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.
When introducing a new cast member to the audience, it’s always most efficient and effective to do so with a regular feature the new person does – this will quickly define that talent and set their sense of humor for the audience. It should not be their only contribution to the show, but highlighting this one thing will help them. We recently added a new member to the team at The Big Dave Show, B105, Cincinnati. Wanting to cover off the younger end of the demo, we chose Ashley, who’d been working in the sales department, who electrified the halls. One of the ways in which we were not doing content was having fun with listeners on the streets. So we added Out With Ashley as the feature that could both give us content in that style, and showcase Ashley’s very quick laugh and sense of humor. She heads out on the streets (think Leno) to talk with Cincinnati residents about a variety of silly topics in a feature we’re calling Out With Ashley. In the episode below, Ashley is talking to a few hair stylists she knows in something we’re calling Salon Confidential, where they trade fun stories about clients.
There is fun all around you. Often, we lean on phone calls to play games – yet, we are getting fewer of them because less people are inclined to call and listeners are more engaged to interact with their favorite radio stations and shows via social media and texting. So, use the fun people you work with to help pull things off. Stacey and Jonah, 106.5 The Arch, St. Louis wanted to give a patriotism quiz to their audience around July Fourth. The idea took off when two big decisions were made: first, we were fearful listeners would not only not call to take it because they’d be reticent to prove how little they know. So, we decided to give the quiz to three fun co-workers, who’d be more inclined to step up. The other big decision was making it a competition amongst these co-workers spanning three days at the same time to generate additional occasions of listening. To add spice to the idea, Stacey and Jonah found a middle school teacher on summer break to help administer the quiz, giving them more to play with, The goal is relevant fun, and the listeners don’t really care if that laughter comes from other listeners or people in the building. Here are the three episodes of the narrative, all airing close to the holiday last month.
The conventional wisdom is that a topic as polarizing as Robert Meuller’s testimony to Congress this past week can’t be touched. It’s too volatile to do. I challenge you to develop some idea around it to test your creativity for an idea that has nothing to do with politics, but still ties you in. One show I work with complained that their regular shows on the networks were cancelled because of it. That led to them acknowledging that One Life To Live wasn’t on that day and they acted out a scene from it for the audience. Then there’s Daybreak with Drew Steele, 92.5 FOX News, Ft. Myers, FL who noted how many times Meuller passed on a question. He then strung the answers together and put together the No No Song. Be of the moment, go there humorously, and give the audience something they cannot get elsewhere. That’s a very smart strategy to creating a very huge fan base.
Here’s a fun, new feature that highlights two important attributes of a show – music and fun around pop culture. The Ty Bentli Show, Nashville (syndicated) has access to hundreds of artists being in the mecca for country music. Each morning, they bring in a different budding artist (they’re screened for a sense of humor) and given a topic right out of the headlines and tasked with writing a quick song around the topic in ten minutes. There are some terrific attributes of this feature: it reinforces the contemporary nature of the show’s content, it’s intended to be funny and highlight the music images of the program, and proves an advocacy for the struggling artist because they get the show’s platform. The other item that stands out is its design and name – given we all want things right now, a show with a feature as unique as this starts and pays off in ten minutes, possibly getting more listeners who want to follow it from topic choice to completion to stay for a few more minutes.
A goal for your show should be to start moving away from being feature driven (all those benchmarks do work to create appointments) so that the draw for listeners and fans is the compelling conversation you and your team have around the topics of the day. Go back to when New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was arrested for getting his happy ending at a message place when the Super Bowl happened. We’ll identify first that, at the time, this was a top shelf topic. It had all the elements of solid content: it was relevant (Super Bowl), is had just happened so the timing was perfect, and it had a sex component, which always adds to things. And for The TJ Show, AMP 103.3, Boston, it was local. TJ, Loren, and Producer Matt are terrific in many ways – most especially because they are hyper aware of the world around them, very knowledgable on all topics because they read a lot on everything, and have an almost infinite take on what’s going on. This break is not revolutionary for its innovation, but it serves the goal of moving these guys to become more personality-based because it was great in the moment and the team did a terrific job just conversing about all its twists and turns to connect with the audience and keep them engaged.
