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.
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.
Apple releases its new iOS update and anyone with an old phone suffers the same problem: their phones don’t work as well. Enter The TJ Show, AMP 103.3, Boston, to address the issue. TJ believes that Apple is messing with us on purpose – so we’ll all get new phones. This show has a unique way of expressing what the audience is thinking in a fun way. Great shows have a good time with whatever the topics of the day are. With Apple’s release of new phones and a new iOS, TJ delves into the issue in a way generated from his perspective (a great starting point to help define you). Not only is this content on point (many in the audience is nodding “yea, I think that, too”), but TJ does this in a way that stands out. Listen for the content, his talk on the topic, and the production value which makes it sparkle.
What is your connection to the story? Why was this meaningful for you? How did it impact you? We all know the devastation of the fires in Santa Rosa, CA. The visuals are searing. For Rob and Joss, Froggy 92.9, Santa Rosa, CA, they mean much more. Rob’s childhood home, and the house his mother lived in, burned to the ground. It was claimed 100% and they had to evacuate his mother to safety. Having a lifetime of memories in a home lost to wildfires is Rob’s connection to the horror. Rob not only shared this with the audience, along with pictures of the site, he wrote a very moving poem for his childhood home, the place with all his memories and moments and read it to the audience. One of your jobs is to move the audience to care about you. The audience pauses in this moment as they grieve with Rob and for him.
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.