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.
What’s the purpose of doing a news feature on your show, and where are the wins? Somewhere in your market is a credible radio news source. Listeners do not come to you for news. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer an information segment – the wins come in your conversation around the news items of the day. That dialogue (your take and commentary) defines your character to the audience. Add in, where appropriate, your sense of humor, and now you’re earning an image critical to success. If you’re delivering news as a single monologue (“here’s the latest on what happened”), you’re missing an opportunity to get more done for your show, especially considering if listeners really wanted just information, they’d go to the news/talk station or turn on their TV before leaving the house. Here’s a terrific example of how news should be done on an entertainment-based show by Karson and Kennedy, MIX 104.1, Boston.
Playing the occasional game on a show is a good thing. It’s even better when it has two elements: it’s vicarious (listeners can play along in the car as they’re driving to work) and it’s strategic (its purpose is to have fun, earn another critical image, and/or define the cast). There are many ways a cast can do character development, but the game Truth Be Told, as done by David, Sue, and Kendra, Magic 106.7, Boston, is the cleanest and most efficient we’ve heard. There are a few versions of this game (i.e. Two Lies and a Truth), but listen to how this team executes the game so fans driving (who just woke up and don’t have a great capacity to follow along with deep stories) can easy understand what they’re doing. Each cast member offers a one sentence story to the caller (one sentence is highly digestible), then the listener chooses which story is true (with people in cars doing the same). Then the fuller story is told – defining that cast member, earning the additional image of fun for listeners just tuning in to be put in a good mood.
One of my wishes for all of radio is that we dispense with boring, staged phone topics presented for use by prep services. The best phone topics come from stories the talent tell about their life, before they put the spotlight on the audience by asking them to tell similar stories about themselves. We talk about being relevant and strategic in radio. This approach to topics does a few important things: it defines the talent telling the story because it’s about them (must be relatable), then flips the script by allowing the audience to tell stories just like that to entertain the cast and other listeners. Tim, Claire, and Red, 98.9 The Bull, Seattle executed this perfectly in these two breaks below. Red tells a story about what she’s like shopping online when she is drunk (listen to the chemistry and natural laughter as her team pulls out all the details of the story). Then in the second clip, a listener calls to advance the narrative in their quest to do real life content that is fun to hear.
Who doesn’t live in a neighborhood where you have nicknames for those who live there? Mark and NeanderPaul, KSLX, Phoenix realized in an unplanned content break that everyone does this. Like the one resident of someone’s neighborhood who has been deemed, behind her back, as Amazon Woman. Not due to her size, but because UPS pulls up everyday and offloads several packages from Amazon to her home. This has become a weekly feature on their program where listeners call and share the nicknames of neighborhood residents, and then the reason they were given them. The very best content is real life stuff, culled not only from the experiences the cast and listeners have, but the kind of content the average listener might hear and say, “yea, me, too.” That’s content that is relatable and helps the show remind the audience that they are just like them.
We all understand the value of story-telling to engage listeners. Stories are important to define the show and its cast and have elements inside that draw listeners in. What is a great song, if it isn’t a story, right? There was a local Kane Brown concert in St. Louis and something magical happened – a young girl held up a sign asking if he’d hug her. That’s when Kane Brown said yes and invited the gal on stage. Enter Mason and Remy, New Country 92.3 (WIL), St. Louis who elevated the story-telling by passing the chance to just tell it from what they read online (a pretty standard approach) to getting the young gal and her mother to come on to tell it themselves, heightening the break with truer emotion because the kid and her mom experienced it directly. The team took it one step further by having the mom video their end of the conversation for digital content for Facebook and other social media posts, thus extending this amazing content. The break is below. See the video here.
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.