benchmarks do this for you. Trivia and games are an easy vehicle to develop into a benchmark because they are vicarious. But…(important), it’s how you do it that gives you both benefits. Any TV game show is basically built around trivia. Its execution is what cannot be duplicated. At Amanda and Jesse, B105, Cincinnati, we took the typical “name a certain number of items in a category” game and created Beat the Bear, where the caller has to name the category items or…they’ll be mauled by a bear. Few have survived, which is the hook for the win. Here is an example of an effective, strategic benchmark.