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.
Phone calls from listeners are standard fare and an easy and effective way to tell stories and create fun, engaging, relatable content. Where do yours come from? Some shows pull their phone topics from prep sheets and then tie their stories into the generic, evergreen topic suggested. A better place, and one that provides terrific character development for you and your team, is from those real time experiences you’re having in your life. Enter Koz and Jen, WTMX (The MIX), Chicago. Jen hosted a baby shower for a relative at her home, where the relative being celebrated was almost two hours late. The twists and turns of this story are most authentic to define Jen. The team then offers up the appropriate topic: what were you (or someone you know) very late for? A listener called to share that he was late to his own wedding, because he was sitting in his car in the parking lot listening to the radio. You’ll never believe what made him stay in the car. Here’s the break – great story telling, terrific fun, with the most appropriate questions and comments from the team to connect with the audience.
What happens when you marry something very relatable with something very odd? Memorable content! Big Dave from The Big Dave Show, B105, Cincinnati, lost his keys. He spent days trying to find them in the house. Listeners attach themselves to the relatable things the talent does – this is why it’s so important to do content that positions you as just like the audience – they wish to be around people just like them. After several days of not being able to locate the keys, the team decided to ask their favorite listener, Scarecrow, what to do. Scarecrow comes on each week to solve listener’s problems. She’s odd (in a good way), fun, and you obviously feel the chemistry between her and the show. Marry the relatable with the quirkiness of this feature, and you have one more thing this show does that no one can steal, making it a true point of differentiation between them and the rest of the market (you should have many of these).
There are two universal topics that always work on any show, regardless of format: relationships and sex talk. A story that caught the attention of Jason and Michelle, FLY 98.5, Ft. Myers, FL was that Playboy.com is being sued by a blind person for discrimination. A gentleman who can’t see is suing them because he can’t enjoy the site. Frivolous and silly, but breaks about sex (as long as they fit your format) always cut through. The team perfectly executes this break by establishing the topic, succinctly framing the drama for those who don’t know, adding in a caller for commentary, then building to an unexpected payoff for the audience – what the porn site would sound like if it had a voice-activated element for those who could not see the pictures. Set up, details, payoff – great breaks execute the Three Act Play, if you will. Breaks need payoffs to keep them memorable and this team put that work in once they found the story for the audience.
Knowing we cannot be reliant alone for male listenership for a classic rock station in market number three, we crafted a feature for Sherman and Tingle, WDRV (The Drive), Chicago called Two Minutes With Our Wives to get more women to connect with the show and its content. Under the thesis that the guys talk about their wives all week, the wives join the show on this Monday benchmark to “grade” their husbands around one central topic – how they were as spouses over the weekend. This is when it gets real! The wives grade the men, then substantiate their assessment by telling stories from the weekend. Sometimes the guys get an “A”, occasionally it’s an “F”, but it’s always character defining and fun. This is character development at its highest because the women are in charge. The gentlemen are, of course, there to defend themselves while the rest of the cast stirs the pot to create the humor. This is relatable, story-based, and done in a playful way so it’s very accessible content.
Running in the opposite direction is a smart strategy sometimes. Our job is to separate ourselves from everything else on the dial. This is why we talk so often about the importance of doing things with the topics of the day and in your content breaks to accomplish this. The world is stressful and negative – being an escape from that (on most days) is a good move. Enter Spencer’s Neighborhood, 1065 The Arch, St. Louis, who highlight the great deeds done by a local female each week in a segment called the Kick Ass Chick of the Week. Primarily driven to help define the cast member who best identifies with this, Cassiday, the team explores the story of a female listener each week who has overcome obstacles to thrive or is giving back to the community in unique ways. They celebrate her and remind listeners that in this world of non-stop arguing, goodness is happening all over the market. This is smart content that works in the moment, but also defines the team’s values and attributes to new listeners just finding them.