One way to invigorate your benchmarks is to occasionally ask celebrities to do them. Benchmarks work because they create an appointment for your show (which is why you do them at the same time – and no, the audience doesn’t bore of them if they are entertaining, because you change the content each time you do them). Sherman and Tingle, WDRV (The Drive), Chicago do a fun, music-based benchmark each morning at 7:30 called the Thirty Second Song Challenge, where a listener must name seven songs in thirty seconds to win. It has a huge vicarious element to it. But on occasion, they’ll get a celebrity to play. Here’s the version with Todd Rundgren, who is a core artist to the format. Todd comes on because he has something to promote, but the show (with permission) also gets him to play the game, where he fails, but has fun in the process.
Very, very few shows can do political humor. It’s way too touchy for many of us in radio, considering how polarizing it is. But you can under a couple of conditions: you’re grounded in politics as your plot or you have been on the air forever and have a deep relationship with the audience who know you very well. The latter is like the friend you’ve had for a very long time you can talk politics with (few in radio have this level of a relationship). An example of the former is Daybreak with Drew Steele, 92.5 FOX News, Ft. Myers, FL. This is the conservative politics station in the market. It’s in their DNA to do everything political. And it’s in Drew’s ethos to take the political topics of the day and have fun with them. Considering Joe Biden is front page news to this audience, and that Drew’s job is to share his perspective in a humorous way, here’s his take on Joe and a parody on how his audience sees the former vice president.
It’s a dilemma as old as radio. How to talk about sports on a female-targeted radio station, especially if the sporting event is the biggest topic in town. The answer may be easier than you think. Talking X’s and O’s with scores and stats aren’t even done on sports-talk stations – they story-tell and entertain. Which is where our answer actually is. Create fun, tell stories, personalize the experience, and it will be inviting to both men and women. The St. Louis Blues had an amazing run-up to win the NHL’s Stanley Cup. Stacey and Jonah, 1065 The Arch, St. Louis added a feature to their show to bring listeners into the arena experience with the addition of Hey Beer Vendor, where they got to know the beer vendors in the stadium. They redid Lady Antebellum’s “Hey Bartender” for a production value and then had fun with beer vendors, coming in the side door to talk about sports, while keeping it fun and relatable to their target demo.
The throwback concept is easy and brings back great memories for people. Whether online or you do something with it on the show. Which is why we added a feature called Throwback Live on David, Sue, and Kendra, Magic 106.7, Boston. David, our show anchor, pits Sue and Kendra against each other to identify throwback clips from pop culture. This works for several reasons. The clips themselves (all from the 80s and 90s) bring back terrific memories for the audience. Sue and Kendra each fancy themselves experts in this kinda of stuff so the natural, playful competition between the two is a fun draw for the audience. And you also have that most classic of game qualities, listeners can play along in the car. We set this feature as an appointment each day in the show for an original air (Throwback Live at 8:25) and re-air it the next morning for a fresh appointment in the 6:00 hour.
One of the simple ways to easily grow the entertainment quotient of your show is to use the cast of characters around you at the radio station who are not on the show every day. Letterman taught us this simple approach, and every late night talk show host has done it since. Find people in the building who are bold, own a perspective or expertise in something, radiate wattage, and are fun (or you can have fun with), and bring them on the show from time-to-time. Koz and Jen at WTMX (101.9 The MIX), Chicago do this with Dale the Receptionist. It’s commonly believed that the station receptionist knows all. So when the show wanted to talk about outdated technology around the building, it was an easy decision to bring Dale on to note all of it and have fun. Real life characters add easy laughs for the show – you just gotta be on the lookout for them around the building.