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.
How do you do the topic of sports on a female targeted radio show? By using the same technique we do with all other topics – by creating laughter and fun. No doubt the topic of the Dallas Cowboys can drive that market. But we know that chatter about X’s and O’s is a turnoff to even sports fans. With the news that the Cowboys would probably be hiring its new coach, Mike McCarthy, Hawkeye in the Morning, KSCS, Dallas, pulled from its archives this fun produced piece from the past. They took the stereotype of Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones as a meddler to an absurd level by putting together this bit with Jerry calling the new coach during the game, asking that Deon Sanders be put in to impress the sponsors at Pepsi. Want men, women, and all the lifestyles that exist in your target demo to lean in when you do content? Choose the biggest topics of the day and have fun with them, as is done here.
What you can do on your show is correlated to how deep the relationship is with your audience. Those shows that are well-defined and have been on-the-air longer can go places newer shows can’t and shouldn’t. Mojo in the Morning, Channel 955, Detroit has been part of listeners’ lives for twenty years. They have a huge number of fans who come each day for companionship and entertainment. That they have spent so much time defining themselves and creating laughter, the audience will allow them to do the unthinkable for most programs – do Trump-oriented content. Enter Mojo show alum Eric Harthen, who does an amazing Trump. He calls the show each week to mock the cast. There’s no desire to convince listeners this is real (this is part how you do something like this in 2020). The character is there to create relevancy and humor by making fun of those on the show the audience already knows and adores.
The best breaks on a show happen when a character has a story to tell, along with an emotion, and then we figure out what to do besides just telling the story that isn’t only opening the phones. Enter AJ and Sara, Sunny 98.1, San Diego, who presented just such as opportunity. Before the holidays, on one of our regular calls, we were talking about the Christmas cards many people send out when Sara admitted she has the best of intentions each year, but never has time to do one. She admitted an embarrassment that people keep sending them to her, along with a fear that at some point they will stop, angry because she never does. Great, relatable story, right? What happens when we capitalize on her embarrassment and fear? We asked her to call someone who keeps sending her their card to apologize and check if she’ll always be on the list. The call elevated the bit and made it more fun and memorable.
The question is almost always: what did you do with your content choice that defines the show, proves its sense of humor, and provides a payoff or destination no one else can. Oftentimes, shows find lists or statistics they think will keep the audience engaged. Mark and NeanderPaul, KSLX, Phoenix found one such statistic about holiday heart attacks – and the prime time around Christmas that most happen. As is, it’s a tad boring, even leaning to the morose to note this to listeners this time of year. Sharing this with the audience, opening the phones, or even doing a serious interview around the topic doesn’t fit our goal of creating humor. But, they did. We pick our moments to do parodies on this show – they did one here by choosing an iconic Christmas carol, doing a re-lyric to have some fun, kept it short and efficient, and effectively used what was a small stat and walked the audience to laugh about the topic.
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.