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.
There are several kinds of content you can do on your show. All of it signals to your audience that you understand what’s important to them and each of them has a strategic purpose. Pop culture says you’re tapped into whatever is hot right now. Personal stories give you an efficient vehicle to define yourself to listeners in a way where they see themselves. Lifestyle content communicates that you understand what they’re going through. One of my favorite features of all time is called The Bus Stop, done by Michael Chew, at MORE-FM (WBEB), Philadelphia. Michael was home early enough in the day to greet his kids as they returned from school on the bus. We hatched the idea that he’d asked the kids, as they got off the bus, about their day. Maybe it was because they were going to be on the radio or because they knew Michael as he was their neighbor, but what the kids offered was almost always very entertaining, and tapped into the lifestyle of the adult woman listening to the station who also had kids and encountered the same conversation when she got home.
There may be no bigger baseball city than Chicago. The morning after the Cubs eeked out an unexpected win over the Washington Nationals, Stylz and Roman, US99, Chicago knew radio that morning was no more difficult than putting listeners on to celebrate the victory (the win sent the team to the league championship game). Having one of the team’s biggest fans on your show certainly helps, as you’ll hear in the reactions. We oftentimes preach innovation against the big topics on this page. Letting listeners on to mine them for their enthusiasm when things like this happen helps the show easily bond with the audience while being terrifically local, too. Sometimes it’s no harder than this.
Last week brought the Las Vegas shootings and for many programs, a total overhaul of their Monday show plan. Imagine this – you wake up and find out that dozens of people are killed at an outdoor concert while you were sleeping. What do listeners want you to do on your show that day? Consider their needs. They wake up and start scrolling for information. Some turn on the TV, others go online, your fans turn you on. Some shows will bark that “balance is needed” on days like this (“we’ll do it twice an hour!”). Others say “we’re the escape” (as if by 7am they get in the car and they’re over it and know you’re the escape so they come to you), which is flawed thinking because people don’t choose you in their head, they come to you in their heart, to connect. The audience wants information, they want your take, they want you to reflect the emotions they’re feeling, and they want to be brought into the story. What factors into the decision is how we’re used. Listeners come, stay for ten minutes, then leave. So if you didn’t do a big story like this in that time, you didn’t do it at all, hence a disconnect. Two Men and a Mom (Kyle, Bryan, and Sarah) at WRAL-FM, Raleigh trashed their game plan that day and worked furiously to find people who were there – people who could offer up a first person experience to the story. Here are two interviews they did that day (and played a lot) to prove they were totally in sync with where their audience was in that moment. (If you want to know how they found these two people, reach out to me.)
If you’re a parent, have you ever found yourself in the position of negotiating with your kids? Much of what you share about your life with the audience must fall under the “yea, me, too” banner. If the audience is nodding and thinking that you live their life, a relatability sets in which is a terrific foundation to develop a relationship with them that can be long-lasting. Sean Henry, KOSI, Denver is new to town. We’re working with Sean on introducing himself to the audience so we have an emphasis on character development at this early stage. Here’s a break of Sean negotiating the weekend with his two young kids. That he talked with them and aired the conversation gave this a much different feel than if he just recounted everything. Our goal is for our adult female base to get a sense of Sean as a guy and as a father. We believe this was a lean in moment that accomplished that strategic objective for the show. That he also entertained the audience and got all of this done in under two-minutes proves that, with prep, it can be done!
Benchmarks are a critical element of every show for several very important reasons: they define the show’s sense of humor if done well, they activate another occasion in PPM if done regularly, and they create talk for a program. Each Thursday, The TJ Show, AMP 103.3, Boston does Therapy with Judah. Judah is TJ’s young nephew who is quite older than his actual age. TJ Skypes with the kid and just talks about something in life, looking for natural reactions from him. The audience adores Judah – in LABs, you can see their positive body language and hear them almost gush over how fun this weekly feature is to hear. Benchmarks must be grounded in fun and be one-of-a-kind. That this could never be done by anyone else in the market makes it iconic to TJ’s show, which helps fuel the strategic objectives noted above. TJ and his team excel at coming up with things other shows can’t because they are so inventive. For these reasons, TJ has separated this show from everything else in the market, which starts an ascent in ratings.
Everyone does trivia. The question alone won’t cut through unless it has a frame with an edge. As you look at TV game shows, they’re all trivia-based, but each is presented differently (Jeopardy is much different from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire). The frame and presentation lends a stickiness that draws listeners in even deeper. The Big Dave Show, B105, Cincinnati, does Chelsie’s “Not As Naughty as It Sounds” trivia question as a benchmark each morning at 8:40. It’s a standard question, but because of the frame, they force the listener to actually think of something dirty because they told the audience it isn’t. Once presented, her two male co-hosts, Dave and Statt, offer up the most obvious answers to take them off the table, then they open the phones. Here’s a twist I love: they come back for only one set of phone calls. If someone gets it, they get the prize. If no one gets it, they give the answer so the audience that gave them a few extra minutes of listening gets resolution (there is no dragging this out over thirty minutes). Kinda smart.
You know how the ratings always go up when a TV personality is pregnant or getting married and the viewers know it? The same can happen for you, if you enroll the audience in the big things in your life. At The TJ Show, AMP 103.3 Boston, Loren was about get married. From the moment of the engagement with her boyfriend, until the ceremony, it was a running narrative on the show. This not only defined Loren, it helped the audience connect with her. One of your goals is to get the audience to care about you. This did that for her. On their last day before the wedding, the team sent her off with a break of genuine love and affection. Listeners are also attracted to your chemistry, which is why they say they feel like they know you. Here’s the break the team did before the ceremony, with TJ and Producer Matt sharing their genuine feelings for her, in anticipation of the big day which showed that compassion.
Sometimes playing off stereotypes helps you create humor. When it’s tied into something local and pop culture, it’s even better. Spencer’s Neighborhood, at 106.5 The Arch, St. Louis, we decided that each cast member would adopt a local high school and track its football team through the season. This was an easy decision considering the power of the sport and that these are the kids of the women listening to the show. Playing off the stereotype that cheerleaders are airheads, Brando went to his school and tested to see how smart cheerleaders were. The result? They’re all Mensa members based on the questions he asked. The audience knows this is a put on, which makes it all the more fun to listen to.
Much of the content you do is correlated to where your relationship is with the audience. Younger shows do more character development so the audience can get to know you faster than older shows (who are probably better defined). At The Josie Dye Show, Indie 88, Toronto, we want the cast better known to the audience as they’re a traditional Stage One program (the audience knows very little about them). One morning, Josie wondered where she was conceived. So to create a moment listeners would lean in to, she called her always-entertaining mother to ask. On other breaks, she had the rest of the cast do the same and then they did a few listeners with their parents in a recurring one-week idea. This was never dirty, but rose to the level of “can’t miss” because it was vulnerable and quite revealing. Here’s the break where Josie talks to her mom.
Kim Jong Un is in the news. Looks like he wants to nuke Guam and the rest of the United States. For any show, getting North Korea’s leader for an interview is a total coup. WDRV, Chicago’s Sherman and Tingle worked it hard and Un called their show to talk about the state of things. Well actually, it’s his translator. Looks like Kim knows lots about how bad Chicago traffic is, wants to annihilate the awful freeways around town, uses the station app to listen to his favorite classic rock, and has deep affection for the station midday talent, the iconic Bob Stroud. Great shows do perishable content. Breaks with topics cut from today’s headlines and done in a sticky, unique, memorable way, always work. This show will continue to win because what they do on the show today would feel very dated if done next week. That’s good. Enjoy Kim Jong Un and his translator on The Drive’s morning show.