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.
Many shows over the years have played the “I Love You Game” where they try to get someone on the phone to reply back that they love them. Sherman and Tingle, WDRV (The Drive), Chicago have added a few twists to this. They do a character called Paul the Perv who calls three business of the same type, to see if he can make that happen. Paul immediately makes things odd because the character is weird and creepy (without crossing the “ick” line). They then call three of the same kinds of business to theme it each week. The other element that works is the other cast members of the show have to guess, of the three calls, how many Paul will be successful with the payoff. This final item forces a vicarious element into the breaks, compelling the listener to guess, too, then stay tuned to see if they are right. These are fun and this weekly feature is perfectly designed to grab the audience’s attention and keep it throughout the break. Here’s one of the breaks from a recent airing so you can get a sense of how all these elements work together.
There are a handful of shows that get a ton of strategic stuff done in a short period of time and Spencer’s Neighborhood, 106.5 The Arch, St. Louis is one of them. We believe that discipline is critical with our content breaks on the show. That means that Spencer and his team must prep more, not less, to make good stuff happen. In its few short minutes, listen to this break as Spencer does character development (defines himself with a dentist story), ties the break to a pop culture event (the national championship college football game), and gets innovative by having a team member say things a football coach would say with a mouth stretcher, thus creating humor. There are four critical images to earn: tell stories that make the show relevant, and be fun, innovative, and authentic. This did all of that.
Here’s an idea you can’t do. Because it probably doesn’t fit your brand. Drew Steele, 92.5 FOX News, Ft. Myers, FL is a conservative talk show host who recognizes that listeners don’t want to wake up and hear him pounding on the table all day, being angry at the Democrats. Drew has always been sensitive to the emotional needs of his audience at that time of day and recognizes that having fun with the topics that fit resonates more efficiently with his audience. The new book “Fire and Fury” is a top shelf topic with Drew’s conservative audience. From the perspective that there are a lot of holes within the stories of the book, Drew decided to actually put some holes in the book by spending the week giving away to listeners the chance to meet him at a gun range and shoot at the tome. You own topics by doing big things with them. This was an idea to cause talk amongst his listeners because it lived on the fringe and captured where his audience was emotionally about the topic. Here’s the promo that ran all week so they could get credit for doing it. You can see a video of it here from TV coverage.
One more Christmas bit! You must develop relevant topics to keep the audience’s attention. Everywhere we turn, we’re reminded that listeners reward digestible breaks of relevant content and them having something other than just conversation in the break provides additional reasons to stay emotional involved. Bryan Lord, on Two Men and a Mom, WRAL-FM, Raleigh, has a mother who requires a Christmas list each year. Becky (his mom) is always great on the show. After having been hounded, the team called Becky and Bryan had Alexa (his other mother!) read his crazy Christmas list to his real mom. Why does this break work? It’s the Topic + what you do with it that equals its stickiness. Christmas was relevant in December when they did this. Getting Bryan’s mom to come on added to it (because she’s entertaining) and then weaving their comedic list through Alexa makes it very topical and innovative. The Alexa voice plants an Easter egg In the bit, helping the show hold on to the listeners so they don’t get bored.
The first break of your show can be the most critical – they get you in a groove and help you wake up, so you can help listeners who tune in wake up. Mark and Neanderpaul, KSLX, Phoenix have a very simple, well-framed break in their show’s first half hour called “Middle School”. It’s a trivia-based game with questions centered around a topical news item, quizzing one listener for a prize. The questions are relevant and the goal is to have fun around an idea that is vicarious to all others just waking up or driving to work at that moment. Humor is created around the answers, thus serving the most important goal of laughter. PPM is a game of occasions so their locked in time creates yet another appointment for early risers.
Every single show, regardless of format, needs to earn images to win. Even a show grounded in politics. Drew Steele, 92.5 FOX News, Ft. Myers, FL understands that, as people wake up and he shares with them news and views on the stories of the day from his politically right sensibilities, that nothing helps them cut through better than humor. There seems to be a slew of political scandals right now. Highlighting those from the Democrats and doing a produced piece called the Twelve Days of Scandals, using audio from President Trump and the media, is a winner for Drew’s politically conservative audience. They want to wake up and laugh around the topics of the day just like your audience. Here’s the produced piece so you can get a sense of how Drew gives the audience a good time around their values as they get the day going.
The audience requires us to build out breaks so they sparkle. Oftentimes when telling a personal story, it’s no more difficult than getting audio of the experience to help tell it. Brando, inside Spencer’s Neighborhood, 106.5, The Arch, St. Louis, did his usual holiday decorating, which meant getting on the roof to string some lights. Not content with just telling the story, the team got Brando’s wife on to add some drama and tension to it – Alex’s take on his efforts adds to the narrative. Also, always worried he’d fall off the roof, Brando recorded telling his daughter how to call 911 before he got on the ladder, which added more audio to the break. These moving parts positioned the break in truly HD quality, helping the audience see everything in their head so they could more easily imagine where he was and what it was like. This, in turn, made the break even more entertaining. Side note – this show does an amazing job getting to things, commencing with the storytelling quickly, and wrapping the break up before the audience bores. This happens because they have a game plan – no wasted moments respects the audience’s time and they’re rewarded with additional listens because of it.
Considering most of your listeners spent time with their families over the holiday, it’s always fun to get a perspective of a show member by someone else in the family. Enter Producer Luckey, who is part of the team at Fast in the Morning on AMP 103.7, Dallas. The team regularly does character development by checking on the two main co-host’s spouses. That this show leans younger, it also means they can involve their producer, Luckey, who’s single – so they see if he’s been a good son by talking to his mother. Character development comes primarily two ways on any show. By you giving your honest take on the topics of the day (the audience will know if you’re faking a perspective). And by being vulnerable enough to let us into your life by the stories you tell. Luckey’s mom shoots the audience straight on how good he was as a son in the previous few days. Nathan and Sybil make every attempt to stir the pot for even better story-telling and character development. All around, a very strategic break!
Shows need signature features – being known for something helps define the program and its sense of humor. Locked in features also cause appointments, resulting in more PPM meters. Mark and NeanderPaul, KSLX, Phoenix do the 30-Second Song Challenge each morning – it works because it’s fun, vicarious, and further aligns the show with the critical station music images that it’s the classic rock authority in the market. On occasion, doing something atypical with an established feature helps it stand out again. Which is why they got Alice Cooper, who runs a syndicated show on the station each evening, play the game. Listen as the iconic rock star fails miserably and flames out. Another moment which causes talk for the show and helps the feature cut through.
In a recent article, Jerry Lee, the iconic owner of B101, Philadelphia, noted that one of the principles of engaging an audience is that relevancy drives a connection. We preach this all the time to shows – the more you tell stories where the listener can think, “Yup, me, too” you have a potential connection point to start or evolve a relationship. Koz and Jen, WTMX, Chicago, had one such moment (they actually have many!). Jen’s daughter came home after being out with her husband for an afternoon of errands. The kid was bouncing off the walls. Jen couldn’t figure out why, then her husband admitted he gave her a super-sized Mountain Dew. The daughter had never had so much caffeine and sugar. Boneheaded husband move! Which lead to a phone topic of moves your spouse made with the kids that didn’t work out (one father ate five gallons of ice cream with his kids for dinner when his wife was out). Relevancy drives connection. Sometimes it’s not rocket science! This might be simple storytelling, but it’s powerful, intimate, vulnerable radio.