We preach it’s what you do with the topics that make them yours. That innovation must be fun and must fit your brand so it’s not perceived as a wacky radio bit. The Red Sox win the World Series and Karson and Kennedy, MIX 104.1, Boston, know this is topic number one the morning after. Almost the entire program must be about this topic so that, at any point a listener tunes in, they’re on it in some fashion. Staying in character, a member of the cast, who still lives at home, barged into his parent’s bedroom while drunk to tell them just after the team clinches the win. The best thing the character does? He records everything for the show the next morning. Where many shows in the market would just do phones or play the TV audio to reflect on the topic, these guys did something that not only built the cast member’s character, they had audio to prove it and make me feel like I was in the bedroom with everyone. What you do with the topics makes you iconic and creates an experience listeners will feel compelled to be around each day out of fear of missing something.
The content on radio shows should have a “born on date.” In other words, what you talk about and have fun with today should be so “of the moment” that if you did it the following week, it’d feel stale. The new movie about the rock group Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” owned the moment last week. Which is why Spencer’s Neighborhood, 106.5 The Arch, St. Louis, grabbed their afternoon guy from Stacey and Jonah, and made him up on their Friday show as a drag queen and then shipped him off to take listeners to see the matinee of the new Queen movie after the program. This highlights several great decisions on both show’s parts: the topic was very big that day with its premiere so they were very time sensitive, it was inventive and different so it had a better chance to stand out to cause talk, there were tons of visuals so it had digital engagement, and it involved both the morning and afternoon shows so it help establish a relationship between the casts and recycled Arch cume between the two programs. Below is a break – see what else they did here.
We love when family members (especially funny ones) are included in the show. They have an immensely humanizing effect on the cast member and are a very efficient way to do character development. Two Men and a Mom, MIX 101.5 (WRAL-FM), Raleigh leverage family members in a terrific way. Bryan Lord’s father was having a birthday and is a freak for Barry Manlow (a quirky, memorable trait). Bryan has a unique relationship with his dad so he purchased and sent from Amazon an autographed Manilow picture, and made his father open the package on-the-air without knowing what’s in it. They hid the surprise so they’d get a natural reaction, which was followed by a story (a concert memory). I leave the break getting a glimpse into the fun relationship Bryan has with his father, felt like I was a part of the reveal, and laughed. Listeners are drawn to humanity and things that are real. This serves both goals and is memorable and strategic as a result.
Sometime the most fun and authentic breaks and ideas come from the experiences of the talent on the show. Anna of Anna and Raven, Star 99.9, Bridgeport, CT is pregnant…check that, she’s very pregnant. And anyone who’s been around women about to give birth know it’s a journey that requires many guys to sit quietly and count to ten before reacting. In her final trimester, the team does a regular Monday feature called “What Made Anna Cry This Weekend?” Here’s an example – note the fun, relatability, and very short produced piece which sets the tone. Then all Anna has to do is cull from her weekend and share with the audience all of the absurd, smallish things which made her weep. This show is all about relationships. Listen to this simple break and note how you think both men and women are reacting to the content. Women are connecting, knowing it’s all true, and men are nodding up and down as they know this is their life, too.
We preach to all shows that it’s what you do with a topic that makes it resonate. Your imagination gets you noticed, Enter the tooth fairy on Karson and Kennedy, MIX 104.1, Boston! Karson’s young son Barrett called the hotline one morning to tell his father that he knew it was him who took his lost tooth and left five dollars under the pillow that morning instead of the tooth fairy. Both Barrett and Karson’s wife, Lana, were trapped, not knowing what to do. Here’s where their imagination took over. They aired the call, then, magically, the tooth fairy was listening and they deployed her to call Barrett back to cover for them. The tooth fairy knew all about Barrett’s room (geez, I wonder how!) and to tell him that she asked his father to cover because she’d been very busy. Never a wacky radio bit, this came from real life. It’s totally relatable, story-based, true, with a touch of imagination to capture the attention of the audience and make it memorable. What you do with the topic you choose is paramount to doing distinctive radio that you will own.